How Ates Isildak Creates a Safe Space for Marginalized Communities
Ates Isildak uses short films, music videos, and photography to subvert conventional expressions of beauty and sexuality. His goal is to create a safe space for marginalized communities to “exuberantly express themselves.” The son of Turkish immigrants, Ates graduated from the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach and earned a BA in English literature from the University of Central Florida. His photo and video collaborations are inspired by “gender fluidity, sexual ambiguity, and intersectionality.”
Ates’ diverse multimedia projects have been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout South Florida and featured at Spectrum during Miami Art Week. Despite a recent uptick in his career, Ates spent the first 20 years of his creative life battling rejection. He drew, painted, made music, wrote poetry and fiction, and encountered harsh criticism. It wasn’t until he transitioned to photography and video, and felt able to express himself more clearly, that he finally started to break through.
“I started by making music videos for bands, and though they are creative, bizarre, unique, I was told by galleries and film festivals that they were not quite ‘art,’” Ates tells NOT REAL ART. “I kept making them anyway, and then felt the courage to make some short films, which seemed to get a bit more attention from the ‘art world.’ I am now 36 and 2020 and 2021 have been especially fortunate for me. I received two grants, an award at a Biennial, and multiple gallery showings with the curators all asking, ‘Where did you come from?’ or ‘Where have you been all this time?’ This moment I'm wanted; the next I may go back to being alienated, but art will remain in my life.”
In 2021 Ates’ “Fabulous Muscles”—a video project inspired by a song of the same name from experimental post-punks Xiu Xiu—won an award at the Cultural Council’s Juried Biennial in West Palm Beach. His video work has been premiered online by Troma, Spin Magazine, Flood, Consequence of Sound, Noisey, and Vice. As he continues along his creative journey, Ates is committed to collaborative and inclusive work exploring gender, identity, sexuality, and feminism that “gives shape to secrets and flouts repression” through experiments and shared conversation.
“This moment I'm wanted; the next I may go back to being alienated, but art will remain in my life.” — Ates Isildak
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
Our Artist of the Day series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100s of grant applications we receive. The NOT REAL ART grant is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists. Find out more about our grant program here.
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