Artist captures complexity on film

edited.Grayscale_MehvesLelicVisitingArtist2_HeberGuerra-RecinosBy Erica Quinones
Elm Staff Writer

The lines between reality and fantasy were blurred on Monday, Jan. 28 as artist Mehveş Lelic presented her photography at the Larrabee Arts Center.
Lelic is an Istanbul-born photographer who is currently based in Salisbury, Maryland. According to her event profile on the Washington College website, she was awarded the National Geographic Expeditions Council Fellowship, the Turkish Cultural Foundation Cultural Exchange Fellowship, and the City of Chicago Individual Artists’ Program Grant. Her work has been exhibited internationally in the Ogden Museum of Art in New Orleans, the Institute des Cultures D’Islam in Paris, and the Photographers’ Gallery in Istanbul.
In her introduction, Assistant Professor of Art Julie Wills quoted Lelic’s artist statement, describing her photography as pondering “the complexity of the act of viewing photographs.”
The talk centered on the evolution of this complexity. Lelic’s initial focus was on contrast, and recontextualizing the diversity of people, as inspired by her life in Istanbul.
“There’s definitely a very big class divide between people who call themselves secular and those who are more religious,” Lelic said. “Growing up, I always got messages that things had to be either one way or the other. And as I was a high school student, I was also seeing that that’s not the case.”
Her interest in this contrast is evident in many of her photographs, which depict humans interacting with nature. This was highlighted in her National Geographic project documenting an alternative Islamic cult. While working with the isolated group, she discovered a new way to interpret her photography.
“It introduced me to a world where documentary didn’t always have to live up to expectations of reality,” Lelic said.
During her time with the Islamic group, she was inspired by their subversion of expectation, as they both drank alcohol and depicted the prophet, Muhammad. This subversion helped shape her next phase of photography.
As Lelic’s life changed, so did her art. One such change was the birth of her child which created feelings artistic limitation and social isolation due to her domestic confinement. During this period, she had decided to stay in America.
Lelic said that this added, “a level of contemplation to the images I was making because it felt like acceptance and alienation and belonging and limitation; sort of staying here, but also belonging; elsewhere existed together.”
Combining both her isolation and the concept of subverting reality, Lelic implemented mirrors, pictures, and the imagination through special manipulation to tell the story of how her surroundings came to be. Through these tactics, she increased the size of her domestic space, relying more on the invisible than the visible.
Lelic’s latest take on contrast is made for the modern age. Inspired by social media, she has decided to explore the line between reality and fantasy.
“I believe in today’s world, photography is perceived along the lines of document and mystery,” Lelic said. “And we don’t immediately realize those two things are now blurred together, since every moment of our lives is documentable and televisable.”
Lelic’s exhibit, “Acute Sentience,” is open at China Hutch Projects, a project space for contemporary art in Chestertown from Jan. 28 – Feb. 15. Her work will also be featured at the Rotterdam Photo Festival in February.

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