Theses and Dissertations - UTB/UTPA

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



First Advisor

Richard Hyslin

Second Advisor

Dr. Nancy Moyer

Third Advisor

Philip Field


An Arabesque Tango is an exhibition that brings together many different sensibilities from my mixed heritage, Central European and Ottoman-Byzantium, Seljuk and Middle Eastern influences. I attempt to capture in my pieces the magical spirituality of the Sufi mystics and the elegant grace of Islamic Art.

Prior to deciding to pursue an advanced degree in Fine Arts I paid little attention to Islamic Art. Having grown up in the European quarter of Istanbul my political, cultural and professional focus was westward. As I searched for vehicles that would give visual form to my desire to create a personal art form that which was deeply engrained in my heritage I found myself fascinated by Calligraphy and Arabesque design sensibilities. Undergraduate art history courses lead me to believe that Europe and the United States were the only places on earth that produced significant art forms. As I began research into the artistic traditions of Turkey and the broader Islamic world I uncovered a rich treasure of eastern artists who have created fantastic paintings, sculptures and applied arts. Historically, the art forms of the Islamic word have been ignored by western world.

The deep spirituality, mystic perspective and stylistic approach of this eastern approach does not set comfortably in the limited European frame of reference. The deeper I immersed myself in eastern and Islamic art, the more I became aware that I had been misled. I realized how powerful cultural bias can be, how easy it is to make ill informed judgements and how prejudice can creep into perceptions without an individual or entire culture being aware.

In composing this thesis I have assumed that my readers have a limited understanding of Turkish history and art. Therefore, the first section provides a brief overview of Turkish history, culture and art. The second part provides an overview of Islamic Art and Calligraphy, Sufism and Dervishes. These are important motifs used in my work. The third section explores the interrelationships of motifs in my work. In particular how juxtapositions such as modem-arabesque, east-west, happy-sad, monochromatic- colorful were filtered through my 10 years graphic design experience to produce this body of work. Specific artworks will be used to illustrate how I used formal composition and visual devices to project my concepts and create expressive energy. Technical aspects of my work will be explained; important influences on this body of work will be credited.


Copyright 2003 Fulden Sara. All Rights Reserved.

Granting Institution

University of Texas-Pan American