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HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — “Horses represent freedom to me,” says Turkish-born artist Yucel Erdogan.

Erdogan’s images are filled with freedom and grace. They carry with them a feeling of deep reflection and solitude, powerful and resonant, through darkness and chaos. They stand for something more than simply horses. They speak of endurance and collective will, especially now after two years of pandemic and division. The uniform direction of the horses creates a determination and a will to move forward, together, all of us.

“Hopeful that with freedom and strength, we can rise again,” he says.

Erdogan owns 3rd Eye Gallery, an open space with the kind of natural light reminiscent of a high-end gallery in Soho, the sort of light that bounces off the tall ceiling and falls softly on the dozens of canvases lining the old plaster, the kind of walls artists love. The gallery sits right next to BYTE, an authentic wood-fired pizza restaurant that has become a favorite in Hoosick Falls and beyond.

There will be an opening reception of Erdogan's latest work, "Horses," at 6 p.m. Saturday at the gallery at the 3rd Eye Gallery, 9 John St., Hoosick Falls. "Horses" will run through Dec. 20. 

Erdogan grew up in Turkey, immigrating to the United States as a young man in 1988. He attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, graduating with a master’s degree in design. Upon graduation, he became a commercial artist in the advertising field in New York, but was restless. 

“I got lost one day while driving, the day before my 45th birthday, and found myself up here in this beautiful town, in front of this wonderful old building on John Street.”

As he grabbed his camera to take some photos of the town, he noticed a “For Sale” sign in the window of the very building he’d parked in front of. “I called the realtor right away. An hour later, she showed me the 16,000 square-foot building. Two years later, I owned the place.”

There weren’t any plans for pizza, at least not right then.

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“It became a necessity later on as I was renovating the building. There weren’t any good food places around, any of the kind of food I wanted to have. I was mostly eating Stewart’s and Cumberland Farms, food from the neighborhood gas stations. It became clear pretty quickly that this town needed some good food, some real pizza.” When asked if making pizza was a passion of his, Erdogan says with a smile, “Not making it, but eating it.” The smile breaks into a full belly laugh.

Erdogan set up the gallery right next to BYTE. He was spending more and more time at both the restaurant and the gallery, crashing many nights upstairs in one of the lofts he created during the renovation. Eventually, as the pandemic worsened, he moved his family from Brooklyn.

“The pandemic forced us to make a choice,” he says. “It was headed in that direction anyway. It wasn’t easy being in both places. I have three kids.”

Erdogan has been creating art his whole life. His art is diverse, from loose brush paintings of weird faces to more approachable subjects like birds in flight in drips of yellow and white paint. “Just like birds, horses represent a symbol of freedom, power and strength. The difference is horses are grounded. They can’t fly,” he says, laughing.

When asked about his latest work, Erdogan becomes more serious. “The last few years, with the pandemic we’ve been going through, I wanted to get out of the situation by pushing through it. Horses have that strength. All the horses I’ve painted are running in the same direction, at the same exact moment in their run. They’re in a full stretch. There’s no doubt, no looking back. They have a destination, and they want to get there, no matter what the obstacles are, stormy, sunny, no matter what.”

When asked why that’s so important to him, this message of the horses in motion, Erdogan looks down for a second, then straight ahead with piercing, blue eyes. “We don’t have much time,” he says. “It’s not just COVID. It’s global warming, too. It’s a lot of things we take for granted. This is what’s happening all around the world. We are running out of time.”

And the hope? “My hope is, we all have that same goal. I wish that the doubt out there, that we all believed in the science, that we face it together. My hope is that we can do the same together. We can push forward with strength and grace, that we can once again be free.”

Gallery hours are Friday to Sunday, noon to 6 pm. For more information, contact 3rdeyegallery@gmail.com.


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