“Public Art as Political Bargaining Chip: When Site-Specificity is Both Potent and Powerless“

In conjunction with our exhibtion Kit-Yin Snyder and Richard Haas, read lawyer Magan Noh’s analysis of the legal dispute regarding the artwork by Kit-Yin Snyder at the ManhattN Detention Center in the September issue of The Brooklyn Rail. 

ABC News visits the Yeh Art Gallery

ABC News visited our Kit-Yin Snyder and Richard Haas exhibtion to interview the artists as well as Jan Lee from the group Neighbors United Below Canal. Watch the full video here! 

Resources to Stop Anti-Asian Violence

As a Catholic and Vincentian University devoted to the highest principles of love, acceptance, and human development, St. John’s stands resolutely against hatred, discrimination, and violence when directed at Asians, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders (AAPI). 

The Yeh Art Gallery stands in solidarity with the AAPI community, and would not exist without the important contributions of Asians. The recent attacks in Atlanta are part of an ongoing history of racist violence against Asians and Asian Americans. The recent uptick of violence in this country stems from white supremacists utilizing the pandemic to escalate xenophobia and hate. Further, we recognize that violence against Asian communities is part of a larger system of prejudice and oprression against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, women, and other communities of color.

Staff members have supported grassroots organizations focused on Asian American and Asian Canadian workers, as well as stopping AAPI hate. Here is a list of organizations  largely compiled by Dr. Lisa Lowe, and shared by  Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) at St. John’s:

-      National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

-      Red Canary Song

-      CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

-      Butterfly (Toronto)

-      Stop AAPI Hate

-      KIWA Workers for Justice

-       Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco & Boston

-      Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA)

-      Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)

Welcome to My World: DARK WHITE

Fevzi Yazici
Silivri Prison, C-9/72, Istanbul, Turkey

Thank God, it seems that I have been prepared and trained for this moment my entire life!

I have always viewed myself as both an artist and journalist. Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University has allowed me to identify as an artist, whereas, my identity as a designer comes from the newspaper ZAMAN.  For many years, I was privileged to work as the art and design director at ZAMAN, even though I was unable to pursue an important aspect of my life since childhood: drawing. Drawing has always been a passion for me. But during this time I found a way to improve my technique. Taking part in many mandatory meetings, I listened to my surroundings and kept my hands occupied with drawing during long business deliberations.  I have never thought it was a handicap to lack the best materials.  In those days, all I had was a pen, and I was able to solely focus on the advantages of the pen, the beauty of the mighty pen. I have never used a pencil when drawing. “What do you do when you make a mistake?” people asked. My answer: “I can manage the mistakes with a pen, no problem.”

Since being in prison, I have continued to draw with a pen.  Even though I have requested art materials, I’ve never been granted them.  I don’t get upset, I just continue to draw with whatever I have, like always.

I've added some of these recent works to my old drawings. Therefore as a result, the  exhibition is a mixture of works created “inside” and “outside” of prison. If you asked what is the common feature of both groups of drawings, I think I would say, “they are free.” You cannot arrest the art and imagination. People think more in prison, and they draw and write, and yes, I am writing and drawing a lot.

I have never limited the subject of my drawings. Sometimes, I was impacted by the daily news cycles, and sometimes I transferred my imaginations to paper. Later on, I needed to give a name to all these sketches that I completed over the years. Since I was drawing instead of taking notes, I decided to call them simply Meeting Notes.

Previously, I wanted to work towards an exhibition of paintings, but unfortunately conditions did not permit this. Now they have locked me in jail and my drawings are locked at home. It is perhaps the endless imprisonment of the artist that separates him from his work.

I am in prison for a crime I did not commit. They stole three and half years from me, my wife, and my children. I think that those who sentenced me know very well that I am not guilty. Unfortunately, although I was able to read it on their faces, they preferred to take the easy route for themselves. I have been acquitted in hearts and consciences, regardless of their judgment. I am an artist, as innocent as the pictures that I draw. I am a journalist, as free as my thoughts. But I know that I am not going to be the first or the last innocent man in prison.

Is not history full of examples of injustice? Take, for instance, the conversation between Socrates and his wife, Xanthippe. “They will kill you unjustly!” she says, and Socrates responds, “would it be better if they killed rightly?”  Like Socrates, I feel peace in me. I love art, I love being a journalist, and I love Turkey. I believe that this fatal mistake will be corrected sooner or later, and so I continue to produce. There are so many more things to accomplish.

If I were not in jail, the exhibition’s name would be MEETING NOTES. But the drawings were created in jail, and, therefore, the situation has become completely different.

Why did I name the exhibition DARK WHITE?

The name of the exhibition DARK WHITE reflects both my cell conditions and the materials I've used. I have never been able to see white in its truest sense in this small room-cell, as it does not receive direct light during the day. I have to settle for the light reflected from this tiny room's walls. That's why I have named the white of my cell, DARK WHITE.

The situation is no better with the materials. Having no colored pencils or pens, I handle only the black of the ballpoint pen and the white of the paper. From now on, I’ve named the black “DARK,” and so the technique I used is called “DARK WHITE.”

Although the conditions are so DARK, my hopes will always be WHITE.

I would like to thank St. John’s University for allowing me this opportunity, and all who visit my exhibition in celebration of art and journalism.

Image: Fevzi Yazıcı, Arrest Socrates, 2018, white paper and prison pen, 8.26 x 11.81 inches. Photo courtesy Firdevs Yaz.