Published: Jan. 2, 2013

Museum exhibit explores transgender community of Istanbul

Contact(s): Lora Helou MSU Museum office: (517) 432-3357 helou@msu.edu

Identity, isolation, transition and acceptance are at the center of a new exhibition at the Michigan State University Museum, "East Meets West: The Transgender Community of Istanbul," Jan. 21 - April 14.

The exhibit features photographic portraits by Mary Robert, newly appointed dean of learning, teaching and curriculum development, and former chairperson of the Department Arts and Sciences at Richmond University, London. The exhibit is presented in conjunction with MSU's Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration and this year's theme, "The Road to Social Justice Begins with One Step."

"East Meets West" gives a rare insight into the lives of people in transition - one of the most dramatic and absolute transitions that can be embarked upon by any individual. The photographic portraits explore the complex identities of the members of a community of male-female transsexuals living in Istanbul, Turkey. Robert's photographs focus on the human qualities of the subjects who have developed a new, unique aesthetic. Of the reported 2,000-3,000 transsexuals in Istanbul at various stages of transition from male to female, the vast majority exist in difficult circumstances and are often ostracized.

Robert's photographs focus on the human qualities of people who have strength and charm and who have developed a new, unique aesthetic, as opposed to the notion of "freaks" or exotic aberrations in their own society. Robert's large-format work (often produced in dramatic 5x7 foot portraits) has been featured in exhibitions throughout Europe, Mexico and the U.S.

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