March 12–June 25, 2017
Peter and Margaret de Wetter Gallery
OKU | READ is an exhibition from the El Paso Museum of Art’s collaborative project with the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez, The Border Biennial. Turkish-American artist Beliz Iristay received the award of a solo exhibition from among the forty-four American and Mexican artists whose works were featured in the Biennial 2015 Ciudad Juárez-El Paso. In the Biennial exhibition, Iristay showed Veladora, a nine-foot sculptural installation fabricated from hundreds of pop-culture veladoras, porcelain lips, and the ghostly image of an anonymous female, which memorialized lost and murdered women in Juárez. Her 2017 solo exhibition, OKU | READ, which will feature transformed examples of the rahle, an Islamic bookrest traditionally used to display the Quran, continues Iristay’s cross-cultural melding of historical and contemporary themes, traditions, and materials.
A site-specific installation in EPMA’s Peter and Margaret de Wetter Gallery, OKU | READ will be populated by reimagined and reconfigured rahles. Rather than being made from wood, the original material of the rahle, Iristay’s rahles are fabricated from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) panels, and covered with photos from vintage calendar cards from the Turkish military. The artist tops them not with books but hundreds of elegant and translucent minarets juxtaposed at different angles. The exhibition title—OKU | READ—features the first word of the Quran in Turkish—oku, which translates to “read.”
Born in Izmir, Turkey, Beliz Iristay graduated from her native city’s Dokuz Eylül University with a specialization in ceramics. In 2005 she moved to San Diego, and now divides her time between the city and her studio located across the international border in Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada. The artist embraces not only historical methods such as Japanese raku but also modern ceramics, cast resin, murals, mixed-media installations, and public art commissions.