Jihan Zencirli | Collector Profile
Weave your way up the narrow roads of Laurel Canyon to find yourself in the light-filled home of artist Jihan Zencirli, previously known as GERONIMO. Most well-known for her playful balloon and inflatable installations, the artist continues to explore temporary sculpture through her practice. Her West Coast living space feels part gallery, part home, with its ever-rotating display of art and design objects that can change on a whim. Explore her animated collection and intriguing story below.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm Sufi, and my family is from the city of the poet Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes, who spin in beautiful and perfect circles while detaching from earth and connecting to Allah, God -- a higher consciousness. Everything in my life has been a sort of predestined or biological impulse of the study of round forms with similar movement. Even my name translates to mean "the world".
From collecting or throwing pottery and designing yo-yos, to the past decade of working with latex balloons and inflatable orbs under the artist name Geronimo, my anthem is circular and orbital. My work is generally in a free, accessible public scape-- past locations have been at the Lincoln Center, hanging over the East River on Pier 17, on the exterior of The Broad Museum and along the path of the River Thames.
Where do you live and what makes it a home to you?
I live between New York City and Los Angeles. I consider both Laurel Canyon and Lower Eastside NYC, my home. Today you're meeting me in the canyon which immediately felt like home for light that comes into the windows, a similar warm, dappled beam through the trees as my great-grandparent's home I was raised in, on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle.
Any place that I see my purpose to serve my community in the ways I can, is home. My relationship with my city is the fuel for the art that I place in it.
Tell us about your art practice and how it has evolved? What projects are you working on that are keeping you inspired?
Lately, I've been interested in the persona and performance of live-cam sex models as well as the lucid dreaming and different states of consciousness in sleep.
A couple of months ago, I moved my dining table and sofa to storage and brought in an enormous king bed into my living room. I began hosting a sort of performance in the evening with music and light projections and conversation, while laying on the bed and filming the experience. For me, all of my curiosities inform the evolution of how I bring people to the space I host-- whether in my 1973 Mercedes that I keep period specific magazines and music in, or for a residency at Madison Square Park, or in my living room.
I have a collaboration with Rockefeller Center that I'm building around the study of True Love. Not romantic love, but the forms in which truth is felt through the layers of our human experience -- in light, in nature, in music, in an object, in observing other lives.
Jihan Zencirli says
“Finding art in practical objects like a green plastic basket that I buy berries in is as much a delight as a canvas filled with strokes that feel miraculously made from my dreams.”
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Reinvention, meditation, flirting, Aristotle, the dollar store, hiking at sunrise, the British quiz show "Q-I", my 18 year old god-daughter, Amelie, who has fallen in love for the first time.
I'm inspired by love, connection to strangers and the unseen things of this universe that keep me guessing and charmed by surprise, coincidence and unmistakable fate.
How would you describe your personal art collecting style?
Collecting for me began as a child with a Wizard of Oz memorabilia, Pez dispensers and postage stamps. I was raised by rock collectors and the sound of a rock tumbler polishing is the most euphoric sound that I can still hear when I close my eyes. For me, collecting is as much an aesthetic and curatorial hobby and a way to engage my investigator, curious mind.
Finding art in practical objects like a green plastic basket that I buy berries in is as much a delight as a canvas filled with strokes that feel miraculously made from my dreams. It was a profound self-realization for me that I was indeed an artist, not by my own creative out-put but how I engaged with material form that I felt had pure and generous intention. Materials have a soul, and become props to express what the operator, the artist, can see in it.
I keep the majority of my collected artwork in storage with my own pieces that I've made, and I continually rearrange my spaces with these items. My home will look vastly different, many times in a month. I rarely put nails in walls for this reason, and you can often find my car filled with objects I'm moving around and romancing.
What was the first piece you fell in love with?
Fanny Brennan, a Franco-American painter born in the 1920s, was known for her surrealist miniatures which I admired 18 years ago or more. Her work never exceeded a 4 inch square and even so, It was out of my grasp to own a lithograph.
Recently, I was rummaging at a flea market and I found two signed lithos with $3 written in permanent marker on the frame. I had forgotten about Fanny these many years, and it felt so important to be reunited with her work and the simplicity which first attracted me to her.
What are some of the most sentimental or meaningful pieces in your collection?
I have probably fifty nude study sketches from my friend, artist James Jean. He gave them to me to fill enormous walls of a studio 9 years ago, and I'm considering them my retirement fund.
The work of my friends and artists, Sisson, Emily Snyder, Amelie Sultan, Jared Purrington, Jen Rose, Michael Upton, Scott Goldberg, Nancy Pearce, Ethan Lipsitz and more, mean more to me than anything else.
For new collectors, do you have any advice you wish to impart?
For me, the art I collect is a reminder of a moment in time. It's an expression of journey or a season worth marking---similar to a piece of clothing. Some items I've never outgrown-- a plastic hot dog has been my most beloved object for many years. It says, "Italy" on the side of it and reminds me of the first penis I saw as a fifteen year old in the Vatican City, while riding a bus. A man flashed me and while I was scandalized at the time, It remains an amusing memory.
Who are some of your all-time favorite artists?
Barbara Hepworth, Simon Hantai, Jeane Claud and Christo, Henry Moore, Gae Aulenti, Helen Frankenthaler, Claes Oldenburg. Yoko Ono means the world to me, and I had the profound honor of debuting twenty five of my sculptures in tandem with her work for a project in 2019.
What inspires you to collect or work with emerging artists and talent?
It keeps me humble, learning, evolving and challenges me. I work with other artists frequently and It's like sharing a kitchen -- it takes grace and coordination to make something together, and it's best when both people shift agenda from trying to convey their own voice to learning about the other artist's motivation. Empathy is the most important part of my journey as a human, as an artist.
Favorite museum or creative space for inspiration?
I am reluctant to admit that I'm a creature of habit. I rotate the same ten movies in the background of my studio, passively listening to the dialogue as though they are conversations I am party to. Every Wednesday I go to the Huntington Garden & Library. Sometimes to eat mushrooms, sometimes to do research for a project, sometimes to meditate on the grass in the rose garden.
When in NY, I go to the New Museum as many days as it's open. It's a couple of blocks from my apartment, and so I find myself walking there if just to use the restroom while I'm running errands, or sitting in the lobby to drink tea with my sketchbook and black ink felt tip pen, occasionally wandering through the gallery floors and having new epiphanies on a detail of a painting I've seen a dozen of times.