Photos by Lynn Woodward
Ayla Gizlice’s “abstract poetic gesture”
Ayla Gizlice sought to connect ideas about her heritage, passion for nature and concern for environmental issues in one art project. She wove them together — literally — in a small Turkish carpet. To dye the yarn, she used lichen, typically found growing on tree bark in forests and are indicators of air quality, as they are sensitive to pollutants.
But this rug is not one to be relegated to the floor. To further make the connection with the natural world, particularly the air and how it’s affected by climate change, she fashioned a copper frame for the work, so that it could become a kite and fly using the power of the invisible natural force.
Gizlice, who has a background in environmental science and is poised to pursue a master’s of fine arts at UCLA this year, drew from her father’s Turkish heritage in choosing the symbols, including those representing fresh water, a mythical dragon that draws spring rain and a resolute woman, arms akimbo, representing fertility. Growing up in Raleigh, N.C., where she was born, she’d spent every other summer visiting family in Turkey and remembers her grandmother weaving the traditional Anatolian flatweave carpets, called kilims.
“Every other summer, we would go and visit my family in Turkey and we would visit this kind of co-op in a school where people would learn how to weave kilims and it’s run by some of my relatives,” she said. “There are all these looms in a room and the women just come in, weave together and it seems like kind of a social thing and it’s fun and it’s a beautiful room, a really nice atmosphere, and that drew me to it.”
The artist had finished weaving the kilim prior to her residency, but one of several of her pursuits during her two weeks here was to fully complete it as an art experience. “I feel like this piece will not be finished until it really fulfills its function as a kite,” said Gizlice, who spoke about the project and flew the kite for the first time in public before a small gathering at a field at Sisters Middle School. “It was more a sort of abstract poetic gesture and I wanted to do something that was very direct that created that link between lichens and air quality and it’s kind of celebratory.”
She also wanted her residency during two weeks in mid-July to afford her time to pursue something more didactic — a field guide for using lichens as air quality indicators that is also an art book. It may ultimately exist as a PDF online for anyone to peruse.
“In my background as a sculptor, materials are really exciting to me, so I’ve been experimenting a lot with some different materials and different techniques for showing images of lichens that I want to be beautiful and functional. I liked the idea of the materials in the book mirroring the symbiotic relationship of lichen, made up of algae and fungus. I have been playing with making paper out of mushrooms and then pigmenting it with algae.”