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About this blog: John Barry is the creator of trAction Painting, a process/performance genre in which he applies paint to large surfaces with bicycles, roller skates, and other wheeled conveyances. With Bill Carmel and other associates, he has bro...  (More)

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Uploaded: Apr 15, 2011
Turbanism is an art and fashion movement that was born in Danville in late 2010/early 2011. Turbanistic works can be expressed in visual, written, or millinerist media. Their hallmark is a depiction of a turban or turbans in some fashion. For example, the painting "Turban-Topped Turnipettes" represents photorealistically the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes as anthropomorphic high-kicking turnips adorned with turbans. "My Turban" is a seven-stanza poem about a person, fed up with fedoras, homburgs, and similar headwear, who has gravitated instead to per-capita wraps. The first stanza:

I've renounced my Busby
I vow: thus it must be
I'm turning from Tokay to Bourbon
And I place on my pate
Headgear that appears great
I'm dashing; it's smashing, my turban

The name Turbanism arose from a discussion among some Danville artists about contemporary art movements. One dilettante in attendance asked: "Is there a contemporary 'ism' movement. We've had Impressionism, Pointillism, Expressionism, etc. But what about today?" The consensus was that there is currently no major stylistically or generically circumscribed "ism."

Prior to that discussion and assessment, plein air painter Steven Sanfilippo had rendered on a small panel an androgynous figure wearing a blue turban. This figure became known affectionately among the group as "Turban Boy," although in light of the following observation from the Online Etymology Dictionary, "Turban Girl" would have been equally apt: "A men's headdress in Muslim lands, it was popular in Europe and America c.1776-1800 as a ladies' fashion." (The painting shown here is Jacques Louis David's "Woman in a Turban," 1794.) A more academic title for Sanfilippo's work might be "Seated Figure with Blue Turban."

The dictionary continues about the word's origin:

1560s, from M.Fr. turbant, from It. turbante (O.It. tolipante), from Turk. tülbent, "gauze, muslin, tulle," from Pers. dulband "turban." The change of -l- to -r- may have taken place in Portuguese India and thence been picked up in other European languages.

As he contemplated the lack of contemporary "ism"s, painter Kevin Davidson had an epiphany as the metaphorical light bulb went on above his closely cropped, nonturbaned head. In a moment reminiscent of the famous scene in "The Graduate" in which the dialogue goes thus:

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

Davidson looked at the group and uttered just one word:


And thus a movement was born.

Davidson's first Turbanistic act was to create a bumper sticker bearing the high-energy, high-forehead slogan "Turban Up!" "It's the new 'Cowboy Up,'" he explained. A poetaster in the group has reworked Jeff Hilldebrandt's 2002 poem "Cowboy Up, America!" as "Turban Up Androgynous!" Said poetaster has also penned a take-off on Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn": "Oath on Grievous Term," in part about a Greek's reaction to the Turkish origin of the word turban.

The movement is growing.

I plan more on Turbanism in later installments.

John A. Barry is a writer and avocational artist. To share anything art-related, call him at 314-9528 or email jobarry@pacbell.net

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