Currently Crushing On: Jihan Zencirli
By Fran Tirado
Portrait of a balloon artist: Jihan matches her New York City Ballet installation in silvery garb.
When we think of Jihan Zencirli we think of balloons and charisma and how she's one of our favorite artists to collaborate with, like ever. Known better by her helium-tastic alter-ego GERONIMO, Jihan runs a tight but dedicated team who regularly assist in realizing her bizarre, whimsical, and downright delightful creations, colorful balloon sculptures which arch over doorways and spill into pools and decorate the faces of skyscrapers. Jihan recently completed her largest installation to date at the New York City Ballet: a metallic wonderland in the art gallery-esque lobby that featured a buoyant silver center and multiple tunnels for guests to conga line through pre-and-post performance.
Her pseudonym, GERONIMO, is the mise-en-scene of a helmet-and-jumpsuit clad human falling from a plane in the sky, teeming with fear and exhilaration as s/he heads through the stratosphere. This, Jihan says, is the perfect embodiment of the visual explosions she now creates for a living. Where her art is staggering and beautiful, she says the most important thing in her creative process is neither style, nor execution, but intention. And that’s fitting, as her first project in memory was creating handmade baskets for her grandmother and elderly neighbors. Jihan gets the same feeling even still when she completes a project, a greater purpose found in smiles and thank yous.
Jihan’s created awe-inspiring art suspended over our tablescapes ever since our earliest LA days, when we’d congregate in her studio or, later, under the freeway overpass and in our half-built retail space, stay, at Culver City’s Platform. But while color plays a large role in Jihan’s work, she speaks of her sculptures as more melancholy reprise.
“My work exploits the material it’s made of. Amusingly, the balloons are obnoxious in color and robustness, an aesthetic they want to be so permanently, but in terms of materials, latex dies and literally biodegrades to dust. Even an hour after the completion of a sculpture, it has changed drastically.”
According to Jihan, this is an exploration of humanity. “To stand in front of one of my pieces is to see a moment of your own time and existence, constantly adjusting in the elements, light and time. Because isn’t being alive is actually the most miraculous thing?”
What's an LA Secret Supper without Jihan's touch? From the colorful dinner beneath the freeway to the subdued silver streamers set inside our pop-up stay, we've been lucky to have Jihan's elevated touch grace many of our tables.
What color is your day today?
Are you a morning person or an evening person?
100% morning. I wake up at 5:00 AM everyday. Nightlife is a big mystery to me.
What’s one thing your Instagram followers don’t know about you?
I don’t like being surrounded by color. I do like psychedelic drugs. My favorite game to play with new friends is something I invented with Patrick and Amy, “Crush Cousin,” where everyone shares the Facebook profile of their childhood cousin crush.
If you could give one book to every girl in the country what book would it be?
A blank notebook. My life has been saved many times over by a blank notebook that allowed me to dream, explore, and invent in a space that was for no one but myself.
Jihan surveys her work at the New York City Ballet. February 2018.
Describe yourself with a food.
I have a jar of cornichons that I am currently slowly rolling over my body.
Do you consider yourself a workaholic?
I am my work, and my work is me. I never stop being myself so I suppose I never leave work.
Maybe it’s more that I should be considered an egomaniac?
What mediums are you interested in, outside of balloons?
If you could have anyone over for wine, who would it be?
Someone who knows about wine. I categorize wine into: a) tastes like buttered popcorn or b) does not taste like buttered popcorn. I do think that my favorite artist, Rufus Wainwright, probably likes wine and maybe he could come over?
Describe your artistic process.
Spend all my money and be soo broke that it breaks any possible ego that remains and I’m on my knees with a new level of humility and humbleness to look outside myself for inspiration. My help comes in the form of inventing an interesting way to pay my rent. And these plans come to me by sitting at bus stop bench with strangers, eating street mango with chili salt.
What’s the best piece of advice for any aspiring weirdo?
Don’t listen to any advice from anyone, especially a fellow weirdo.
Geronimo at the ballet.