Levent Isik in his previous studio

Born 1961
Lives Columbus, Ohio

Levent Isik began painting in the late 1980's out of "sheer boredom". He'd recently moved to Columbus from Cleveland, leaving friends and his previous life behind (Levent was born in Istanbul and raised in Montreal). The first image he painted was that of a Jester, partly because he felt like something of a fool for moving to this new environment, and partly because, like a jester or a clown, Levent was entertaining himself. This self-referential jester figure shows up in many of Levent's paintings.
"Whale" painted on glass panel from old cabinet door

Actually, the word "paintings" does not do justice to Levent's work. Much of his work is 3 dimensional, as he builds up shapes on his surfaces with nails covered in water putty. He paints with a high gloss enamel, and all of his brightly colored works are so shiny they almost look like the paint is still wet.

"Rocking Horse Bandit"

To further add character, Levent will incorporate found objects, like doll's eyes, or paint brushes lined up to make a horse's mane. Levent feels his paintings are not sacred things, and encourages the viewer to touch them, to feel the various textures.


He never had any intention of selling his paintings until one day a Greenpeace canvasser came to his door. The canvasser also happened to be a folk art collector, who saw Levent's walls, covered with paintings, and offered to buy one. He showed it to several folk art dealers and Levent soon found out there was a market for his work. At the same time he befriended an eccentric old man who lived in his neighborhood. That old man turned out to be the great artist William Hawkins, and Levent spent time with him, getting to know him and watching him paint, and being inspired by this great genius.
"Snake Charmer"

On a recent visit to Columbus, I got to spend some time with Levent. He's now moved to a new apartment where he continues making great new works of art. He's less involved in the local art scene than he was when I first visited, and it seems like the demands and petty infighting got to him. Now he's happy in his smaller circle, doing what he loves best. Levent's art has branched out in several new directions. He's doing some great mechanical pieces, incorporating small motors into pieces, like the Devil and the Dancing Girl shown below.

Two works in progress. A motor will be inserted behind the frame of each, and the devil's spanking arm will move back and forth, while the dancing girl's tassels will rotate.

Levent has also been doing some great drawings, small and intricate pieces. An example is "The Big Bad Wolf", shown below, that Levent uses on his business card.

"The Big Bad Wolf"

Levent's works are hard to come by these days. He sells mostly to local collectors or art dealers. The craftsmanship that goes into each work takes Levent weeks if not months to complete, making them even rarer since his production rate is so slow. So my advice is, when you see a piece of his offered, grab it as you may not see another for a while.


"Miss Sandusky" and "Miss Findlay" from the Miss Ohio Pageant series


James Harold Jennings
Nick Herrera