Waste Knot

Artist Deniz Sağdıç transforms the products of our mass consumption into provocative portraits.

From a distance, the massive, colorful portraits by Deniz Sağdıç are undeniably striking, but it is the medium and not the work itself that creates a fundamental shift in thought. Up close, we see that Sağdıç’s medium is waste: cut-up jeans, old matchboxes, the electronic detritus of the digital age. This waste is, the portraits seem to say, what we are made of.

Sağdıç, who was born in Mersin, Turkey, in 1982, grew up creating stained glass works with her father, a glassmaker. A graduate of Mersin University’s fine arts program, she has had 36 solo exhibitions since 2011, including at the UN’s COP27 climate summit. She has been featured on television and profiled in magazines. Her work, in other words, keeps working.

Her latest show, “0 Zero Point,” was featured in Istanbul’s international airport. “As people come to the airport and pass through the international terminal, they will see these artworks and think that these look like oil paintings from a distance,” she explains. “Instead … they will be witnessing the transformation of everyday objects that they are familiar with. These will blend into their journey, and they will have a new appreciation, re-build their understanding, and then go on their journey with this new understanding in their mind.”

More Online: See more of Sa˘gdıç’s work at DenizSagdic.art

This new understanding is much needed, particularly at a time when we are being overtaken by mass-produced stuff. Only 1 percent of used clothes are recycled into new clothes, even though fast-fashion inundates landfills with synthetic junk. We replace old phones or computers every few years, but it will take a million years for the plastic or glass to break down. In 2019, humans produced nearly 54 million tons of e-waste, but less than 18 percent of it was even collected for recycling.

Sağdıç takes these products of mass consumption and upcycles them, beautifying them. That reuse has a positive message, certainly. But her portraits also raise an unsettling question: Who are we without the things we consume?

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