I was very pleased to interview Ayşe Taşkıran for the Habedasher’s WordSpring 2015 presenters series. Taşkıran uses art to create awareness of the beauty and the problems of the world. Throughout her travels, she has combined her many interests — painting, photography, and writing — to do just that. By finding kindness in strangers on her travels, she is able to tell their stories through the means of art. In other words, the people she has met during her travels have truly restored her faith in humanity.
Jasmeen Bassi (J.B): What sparked your interest in writing/ art, and or when did you start creating?
Ayşe Taşkıran (A.T): Photography has been my life-long interest since middle school. Writing is also a life-long interest, but I just started publishing about a year ago. One day I could not keep my feelings and opinions inside any more and my first published article came out. I started painting about three years ago. I like trying new things. I took a painting class and I got hooked. They are all different means of expressing feelings and ideas; whichever feels right at the moment.
J.B: Who are your art and writing influences?
A.T: I am not sure how to measure that. I hope everybody who sees or reads them finds something in them that they identify with.
J.B: Do you have a favorite painting that you’ve painted, and is there a story behind it?
A.T: Each painting has a story. The beauty of painting is that the story depends on the person who is impacted by it. So my story becomes insignificant in the eyes of others. They create their own story.
J.B: What is your most memorable traveling experience that to this day you wish you could go back?
A.T: I always go back to the places that touch me deeply. One place I would like to back is Southern Italy, or Mount Ararat.
J.B: During your travels what inspires the inner writer/ artist, or what subjects do you tend to focus on?
A.T: I let the subjects find me. I do not make any plans or try to focus on anything. I am open to whatever comes my way and I welcome them. I discover new places and meet new people when I least expect them. I have a variety of interest areas including nature, people, architecture, archaeology, etc. Any time I want to focus on one of them, something pulls
me to a different directions. So I just start my journey somewhere and follow my instincts.
J.B: Is there any place that you’ve traveled to that you could see yourself living there for the rest of your life?
A.T: Yes. There are several places that qualify for this but I have plans to move to one of them.
J.B: What is the most exciting thing about meeting new people on your travels? What questions do find yourself asking them, and or what questions do they ask you? And do you stay in touch with the people you meet?
A.T: Meeting new people and hearing their stories restore my faith in humanity. I let them share with me whatever they want to and I do the same. During my trip to Cappadocia, as I was walking in the middle of nowhere, I came across a small canopy and a man making tea. He invited me to have a cup of tea and I spent the next two hours listening to his story. When people see me with a camera, they usually want to show me places that I might want to see. They invite me to their homes; they offer me food or drinks. I always stay in touch with them and revisit them.
J.B: Do you have a favorite encounter from your travels?
A.T: I experience them every day. In addition to the one I shared above… I visited a town last summer in Southern Turkey to take photographs of old houses. I only had two hours to walk around. I entered an art gallery and ended up meeting two new people (the owner and his friend) who offered to show me the archaeological sites around town. I ended up staying there for a week and we started a new project together. I am going to meet them again this summer to work on that project.
J.B: What is your process when you write or paint? In other words, what gets the juices flowing?
A.T: Any kind of emotion that surfaces due to any trigger such as a song, a news article, a memory, a photograph, a conversation with a friend… I start writing in my mind first and hope to get it on paper as soon as I can.
JB: If you could have dinner with any famous artist/ writer (dead or alive) who would that be and what would be for dinner?
A.T: Kurt Vonnegut. Breakfast.
J.B: How do you incorporate your art into your writing, and vice versa?
A.T: They inspire each other. I write stories about the photographs I take, and then I paint some of them. Whichever comes first… I plan to combine them all in a book.
J.B: What advice can you give young writers/artists about staying true to their work?
A.T: Don’t plan it. Be open to anything and let it come to you.
J.B: What are five words that describe you as a writer/ artist?
A.T: Spontaneous, curious, passionate, adventurous, intuitive.
J.B: Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?
A.T: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi)
JB: Lastly, can you give me a sneak peak of your WordSpring workshop?
A.T: I will take the audience to different corners of Turkey using as many sensory images as I can. They will write and share their experiences.
Many thanks to Ayşe Taşkıran for taking the time to answer my questions. To find out more about WordSpring 2015, which kicks off tomorrow morning (4/25) at Butte College, including registration information, and more on Taşkıran’s workshop, visit www.buttewordspring.org.