Istanbul Impressions From an Artist New Yorker Eye

by on May 20, 2008

My husband Erdal and I have just returned from a 6 week trip in Istanbul. I have been dreaming of this place since I fell in love with Islamic Art in school years ago at Parsons when I studied the paintings, mosques and palaces of the Ottoman Empire and now not only was I going to see my husbands country I was going to see and experience for myself this impressive land so rich with it’s artifacts from the Byzantine and Ottoman era. We went to Istanbul to meet my new family and to take that vacation we both were needing badly and I have now met my new Turkish family and Erdal’s many friends and they are the most amazing, most welcoming people ever!! and I was lucky also to have two translators by my side most of the time: him and his sister Cigdem.

View of Bosphorus Canal, Istanbul

Overlooking Iznik, Turkey(Four Testaments of The Bible written)

Istanbul, where we spent most of our trip is huge! A city of about 12 million people. It’s such a magical place; its landscapes are dotted with beautiful mosques and their minarets. I fell in love with the openness and warm hospitality of the Turks, all of their traditions, their amazing food (I was quite spoiled by my mother- n- laws cooking, I renamed her Fatma Stewart!) and the overall feeling of respect you sense the people have for each other.

Haghia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Haghia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

On our arrival there was a tulip festival taking place and one of the first things I see driving from the Airport is millions of tulips lining the sides of every highway and every road, a kaleidoscope of colors jolting me awake from that jetlag grogginess. We felt extremely lucky to catch this because they only last 3 weeks. Erdal took me to all the most famous Mosques, My favorite being The Sultanahmet Mosque. We went to Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sophia, Museums, The Grand Bazaar and Spice Market and the list goes on and on. We got to see so many parts of the city and each had its own special uniqueness and character. One of my favorites being situated along the Bosphorous Canal where Erdal’s mom Fatma was born called Sariyer and Kilyos where Erdal and his sister and father were born which is a beach town on the Black Sea and a real hot and exciting place that was what’s equivalent or closest feel to the Lower East Side in NYC, called Beyoglu. This is where we found the best galleries and where the most artist, musicians and hipsters hang out. One day we stumbled upon the gallery and studio of the Turkish master painter Ilhami Atalay. His space was all open combining gallery and workspace. Natural light flooded the place in such a way I dreamt of my self also working in this light at some point in my life. There were stacks and stacks of paintings on paper huge ones hung on walls and on easels. Most of the big pieces were a combo of painting and collage, figurative and abstract and I fell in love with the language in these works. They breathed such vibrancy and were flavored with beautiful Turkish designs and forms with wonderful Arabic type lettering. At times he was reminding me of a Turkish Chagall and maybe that’s why I was completely taken in. Whenever I walk into a space and get that sense that the artist who made all this is so sure of his hand, so trusts his eye, a sense of no hesitation just pure confidence and spontaneityI find it extremely exhilarating and very hard to exit! When we finally did leave we found his daughter’s studio/gallery right down the road, and our visit with her had the same intensity.

Underground Cistern, Istanbul

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

After about two weeks we got to visit Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and one of the main stops on the Silk Road. We took a huge ship about one hour across the Sea of Marmara from Istanbul. We met up with more family friends one being Ercan, The Colonel of Bursa who to our surprise was going to be giving us and the whole clan, a very special one week tour. We are so grateful to him and his family for taking the time and revealing to us a great many Historical facts and hidden treasures of Bursa. The highlight of that trip I would have to say was him bringing us to a fairly new and not open to public Archeological site which was definitely a first for me and which I found it really tough not to touch and pick anything up. Another highlight in Bursa was Iznik, the original place where the Ottoman tiles were made which is still very much so producing tiles.

Taksim, Istanbul

Ship Yard in Fener, Istanbul

Kilyos, Istanbul

Throughout the trip I was bursting with inspirations, and I journaled, sketched and painted mostly in watercolor and collected various collage materials from everywhere to bring back home to incorporate in new pieces. I’m finally getting used to being back and I’m fueled up to pour out every inch of this extraordinary trip out and onto some canvas. And so that’s next for me to start working on a new series inspired by this trip.Spring is here! Open window time is here so oil painting time is here!!!

Erdal, Colonel Ercan, Micci – Bursa/Turkey

Kadesh Treaty, Earliest Known Piece Treaty 1269 BC

Tulip Festival Bebek, Istanbul

Sultan Ahmet Mosque 1500,s , Istanbul

Ottoman Mosque 1400′s , Bursa -Turkey

Bebek, Istanbul – Turkey

Fish Restaurant at Bebek, Istanbul – Turkey

Sariyer, Istanbul – Turkey

View from Hotel Room, Bursa – Turkey

Ruins, Istanbul – Turkey

Early Roman Archaeological Site, Bursa – Turkey

Mudanya Harbor, Bursa – Turkey

Ottoman House, Bursa – Turkey

Traditional Turkish Tea

The sign says “Flowers are beautiful on their stems” I thought that was a great way to put “Please do not pick the flowers”

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