Around the Academy

Yesterday evening I set up a still life ensemble in my room, consisting of two small lamps, two candles (lit), a vase of wildflowers picked from the roadsides here in Gumusluk valley, a shallow dish of seed pods and petrified pomegrantes sprinkled with silver glitter, my two mannequin hands, crepe paper ribbons and a necklace of dried eggplants. After spending some time photographing this tableau, I went to bed. Later that night a terrible storm rolled through the valley, with torrential rain and howling wind, the sound of which even drowned out the insanely barking dogs, braying donkey and crowing roosters. It woke me up about 2 in the morning and I lay away listening for 2 and a half hours and being bitten by the mosquitoes generated by the standing water around the place. Since the buildings here at the Academy are a bit tenuous, water seeped through my sliding doors and covered part of my floor. Outside, my vase of flowers full of water was upended and sprayed across the deck. As a result of my sleepless night, I awoke with a fierce headache that I tried without success to get rid of all day.

But, on a positive note, Nils Filmer, the son of one of the founders, has been really great to me. Since I have been here, he, with his girlfriend Elhan, have been preparing the meals for the guests and workers here. Yesterday the crew of workers was called back to their home base near Bursa and left in a rush, leaving only me to cook for. He speaks excellent English, having learned it in university, and has been kind enough to act as translator for me. He has also been helping me in other ways. Today, for example, with Mehmet, the Academy’s gardener, Nils and I went to Turgetreis at noon to pick up my bike which had been repaired and some food and headache pills. I will be sorry to see him go when he leaves for Istanbul later this week.

In the afternoon, after the rain and wind had stopped and the sun came out once again, I set up a small still life outside on the wooden table next to my room and proceeded to photograph it. Later, Pelin and I walked to Gumusluk Beach and stopped there for a tea at the municipal tea house on the water, joining Mehmet and Eyip the sculptor who happened to be there, too – a very pleasant place to sit and enjoy the ocean. Pelin is leaving on Thursday and I will also be sorry to see her go; I have really enjoyed getting to know her a bit. Later, I spent some time photographing the academy grounds as the sun set. New to me today was Emre, a sculptor and writer who is staying at the academy for the moment helping Latife to organize the arts program for the summer. The academy puts on such events as concerts and plays in the open air amphitheatre with seating for 450.

Also, yesterday and today I have been working on the components of a planned installation. I have been collecting up materials and supplies, including wooden doors, wooden chairs, candles, flowers, pottery, and korek plants and dried stalks. These last I am in the process of painting. Later on, I intend to set them up in various locations, along with other items, and photograph them. I have been scouting out locations and am toying with the possibilities of the pond, the disused cistern, and a ruined house on the hill above the academy. I like the idea of using the pond, but at the moment it is quite full of frogs, a water snake and bees buzzing around the perimeter; if I can overcome these obstacles, I will try to use it as a setting.

In addition to these aquatic creatures, the academy harbours wild boar, foxes. tortoises, beetles of all kinds, ants, both large black and small red, butterflies and moths, birds, and the dogs Paki and Arap. Ants and beetles roam freely around my room (hopefully not on my bed as I’m sleeping, although who knows …). In terms of human creatures, my companions at the moment are:

Ilknur, managing director of the academy

Mehmet, painter and her boyfriend

Eyip, sculptor working in stone, currently carving sundials

Mehmet, gardener and general dogsbody

Latife Tekin, famous Turkish novelist and founder

Yasemin, her daughter

Seray, worker

Emre, sculptor

Nils, writer

Pelin, writer

See pictures here.

Gumusluk Still Life I detail hands
Gumusluk Still Life I detail hands

The hands in my Gumusluk Still Lives I and II reference Fra Angelico’s 1425-30 fresco in the San Marco convent in Florence. Painted in tempera on the wall of one of the monk’s cells on the upper floor, this fresco is quite striking and very modern in its treatment of the theme. I can remember being very struck by the hovering disembodied hands and spitting face the first time I saw this painting.

The Mocking of Christ by Fra Angelico
The Mocking of Christ by Fra Angelico

See pictures of Still Life I here and II here.