Gift of Sight & Personal Dedication Transforms Into  Sublime  Art

An interview with Ulku UNSOY by Jeannette GOEHRING for Light Millennium.
Fighting Blindness Caused By Diabetes, An Artist Continues Growing

JG: Ulku, tell us a little about your beginnings to get us started.

My most amazing life experience was, discovering the existence of pencil, paper and paints…  I was three my mom says.  As far as it goes, I see myself as a vision perceiving the world around me, trying to combine it with my imagination and abilities.  I had a strong personal vision and internal guide, in even the most youthful stages of my life.   When I open the layers of curtains, what I have see is a curious mind, emotions expressed in many different ways through my soul, my spirit waiting for my body to grow… early stages of the phantom!

JG: How do you connect your childhood memories and dreams into maturity?

Since the beginnings I have followed my instinct to discover my abilities and skills, to mature my perceptions and vision that I would explore with an endless variety of mediums (additions to pencil, paper and paints) to create art forms, I thought would be a lifetime journey. 

 Most of my childhood memories seem like blooming flowers.  They come out in so many different colors and shapes, because I was lucky, to be so close to nature. It was a contrast in my life; growing up in a big city, but able to spend enough time to observe nature very well in the country side every summer. 

Memories:  A farmhouse in the middle of the rich fields of orange, peach, walnut trees, among many other gifts of nature.  …Getting stung by bees while trying to get the honey!  …Picking the best watermelon in-between the leaves.  …Running over the green grass that rises up to my knees.  I would fall, play with friends around the hot spring waters, washing my face from the natural creek in my grandmother’s front yard by morning’s first light, watching her making the corn bread over the iron pan, with the flames of burning cut wood, and I can’t wait to spread the freshly made butter over it. …Trying to catch that snake with a stick!  …Run over my huge rock and jump down into the sand from above ten feet, mostly I would hurt myself, but what an achievement!  …Smell the lemon blossoms, bury my face into the blue violets thinking of the future.  …Discover all kinds of wild berries and herbs, bugs, butterflies, and many lovely smiling faces of the countryside.  Delightful conversations, social gatherings…  I was a city child, many years past by, now I say I’m very urban, but never forgetting how I belong with nature.  It is in my soul.  I get close to it and enjoy it whenever I can.  None of the amazement stopped when I passed out in front of our apartment building in the city and...

JG:  What happened?

I was seven.  I saw the tears on my mom’s face.  I heard the doctor saying “she has juvenile diabetes and will take insulin shots for the rest of her life.”  I was seven when I started taking the shots.  Things change.  That beautiful crystal clear creek that runs over rounded stones with wild herbs growing around, does not run anymore. 

Having diabetes, passing out all the time, did not worry me at all.  It was another thing to deal in daily life…   But I kept growing, kept drawing, got awards, learned how to deal with lost insulin bottles which my life depended on, during a trip of an international art festival, which I was representing my country at the age of fourteen.  I had the treasure of trust and love of my parents supporting me.  They let me go on the trip that and I had to find a way to survive.

JG:  Your work has been described as “The best professional work” and compared with Winslow Homer.  What was your artistic inspiration?

I had the great satisfaction of showing my vision through my artwork, which I exhibited to share with others.  Winning world-class awards was not the satisfaction.  My happiness always comes unexpectedly while I am creating.

JG:  What is the source of your creativity? 

Seeing the importance of some circumstances that affect our lives dramatically is one thing and wanting to share them with others the other thing.  I also was filled with rich passion to express those moments of life that we all want to capture forever…  A vision that can notice the opposites in surroundings immediately and tries to give the messages as honest as possible, saying like:  “Here it is”, I clearly show what I see, …  “What could be done about it?”  …I wanted to change everything for better around me.

So, somehow I always saw myself between experiences of life through all my senses and creating art forms with an interpretation to share them all with others.  I would say perceiving the life, what goes around me, in amazement and using my imagination would make me feel so responsible to express my vision.  Almost like producing documentaries and I am the happiest when it is done right.

Being responsible made me serious, but I have the most fun.  More experiences, more work, more attempts and getting better brought me confidence.  I had the power!  I became rebellious and sad when my power fell short. I had such a hard time accepting, understanding the obstacles and negativity when there would be a simple solution.  I continued as a silent worrier, hoping that canvasses with full of ideas might win.

JG: Tell us about your education and The Fall?

Leaving home at the age of 17 and starting at the Academy of Fine Arts was the first big turning point in my life.  I believe I was guided the best way by my education in arts and social studies.  During the eight years of intense art education, I also supported myself by working as a designer.  I was and am a viewer, thinker, pursuer of the ideas, while the artist in me learns how to bring out them as art forms.  Every day was unique, filled with long term hopes, dreams, challenge, struggle, optimism, passion, strength, faith, an addition to the whole picture. 

I did not see the clouds coming.  I never thought I would be anything but a visual artist.  I was maturing in all my skills with the best educational system, every moment realizing my potential and thinking, how fortunate I am to be there, getting ready for life as an artist. I was looking forward to the productive days of creating miracles…

JG:  and The Fall?

This is the first time that I am mentioning my health problems as part of my personal story.  I feel having a diverse portfolio of achievements now, as an artist, talking about what I have been through is not going to diminish that.

Again, things change.  One day, the bright sun I adored every morning darkened.  There was no sun, no blue sky, no light, no image.  My vision was blurred with huge dark spots.  I was twenty two, and losing my eyesight.  In my eyes, small veins were all bleeding caused by my diabetes.  It was too late for any treatment.  I was in shock.  There was no way out.  That was the time I was getting my master’s degree in fine arts as a painter. 

One bleeding after another, I became blind in both eyes.  I fell in the middle of the tornadoes.  I did not believe this was happening to me.  

I was putting all my dreams in a waiting period and go day by day just hoping to see some light, maybe part of the sun, in between the bleedings.  I was still me, thinking how could I ever be a visionary if I don’t see?  How could I ever express my vision without seeing?  The only way I could do it was as a visual artist.  I must see.  I cannot live without seeing.  I needed to see!  It was two long years of searching and the most painful part of my youth.  No, I could not accept living the rest of my life as a blind person.  I had good friends, but simply was disabled and alone in a big city without money. 

Strangely, maybe I lost the light in my vision, but not in my heart.  I kept imagining the hopeful sights,  all the possibilities life could offer kept me going. 

I would say my imagination saved me.  I did not want to get deeply hurt and suffer from serious depression.  What if I see again?  What if I get back the gift of sight again, how could I enjoy seeing everything again, if I lose my mind and spirit?

JG:  How did you continue in such conditions with such dreams?

Every day was another step towards sight.  I was not able to discover the world around me by seeing visually, I turned my vision into my spirit, and started opening new avenues in my mind.  No matter what, I was alive.  No matter how sad or rebellious I was, I always had a person to hold my hand and cross the road with me and deal with the forms of bureaucracy, politics, hospitals, agreements.  I am grateful to all of them to this day, and forever, for keeping my hopes alive, making me smile between the tears.  That was the time I learned to be near the positive instead of the negative. 

I started developing my other senses.  I’m hearing things differently, I am enjoying music more, to smell the things around me, and describing them with the finest details.  Hot or cold, change of time, in a protective secret way, not knowing that it would help me so much in later years.  Also, that was the time period I started sculpting with clay, creating three dimensional work that I can coordinate by my hands. 

I did not want to talk about the tragedies I went through with my eyesight during the interviews about my shows, but I always got questions about why do I think that life is so wonderful.  You may guess that if I did not have such traumas and tragedies, I might not have been able to give such value to life. My biggest worry was getting sensational articles about loosing my eye-sight as a primary story and not much about my artwork.  I am telling you now about my story because it has affected my direction.  Sure it has created a lot of setbacks, but I have turned inward and build-up a spiritual-mental strength.

We all experience the phases of life.  Time goes by.  Things change.  We love, get hurt, get sick, struggle, produce, and deal with the things that come and go.  Everything blends beautifully in nature with the right timing and proportion. When it’s dark, we’re in pain and having hard times, still we can develop senses that look at the things objectively and positively, keeping the strength and the hope to overcome the traumas that will always bring healing affects!

JG:  How did you gain the Gift of Sight back?

I came to the US, had my eye operation in 1983 and partially got it back.  This was another turning point in my life. When I looked back, everything in my life was drawing and painting.  I kept studying, learned a new language, continued drawing and painting and made a living by showing and selling my paintings for many years through exhibitions.  Then I started sculpting.  I loved it.

JG: What are The New Rises?

Being a mother may be the biggest achievement of all I’d say.  Seven years after the eye operation, pregnancy put my eyesight in danger again, among the other complications of diabetes.  Well, it went fine, and as a human being, no other achievements could satisfy me as much as holding a healthy baby in my arms.  I guess my greatest satisfactions in life don’t come easy, pointing out the simplicity of a certain vision, ideas can be hard sometimes.  But I don’t mind the challenge.  Because I know all of that perception with the love of life and art share an exceptional quality: they strike at the soul, bypassing the intelligence! In whatever form they come out...

JG: At what stage is your carrier now?

I began my career as a fine artist.  After receiving my Master’s degree, I went on with painting and sculpting, then further studying hydra mechanical engineering. The survey of my artwork came to building large-scale waterfall sculptures, with the input of modern technologies. 

Creating each waterfall design enables me to use different particulars of my artistic knowledge and life experiences.  These sculptures; in addition to their artistic formation, also contain the visual effects of sound, lighting and water movement.  This addition brings them more than merely three-dimensional effects.  The way I use of water can revise a sculpture, creating a “sensation of movement” while falling, or “serenity” when the water is still.  I build these permanently installed sculptures through my company A.C.I. (Arts Composed Inc.), in the public , commercial and residential domains .

Combining the works of History of Civilization & Philosophy, with all the above-mentioned vocations gave me many enriching experiences.   I grew as a visionary over the years, surpassing my artistic talent.

There is a remarkable link between the Culture-Science-Educational concepts through my life, by my works and ambition.  Receiving an award from Unesco, at the age of 13 brought me a considerable outcome in the end.  I am now dedicated to convert all my knowledge and understanding to make a difference for a better, beautiful, and more peaceful world, which takes roots from my childhood.  I believe we all can live and interact in a less conflicted world. 

I live here in New York for over 2 decades; working, loving life and people.  Also being socially active brought me opportunities to get involved with different platforms, such as the art world, business world, diplomatic world, and many others.

Cosmopolitan New York with its many cultural communities, gave me the chances to evolve my universal thoughts to greater lengths.  Life here is very speedy, yet inspiring.  Ideas somehow evolve here amidst overwhelming diversity and endless creative and ethical choices.

I accomplished an event on June 24, 2000, dedicating my art, “a large waterfall sculpture” to global peace.  The representatives of Turkey and Greece were there among the global peace organizations of United Nations.  I tried to cross out my vision through media, reaching out to those countries and the others.  The message was simple:  We can be different but still unified to make positive changes for each other through the bridges of all knowledge, arts, science and cultures, the money world and the inner most yearnings of human kind. 

This event opened many avenues and relations that will be exploit in the future projects.  I continue working around the concepts of; Ecologies, Awareness for Globalization, Peace / Higher Standards of Life Style, and Energy Outcome Equalization.

BAHAR sayisi web'dedir.



@The Light Millennium magazine was created and designed
by Bircan ÜNVER. 6th issue. Summer 2001, New York.
URL: http://www.lightmillennium.org