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Going Home With Artist Yasmin Kaytmaz

For many of us, home is the place in which we came of age, a lasting source of refuge, a sanctuary. For Yasmin Kaytmaz, home is much more multifaceted.

“Home isn’t necessarily very romantic. Home can be harsh, or it can be kitschy, or odd, and weird, and surreal.”

Her latest sculpture, Homebody, explores the notion of home as a burden, an inescapable history. The work will appear in Don’t Trust Me, I’m Homeless, a group art show produced by Restaurant Projects. The show will take place in January, 2019 in New York City’s Ed. Varie Gallery and will feature artwork exploring the process of realizing an abstract idea, and housing that concept in a recognizable form.

Don’t Trust Me, I’m Homeless will be Kaytmaz’s debut show.

Tell me about Homebody.  

The sculpture is silicone. I picked the material because I wanted it to refer to skin. When you lift it, it’s heavy. I wanted it to feel like a body, and when I have someone do something performative with it I want them to be reminded that something is pressing down onto them and that they are sinking down, because home does that. It sinks you.

The piece is based off of suburban models. There’s a cul-de-sac and a grid. I read up on the suburbs and certain planning structures.

My work really is about childhood and nostalgia and the surrealism that surrounds it. I’m always thinking back to this excerpt in Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth. There’s this one chapter in it about becoming an adult, and the last line is “Are memories really all that remain.” And I just think of that whenever I’m making all of my work.

Where was home for you before New York, and what can you tell me about coming of age there?

I grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida. It’s so odd there. It’s this weird ghost town during the summer, and in the winter it’s a very seasonal place. Very strange things used to happen in the suburbs there. There was a mother who was found in a sugar cane field, and her husband was the one who did it, and then he killed himself. There was another guy found dead in his Rolls-Royce, and now his wife drives the car around the city wearing leather gloves. It’s so weird. I always thought it was really surreal and oddly funny that these things were occurring in this strange town that’s supposed to be like a paradise. You have this paradise, Palm Beach, with a lot of money, and then next door you have a trailer park called Paradise Park. It’s this weird irony.

You created a series of photos focussed on Homebody, one of which sold in Topical Cream’s 2018 Benefit Auction via Artsy last September, and I noticed some paintings in your studio. Yet, you maintain that all of your work is in the field of sculpture.   

I’m definitely a sculptor. Even those photos are in the realm of sculpting. I’m thinking about that sculpture within those photos, I’m thinking of a whole narrative that goes along with it.

The basic idea of the photos was this suburban environment that I’m constantly thinking about, and people’s idea of home. So when you think about home, you think of a place, often times, I think you recognize the shape of a house, even like that one right there (she points to a painting of a house-like edifice. A handgun and the head of a boy protrude from the canvas, adding an additional dimension. Kaytmaz prompts the distending figures to spin via electric motors hidden behind the frame). My argument in my work is that home isn’t necessarily a place, but more so a body. So when you think of home, it’s that body that you sit with, so this piece is called Homebody, and it’s pressing down onto to you.

Have you always been a sculptor?

I’ve always been a builder. I like toys. They remind me of when you’re a kid and you’re touching everything, you’re building little things. I have a box full of legos that, when I’m bored or can’t think of anything to make, I use to get ideas. I actually used monopoly houses as models for Homebody.

I’ve never thought in a two dimensional way. Even when I’m painting, I’m thinking 3D, how can this come out of the canvas already, how can it move. Ultimately, I’m always thinking about movement. Even [Homebody] is not necessarily moving but you can definitely move it.

You think about a world outside your own and you want it to be as real as possible. Some people are good at that two dimensionally, but for me I want to make the world outside my own one that people can interact with. I can feel this, or see that move, and it makes it more real to me.

What artists have influenced your work?

Robert Gober. Completely. He combined this kitsch sort of narrative that was funny, and really dark, and also really well-executed. You walk from room to room [at his exhibitions] and everything plays with each other, from the wallpaper, to the donuts in the middle of the room, and the light coming out of the wall, or the wedding dress hinting at something else. [His exhibitions] are super surreal, you feel like you’re in a dream and you’re making up the narrative, and that’s fun. His work is fun.

Do you model your work to project some of that same playfulness?

For sure. I don’t like to say anything without a sense of humor. What’s the point? Why not? People don’t like to talk about anything serious, so let me make work that’s serious and funny. Everybody likes to laugh, I think it hits home with people.

Stay tuned to Milk for more ideas about home.

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