@ the Riverside Art Museum

December 10, 2022–April 30, 2023

Turkish-born artist Beliz Iristay lives and works on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Tracing Acculturations: Beliz Iristay reveals the artist’s critical examination of her Turkish and Mexican cultures as viewed through a Western lens. The exhibition themes of traditions, identity, gender, and customs resulted in an artistic output representing the distinctions created within these “between” spaces in her life. For the Turkish craft tradition, Iristay researched the decorative elements in textile motifs from Central Anatolia. For the Mexican craft tradition, she researched the ancient Mesoamerican and the modern craft traditions. Over the years, these themes interweave her inspiration and the foundation of her artwork.

The “immigrant” aspect of Iristay’s identity guides her choice of materials and techniques, which pushes her to weave a wide range of distorted politics in dialogue with beloved traditions within her work. Her latest series revolves around the use of Mexican bricks to represent the burden of the immigrant and to connect to the NEW earth. “Brick is Mexican, patterns are Turkish, and when you immigrate, the cast brick form is always heavy in every sense of the word,” states Iristay. “The cast adobe bricks evoke the immigrants’ baggage, as well as the walls — both literal and metaphorical — that they encounter along their journey. They are a manifestation of all my home countries: created with Mexican soil and adobe techniques, adorned with Turkish motifs, and eventually displayed in the United States.”

When Irstay immigrated to Mexico from Turkey in 2006, she discovered that many ancient Mexican textile patterns were also used in Turkic crafts. As a result, she became very interested in enculturation, researching the shared cultural heritages between Mexico, Turkey, and China through a process of experience, observation, and instruction.

Iristay’s graceful exhibition takes viewers on a journey of influence and migration from East to West, both physically and inspirationally. The handmade Mexican adobe tiles in the mural were made from clay harvested from Iristay’s home in the Guadalupe Valley of Baja California, Mexico, and represent the cultural exchange during the time of The Silk Road. 

In an experimental wall installation of carpets, Iristay used liquid porcelain poured on the gallery floor to create a pool that slowly dried and cracked over time, with old traditional Turkish wall carpets as symbols of home life. She also created ceramic-porcelain jars using traditional Turkish and Mexican techniques with harvested clay from Mexican soil, transforming traditional ceramic art into contemporary art objects. Overall, the array of work offers viewers a culturally rich narrative created from materials, patterns, references, and glazes that form a map of cultural tracing in the artist’s personal and creative journey wrapped in thoughtful processes and progression.

Join Beliz Iristay in conversation with Christie Mitchell on Sunday, April 30, 2023 at 2:00 PM.

The exhibition celebration took place on Saturday, January 14, 2023 at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (members preview at 5:00 PM)