Ephesus and Pamukkale/Hieropolis

Pamukkale travertine terraces

After having spent Friday cleaning and washing my room and bedding, and purchasing insect traps for placement in every corner, this past weekend was spent on a whirlwind bus tour of Ephesus, Pamukkale and Hieropolis, about 200 km north of Bodrum. At 5:30 Saturday morning I was waiting curbside for the Director Tour pickup (they advertise door to door service, so even though my door is 45 minutes from theirs, they will still pick up, for this tour anyway). As the minutes ticked away, and my pickup time of 5:45 came and went with no sign of the minibus, I started to get a bit concerned that they’d forgotten me. However, just as I was about to give up in frustration, the driver pulled up and on I hopped. We met the rest of the group at the bus exchange north of Bodrum and set off on a larger midibus for Ephesus. We stopped on the way for a fairly lame breakfast at a gas station diner and for a coffee and pee break at the Sultan restaurant just outside Ephesus, arriving at the ancient site about 11 am.

Already it was hot – about 36 degrees – and sunny; vendors were having brisk sales of umbrellas and hats, but I amazingly had remembered to bring mine. Our group consisted of two busloads of people, ours, with half French and half English folk, and a guide for each linguistic group, and a smaller minibus full of Dutch speakers. The English guide, Erdem, was a university student and did quite a good job of giving us information about the site. His tour took about 2 and a half hours, and we saw the main structures along the marble high road leading from the entrance gate down towards what would once have been the harbour and along past the theatre to the exit gate: two sets of Roman baths, the Odeon, a nymphaem (ornamental fountain), Domitian basilica and square, terrace houses, temple of Hadrian, latrines, Curetes Street, Celsus Library, Gate of Mazeus, brothel, and theatre.

Apparently only about 20 percent of Ephesus has actually been excavated, so what we saw was the main nerve centre of the ancient city. There were some beautiful reliefs carved on the stones; particularly nice were the several reliefs of Medusa executed on archways above the fountain and on the top edge of the library. Roman engineers were masters at waterworks and the latrines were quite interesting, many keyhole shaped openings in long marble benches, without partitions, where up to 30 or 40 people could have sat at once and done their business while conducting business. This particular latrine was for the wealthy and prominent – a long trough in front of the seats held continuously flowing water with which slaves would have cleaned their masters’ privates using long sticks tipped with cloth … We also saw the waterworks of the Scholastica baths, named after a prominent citizen who paid for them; the sauna and tepidarium were heated using rocks roasted in fires then tossed into water which ran in stone channels beneath the stone and marble floors. Another interesting little item, for me, was the sign advertising the brothel. This consisted of a marble stone, set at the side of the road running from the theatre to the library, with a man’s footprint, a line drawing of a woman’s head and a purse with coins, all etched into the surface of the stone. Apparently a tunnel ran from underneath the centre of the library out to the brothel on the hill opposite.

The library and arch of Mazeus were beautiful with gorgeous relief carvings and pillars; using an optical illusion technique in which the pillars get slimmer as they get higher, the builders made the library look particularly impressive. In the theatre, with seating for 25,000, a group of New Zealand pilgrims following in the footsteps of St Paul (who preached to the Ephesians in this theatre) sang gospel songs and waved flags from the stage.

Like Kaunos in Dalyan, Ephesus was located on the sea in ancient times; now the sea is 8 kilometers away. The silting up of the harbour, along with malaria, caused the city to be abandoned in the 5th century ad.

I enjoyed seeing Ephesus but was it ever hot, so hot that our guide was using an umbrella. I can’t imagine visiting here in July or August when it gets up to 50 degrees and there’s no shade to speak of. Our group tried to find any little speck of shade in which to huddle as we moved through the site. Many small pockets of shade under rocks and pillars were already occupied by cats. While there were many beautiful artifacts, I did not find this place nearly as beautiful as either Kaunos or Patara, both of which I found stunning. While the ocean can be seen from those places, here the surrounding countryside is quite barren.

Read more about Ephesus here.

After leaving Ephesus we had the obligatory factory outlet visits, apparently a must on all Turkish tours, stopping at a Turkish delight store and a jewellery factory. I find these visits to be incredibly painful. The places are always enormous, with vast quantities of wares for sale, and vast numbers of sales people trying to corner hapless tourists and guilt them into buying something, anything. Sometimes the items for sale are nice but they are always overpriced and it is almost impossible to find one’s way out – the stores are set up like labyrinths; the entrance doors are big and the exits small and hidden, only accessible after having walked for miles through many rooms of stuff. In both places I managed to make my escape without buying anything. We rolled into our hotel in Pamukkale about 7 in the evening and I immediately went for a swim in the large outdoor pool, and had a sauna and another swim in one of the smaller indoor pools.

The next morning we headed off to Pamukkale (“Cotton Castle”); here calcium oxide-rich waters flowing down the southern slope of Caldag located north of the ruins of Hieropolis have, over the millennia, built up deposits of white travertine on the plateau, creating a landscape that looks remarkably like ice and snow. Calcium salts deposited on the hillside have hardened to form saucer-shaped white pools of varying dimensions, through which 35 degree water flows down the cliffs. From below, the Pamukkale cliffs look like a white mountain with a small fringe of dark trees along the top edge. Below is a lake of gorgeous white-blue water and an unfilled swimming pool; surrounding the site are many large hotels, like ours, with large swimming pools that, while beautiful, are lowering the water table and draining the water away from Pamukkale’s travertine pools.

We drove up and around the cliffs and entered the ancient site of Hieropolis, a Roman subject city named after the wife of King Telephos, the legendary founder of Pergamon. The city became subject to Rome in 133 BC and in 17 BC. during the reign of Tiberius, it suffered a heavy earthquake that substantially destroyed the city, requiring it to be rebuilt. The site is basically divided into two areas, the travertine pools and cliffs, and the ruins in the hills above. The theatre, seating 15,000, is beautiful and has a tremendous view out over the Taurus mountains and valley below. After spending some time sitting there, I walked past the small path leading up into the hills to St Phillip’s martyrium, and cut across a field of very tall waving grasses and wildflowers to get to the North necropolis. As I was making my way through the flowers, a large tortoise and I came nose to nose, at which he immediately withdrew his tiny head in alarm as I stepped over him carefully. From the hills above the ruin site several paragliders floated gently down.

The huge necropolis of Hierapolis, the largest ancient graveyard in Anatolia with more than 1200 tombs, spreads out on either side of the road for a distance of two kilometers. It contains tumuli, sarcophagi, and house-shaped tombs that range in date from the late Hellenistic period to early Christian times. It is one of the most extensive and best preserved ancient cemeteries in Anatolia. Some of the graves are huge, like the temples to the dead one can see in Renaissance Italian graveyards, having several tiers of stone benches on which to lay the bodies. One temple-like tomb sits embedded halfway down in calcium deposits, looking just like a cabin in a snowy field. I enjoyed wandering through this site, with its beautiful flowers and the breeze blowing from the valley. I found it much more pleasant than Ephesus.

Our meeting point was the ancient pool of Cleopatra, a swimming area in which one can sit on ancient columns or stones resting in the thermal water. The water itself is supposed to have healing properties because of its many minerals and the pool is nicely landscaped with many rose bushes and oleander plants surrounding it. However, all of that did not justify the charge of 25 Turkish lira to bathe in it so I gave it a pass. After a buffet lunch at a restaurant below the cliffs, a visit to an onyx factory and a wine farm, with the accompanying hard sell, and a stop at Deer canyon, the highest point in the mountains between Denizli and Bodrum, I arrived back finally in Gumusluk at 9 pm Sunday night, well satisfied with the weekend.

See pictures here.

Kadikalesi and Gumusluk

Small Armonia Byzantine Church shrine

This morning, after a lovely breakfast of fried zucchini, carrot, onion and egg with toast, cheese and olives prepared by Seray and eaten in the garden next to the almost-empty pond, I set off on my bicycle for the 450 year old Byzantine church in Kadikalesi. I loaded myself down with all the gear required for a small shrine to be erected in that ruin of a church, my backpack on the back and two bags full hanging from the handlebars and banging into the front wheel as I pedaled, the wind not being as congenial as the other day when I rode laden. As usual, there was no one in the church and no one seemed at all interested in what I was doing – all the Armonia Holiday Village and Spa guests were lying prone poolside.

I decided to use one of the two niches left sort of intact to the left of what would have been the altar. The remains of tea light candles could be seen in this niche, as well as the one next to it and another little hole in the south wall. Also, little piles of rocks testified to small campfires in the near or distant past. I set up my little assemblage, watched the small candle flames gutter and the crepe paper ribbons flutter in the breeze, then packed it all up again and rolled back down the hill to the beach at Kadikalesi.

I had not been down to this beach before and it is quite nice and, in this area at this time, at least, practically deserted. To the right of what used to be a small pier, now derelict and unrenovated, as per usual, several workers were cleaning the beach in front of a fish restaurant getting ready to open for the season and dumping their wheelbarrows full of junk right next to the entrance to the beach. I wondered why they had to dump their junk right in that precise spot, where anyone wanting to walk down the steps and onto what remained of the pier would have to walk. It seemed thoughtless, to say the least. Sitting on the next rock bench was a local woman wearing a headscarf and a pair of denim short shorts – seemed like an incongruous pairing to me … She was fishing from the beach and did catch a few small fish which she packed up in a bucket and took away with her. The beach was pleasant enough and I sat for a bit enjoying the breeze and eating my orange, while bad nouveau disco music pumped across the water at me from the restaurant further down the way.

After dropping off my bags of stuff back at the Academy ranch, I headed back down to Gumusluk beach to take pictures of the sculpture symposium works that I had previously missed. On the street leading to the village centre, just up a hill next to a children’s playground, is an abstract work overlooking the housing estate below. Another, an abstract rendering of three figures, sits on the beach gracing the larger bay in front of what is now a whitewashed and cemented-over wreck of a building. When speaking to a beachside pension owner later, he asked me what I thought of all the sculpture and, when I replied that it was “cok guzel” – very beautiful – and that it made this village something special, he seemed amazed to hear it. Possibly other visitors are not so entranced … (As an aside, I am reminded of the reactions of Vancouverites and others to the Sculpture Biennial works erected around our city over the past several years … especially the intensely negative reaction to the upside-down church with its spire stuck in the ground, called Device to Root out Evil, down at Coal Harbour. I believe that it was removed as a result). The two figurative pieces along the harbour I had already posted pictures of so, after a Nescafe at the tea house, I made my way up to the carpark just above the beach to document two more, one, next to the taxi stand, called Requiem and the other, in the carpark, called Ada and Zaman.

On the road leading from the beach through the village centre, I saw on my right a castle-like structure that I’m amazed I hadn’t noticed before. And weirdest of all, in niches going all the way up both sides of the front “turret” are reproductions of some of western art’s most famous sculptures (Michelangelo’s David, Moses and Pieta, as well as David’s head, and Rodin’s Balzac), along with cheesecake models, strange cartoon figures and the many-breasted Diana of Ephesus – postmodernism at its finest, in Gumusluk! In the front and back gardens, ponds with sculptural fountains including nude female figures adorned the space. This place stands out from its neighbouring crowd of white blocky Satan’s eared houses, to say the least. I was tempted to knock on the door to see who owned it – maybe next time.

On my way back again I stopped at the Ada café in the village and sampled some homemade cuisine – the world’s smallest meatballs with dolmades and salad. The place was quite pleasant with some peculiar decorations: a tree made of two dried korek stalks decorated with ribbons tied in bows and other assorted paraphernalia, a wishing tree as I discovered, a portrait of Ataturk looking like Count Dracula in a tuxedo, and about 7 or 8 Santa Claus figurines, one of which was hanging with an upside-down reindeer on the korek tree. If I’d been able to do so, I would have told “Ada” about my korek project …

And some beast has been biting me, in my room and while out on the bike. From what I can discern, it’s spiders – bastards! That’s the downside of living in glorious nature …

See pictures here.

Rabbit Island and Silver Still Life

Sunken Hellenistic causeway to Rabbit Island, Gumusluk Bay

Today, feeling quite a bit better, I decided to cycle down to the weekly market in Gumusluk town and purchase a few small silver things for tonight’s still life ensemble. After acquiring two small silver-coloured urns (not real silver …), I pedaled down to the beach and had a cup of tea shoreside. Later, having locked up my machine to a tree, I waded across to Rabbit Island.

Rabbit Island, Tavsin Adasi, separates the two beaches of Gumusluk, and is accessible by a partially sunken antique causeway built during the Hellenistic period. Once upon a time Rabbit Island was a place visited by the King of Halicarnassos, Mousolos, and his wife/sister Artemisia. He had the causeway built in order to feed the rabbits living on this small island and watch the famous sunset with his beloved. The island has lots of large stones lying around its shoreline that must have been part of the causeway and possibly other buildings, as well. From the top of the island, the sunken ruins are clearly visible between it and the shore, as well as those of the port buildings on the peninsula opposite. Also, the Greek Islands Kalymnos and  Kos are clearly visible not far off shore, along with several other, smaller islands.

I have read conflicting accounts of the status of the rabbits after which the tiny island is named. Most say that, although Rabbit Island was named after the rabbits which once inhabited the island, there is not a single one left on it. However, another couple of sites I read said that the rabbits are still on the island but are shy and hide in the weeds. These reports say that, if you sit in a shoreside restaurant and watch for a while you will see the rabbits on the island come out of hiding.  One account explains that a villager who sells rabbits in markets elsewhere raises them on the little island. I don’t know which version is correct but the only fauna I could see were ladybugs (known as “luck bugs’ here) – lots of them.

In Gumusluk town there are quite a few large white marble sculptures, many of them figurative and some nudes. As can be seen be my conversation with the Academy sculptor Eyip, this is quite extraordinary for a small Turkish village and gives some idea of how different Gumusluk is from the village norm. I had wondered about this and today, as I was cycling back to the ranch, I happened to notice the plaque on one of the sculptures – it expained that the work was the result of the First Annual Gumusluk International Sculpture Symposium in 2006. Since I did not notice plaques on the other works, I have no idea whether there were other symposia here on not – I will investigate further. I do know that the town also hosts an annual classical music festival in the summer that attracts musicians and music lovers from far and wide. And Gumusluk is known for its artistic and intellectual residents, many refugees from Istanbul and Ankara as well as parts farther afield. The local villagers seem to live quite happily with these foreign folk.

Later in the afternoon I set up my still life assemblage on the terrace outside my room where I took pictures of it in the afternoon sun and again at sunset this evening.

Joining the chorus of insanely barking dogs, crowing roosters, and braying donkey tonight are two bellowing bulls and one meowing cat. The valley rings with joyful cries …

I discovered the reason for last night’s little intervention into my studio space. Apparently, a large orange male tomcat, a stray, had found his way into the studio through an open door and happened to be sitting in my space. The two resident dogs, one of which has a deep hatred of cats, spotted him and went crazy barking, chasing and lunging at him. The cat must have been so scared he shit himself. Ilknur rescued the beast by chasing off her dogs and allowing him to make an escape from the studio.

See pictures here.

Still Lives a go go: The Throne of Truth & Silver Stuff

The Throne of Truth, detail

At the moment, I have a bad cold and am feeling miserable, although not quite as miserable as I felt last night, shivering in my bed and listening to many insanely barking dogs and the braying donkey. I am trying to take it easy so that this will pass as soon as possible but I find it difficult to just lie around quietly during the day. Thankfully, though, for my mood, the weather continues to be fabulous. And it is getting hotter – probably in the high 20s. I have continued to work on my still life installations in the evening, during the period between 7:30 and when it gets dark about 9:15 or so.

This morning and yesterday morning Seray picked many herbs from the Academy garden and boiled me some real herbal tea. I drank the whole pot of it yesterday and had two cups with her in her room here above the library this morning. She has lived at the Academy for the past 5 or so years, having come originally, like most of the people here, from Istanbul. She is a creative writer and also does some small art pieces with copper and clay. She was kind enough to give me an electronic Turkish-English dictionary to use while I am here, as well as a few small items for tonight’s still life.

At the moment, the folks here are still working on cleaning out the large and deep pond that surrounds the amphitheatre. It is an enormous job; as the water is drained out, they have to scrape the sides and bottom to get rid of ten year’s worth of accumulated gunk. There is still a small amount of water in the bottom to provide a home for the several mosquito-larvae-eating fish and mating frogs … although the frogs have been strangely silent lately so maybe they have hopped off to a more congenial location. The last time I heard them squawking in the pond, I counted 35.

Tonight when I entered the studio, the place looked like a small whirlwind had struck it. A piece of Styrofoam that I’d been saving was chewed to pieces, with the little bits strewn everywhere around the room, a pile of discarded leaves and twigs that I’d carefully swept up for later disposal had been redistributed around the room, my painted korek stalks knocked over, and, most delightful of all, a small pile of stinky dog crap left right next to the korek stalks. I hope that’s not a comment on the art work … Luckily, the still life assemblage had not been destroyed.

The first set of pictures documents an assemblage set up against one of the large plate glass studio windows with the garden trees and town panorama in the distance. I was interested in seeing what the reflection of the objects in the two windows would look like as a counterpoint to the piece itself. As I looked at the reflection of the tableau in the mirrored surface behind, and the reflection of that reflection in the window opposite, I couldn’t help thinking about my old Greek friend Plato’s idea about art being three times removed from the “Throne of Truth”, merely a reflection of a reflection of the ideal in the mind of god. The second set of four images represents a smaller piece, in which I have included several silver objects – skull, shallow dish, korek, tile – in homage to Gumusluk, the “silver place”.

See pictures here.

Shrine to Leto continued

Shrine to Leto, detail

The art studios here at the Gumusluk Academy are spacious and it’s wonderful to have room to spread my material out and to be able to leave it up over a period of days. This piece includes 13 photographic images of my Kas mannequin piece projected on the wall behind a still life assemblage. The assemblage itself includes a small foreground altar with the mannequin’s hands holding the same tri coloured crepe paper ribbons I used in earlier pieces. I like this kind of self-referentiality; it allows a thread of connection between past and present.

See more pictures here.

Read more about the ancient goddess Leto here.


Yesterday I rode my bike to the Turgutreis Saturday market to get some supplies for my installation. On the way there I stopped at the Armonia Holiday Village and Spa to take a picture of the Byzantine Church on their premises. It is strange to see this very old structure right in the middle of a modern resort. The exterior is very well preserved and architecturally interesting but the interior is ruined. I find it very odd that these old churches, with the exception of Gumusluk’s 450 year old Iklesia, now a cultural centre, are allowed simply to rot away. This church has such great potential to be a fantastic cultural space as well if someone would just take it in hand. Such a shame to see it disintegrate …

An interesting design feature of houses here on the Bodrum peninsula is their “Satan’s ears”. These are pointed corner stones on each of the four corners of their flat roofs. In Bodrum town, in addition to these ears, many of the buildings also have turrets, towers and battlements that mimic the design of the castle in the town’s harbour. This castle, the Castle of St. Peter the Liberator of the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Rhodes – to give it its full, comprehensive title – is Bodrum’s acclaimed landmark. Today I decided to check out Bodrum and hopped a dolmus that had me at the otogar in the town centre in 40 minutes. My destination was the castle. Walking out of the otogar and down the main steet towards the harbour, I passed through a pedestrian shopping area with many cafes and bars, several under cover of grapevine canopies. This area is very pretty and the harbour itself is quite large and full of gorgeous wooden sailing ships that the Turks call “gulets”. For some reason unknown to me, though, even though all these wooden boats are equipped with sails, none of them does sail. They all travel by engine. It’s too bad because I bet they would look magnificent under sail.

The castle itself is more or less right in the harbour, built on a promontory which, according to Herodotus, was a small island called Zephyria at the time of the first Dorian invasions which occurred around the time of the Trojan Wars. By the time king Mausolus (377-353 BC) came to rule Caria and moved the capital from Mylasa to Halicarnassus, today’s Bodrum, Zephyrion was already a small peninsula joined to the mainland by debris and landfill.

Whether viewed from the land or the sea, Bodrum’s castle is an impressive example of medieval architecture. Occupying some thirty thousand square feet at its base, construction of the castle took years to complete. In its day, the castle was a monumental symbol of the unity of Christian Europe against the ascending power of the Ottomans. Many of the stones used in the construction come from the tomb of King Mausolus (353 BC). One of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world,  this massive construction survived for centuries until an earthquake brought it down in medieval times. In the 15th century the knights used the ruins of the Mausoleum as a quarry for their castle.

In its heyday, the castle was probably manned by fifty knights and perhaps three times that many ordinary soldiers. The knights hailed from seven different European countries and shared in the defense of the castle and its countryside. The castle’s defenses were never put to the test, for the Ottomans never attacked it. Instead, in 1522 they besieged the island of Rhodes led by their sultan, Süleyman the Magnificent. After holding out for three months, terms were agreed to under which the Knights had to evacuate Rhodes and five other of their strongholds in the eastern Mediterranean. Bodrum, then known as Petronium, was one of them. In January of the following year, the Knights set sail, eventually ending up on Malta in 1530.

Each of the castle’s five turrets are called by the nationality of their original sponsors: the English, French, German, Italian and Spanish Towers. Parts of the walls are built of large slabs of greenish granite which the knights removed from the ruins of the Mausoleum. Other classical fragments are gathered for display in the inner courts. Peacocks strut among marble statues and mollusk-encrusted amphorae. Housed within the premises are the collections of the Museum of Underwater Archeology. The museum, the most important of its kind in the world, contains treasures from a series of historic wrecks discovered on Turkey’s southern shores. Mycenaean and Canaanite artifacts recovered from a l2th century B.C. wreck found off Cape Gelidonya (Antalya) in 1960 formed the original core of the museum. On display in the castle’s Gothic Chapel is a full scale reconstruction of one third of an Eastern Roman wreck from the 7th century A.D. Unfortunately, I was only able to see the Eastern roman wreck because the other parts of the museum are closed on Sunday. I will try to go back again to check those out before I leave Gumusluk.

Also of interest to me was the incredible amount of flowers; apparently the castle grounds house almost every type of Mediteranean plant and most of them are still in bloom now. In addition, inside the castle walls were local artists and artisans selling their wares. Ceramic artists, stone carvers, potters and painters each had little stands with works for sale.

Read more about the castle and its history here:


After leaving the castle, I sampled a cappuccino in one of the harbourfront restaurants and then wandered along the harbour looking at all the beautiful boats in search of the site of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. I had understood that it was somewhere near the harbour but there were no signs pointing the way until I reached the end of the boardwalk and finally saw a small yellow sign directing me back the way I had come. The mausoleum site is in Bodrum’s back streets and if you weren’t looking for it, you’d never really know it was there.

After moving the capital of his kingdom to Halicarnassus, now Bodrum, Mausolos decided to build himself a monumental tomb. The project was conceived by his wife and sister Artemisia, and the construction would likely have started during the king’s lifetime. The Mausoleum was completed around 350 BC, three years after Mausolos’ death, and one year after Artemisia’s. For 16 centuries, the Mausoleum remained in good condition until it collapsed in an earthquake in 1304 AD.

Today, the polished stone and marble blocks of the Mausoleum can be spotted built into the walls of the Castle of St. John. At the site of the Mausoleum itself, only the foundation remains, along with a small museum. Some of the Mausoleum’s surviving sculptures are at the British Museum, including fragments of statues and many slabs of the frieze showing the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons. One of these latter is on display in the minuscule museum on the Mausoleum grounds.

As it now stands, while it may have been one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, today the Mausoleum is pretty much a non-event. Basically, what a visitor can see is plenty of large stones and pieces of gigantic pillars, lying around in an area of smaller stones that indicates where the foundation of the tomb would have been. In addition to this, the site houses a very tiny museum with a not very good display describing the tomb and its construction. I’m afraid this display looks more or less like a grade school project, with typed pages taped to the walls along with pencil and pen drawings of the tomb and its sculptures. However, the grounds are quite nice, with beautiful rose bushes in many different varieties. While I enjoyed my visit to the castle, the mausoleum was a disappointment. Another thing that I find peculiar about the historical sites here in Turkey – not just in Bodrum but everywhere I’ve been – is that the explanatory panels are usually so poor. Not only is the English dreadful, but the information given is scanty and lacking in detail. I don’t understand why the authorities don’t have such material properly presented.

With respect to the looting of historical structures for building materials, this is a practice that happened everywhere here. In Gumusluk, for example, the amphitheatre of Myndos, which was still intact in the 19th century, has been completely dismantled over the years by local people getting stones for their own building projects. There’s nothing of it left. Also, Seray was telling me that village people often have the idea that these ancient sites must hold buried treasure and they will dig into and dismantle them looking for this supposed treasure. And they have this idea because, on the rare occasion, someone does find buried treasure. Apparently, the grandfather of the grandfather of a friend of hers found a case of gold in what turned out to be the tomb of Alexander the Great’s daughter somewhere near the Black Sea coast.

With respect to cultural products in Turkey, the sculptor Eyip in residence here at the Academy, gave me some interesting information. He said that, within Islam, the arts of sculpture and painting (and presumably other figurative arts) are not supported. And he himself has been told by people that he will go to hell for creating figurative sculptural works. Apparently, figurative sculptures that have been erected in Antalya and Ankara were dismantled after the government changed with the rationale that they were obscene and shouldn’t be seen by women and children. The paradox that, in Antalya, hundreds and thousands of nude bodies can be seen any day of the week on the beaches there apparently goes unnoticed. In central Anatolia, Eyip told me, the only sculpture people ever see is of Ataturk, the revered father of the Turkish nation. Every government building, school, hospital, etc. has a sculpture of Ataturk. Apparently when Eyip told people he was a sculptor, they assumed he was sculpting likenesses of Ataturk. Eyip also said that wealthy people here are supposed by law to give 5% of their before-tax income to pay for culture; however, because they think culture is “worth nothing”, they find ways of getting around this requirement. I guess artists worldwide have similar issues – lack of patronage and respect for culture. However, in Turkey contemporary artists have the further problem of Islam’s prohibition against figurative art (of humans and animals).

With respect to the work on which I’m engaged here at the Academy, I am really enjoying the evolution of my still life assemblage. Among other influences on this work is Dutch seventeenth century painting, of which I am big fan. And guess what – a big and important show of Dutch seventeenth century art is coming to Vancouver this Spring and Summer with works by Rembrandt and Vermeer, as well as by one of my favorite women artists, Rachel Ruysch.

See these articles in today’s Vancouver Sun for the details.



See pictures here and here.

Ancient Myndos

Shrine to Leto, detail

Another glorious sunny and breezy day here in Gumusluk (Silver Place – so named either because of the 16th century silver mines, long gone, or the beautiful silver light on the water when the moon is full). After a very nice Turkish breakfast spread of fried egg on bread, roasted peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and three cheeses, I hopped on my bike in search of the remains of ancient Myndos, the city on whose foundations the modern day village sits. At breakfast, Seray had told me where to look for the ruins of Myndos, mostly located around the bay past Rabbit island, a small islet dividing the bay into two sections.

I locked my bike to a pole down on the beach and walked to the last restaurant, where I had been told there would be a path leading past the remains of an ancient hamam. Walking along this stony path, I passed by fields of korek and could see more along the hilltops in the distance. Here these things are everywhere. I did find the ruins, as promised, but it was impossible to tell what the building had been. Mostly now it is a support for vines and other luxuriant vegetation.

I walked back down to the beach again and along a small path parallel to the shore towards the tip of the peninsula. Several cows were grazing on the rocky beach. One looked at me a bit menacingly, so, rather than walk by it, I clambered a bit farther up the hill to pass it by. At the tip of the peninsula some ruined structures were protected by a rusted fence; again, they were too destroyed to be able to discern what they had been. In the water between the peninsula and Rabbit Island are lots of underwater ruined stone structures. One, on whose roof I was standing, is the ancient port office. Walking back I was assailed by many flies generated by the cow dung lying around the beach.

I then walked along another path perpendicular to the water, crossing the peninsula. On the far side, in a small bay, other underwater ruins could be seen close to the shore. These are ancient government buildings. Walking along this path, the flies and bees became unbearable buzzing around my head. Possibly because my hair is blond, and the flowers in this area are yellow, the insects were attracted to my head and I was worried that one would get caught in my hair and sting me so I beat a hasty retreat. When I arrived sweating back at the beach, I put my black sweater over my head to hide my hair and that seemed to help get rid of most of the flies. I enjoyed two cups of Turkish tea in the municipal teahouse waterside then rode back to the Academy.

I had been musing about a small installation in the disused cistern so decided that there was no time like the present to try it out. I brought along 10 korek heads and 10 circular discs cut out of styrofoam, each with a small hole in the centre through which I was intending to put the korek stalk. I had imagined floating ten of these Styrofoam discs with koreks and lit candles atop on the surface of the water. However, when I got to the cistern, there was quite a stiff breeze blowing and the candles refused to stay lit. So, I simply launched the plants on their Styrofoam pads from the stone steps and allowed the breeze to blow them whither it willed. Unfortunately, none of the photos turned out.

This afternoon a crew from Turkish TV and a national newspaper came to interview the personnel at the Academy, drawn no doubt by the presence of Latife Tekin, one of the Academy’s founders and also one of Turkey’s most famous novelists. I had a brief interview with the reporter, with Ilknur translating for me. Then we spent quite a bit of time posing for photographs on the grounds and in the art studios.

Tonight’s installation represents a further evolution on the theme I have been pursuing. Rather than using a triangular composition, I arranged the red flowers in their glasses in the shape of a circle, with candles in between each one. On the floor in front of the wooden table I set up a small altarpiece, with my mannequin hands, crepe paper ribbons, a wine glass half full, all arranged on one of the beautiful table cloths I purchased at the market. To the side of this altar I placed a golden mortar and pestle, full of dried leaves, resting on a golden plate, balanced on a stone brick.

For all you history buffs out there, here is a brief history of Gumusluk retrieved from the net:

Gümüslük is the site of the ancient city of Myndus, which was built around a deep anchorage, well-protected from the prevailing wind on this otherwise exposed stretch of coast. A further strategic advantage of the site was that the entrance to the harbour is concealed by the land, and cannot easily be seen from the sea.

However, the site of the original Lelegian town of Myndus was not here but further inland. It dates back to the 5th century BC or earlier. This was a much smaller affair, paying only one-twelfth of a talent in the Delian Confederacy, and is known as Palaimyndos or Old Myndus. The ruins of this earlier city can be found on the hilltop at Bozdag about two miles (3.2km) to the south east of Gümüslük. (Bozdag can be seen above the Gümüslük Academy). Nothing survives other than a ring-wall and the foundations of a large tower on the summit; but the sherds reveal occupation from prehistoric times.

The new city was founded by Mausolus (ruled 377BC – 353BC, builder of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Bodrum), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World). It was on a much more ambitious scale than the earlier settlement. Whist Myndos would never rival Halicarnassus, it was nevertheless one of the main cities of the peninsula. It had a well-sheltered harbour and city walls over two miles long. The main problem was that there were insufficient inhabitants to make it viable. The Lelegian inhabitants of the peninsula had mostly been transplanted to Halicarnassus, capital of Caria, and for a long while Myndus was severely under-populated, and much of the space inside the walls was unoccupied. It is said that the philosopher Diogenes once visited Myndus, and observing that the gates were large but the city small, advised the Myndians to keep their gates closed, or their city would be running away.

Alexander the Great made an attempt to capture Myndos in 334BC as his armies marched across Anatolia and on towards India. He laid a siege to Halicarnassus, and inspected the fortifications of Myndos to find out whether or not it was an easy target. He was even encouraged by some Myndians who advised him to approach the city at night time. Alexander did not bring his catapults or attack stairs towers, but ordered his soldiers to dig under of the main towers. The tower collapsed but did not weaken the walls, and the people of Myndos, supported by the Persian navy, fought gallantly.  Alexander stopped the siege and turned his attention to Halicarnassus which Persians defended for nearly a year till the murder of Orontobates, the Persian satrap. …

Relatively little remains of ancient Myndus. Rock-cut stairways and house-foundations may be seen on the hillside, but virtually all the ruins seen in the early nineteenth century, including a theatre and stadium, have totally disappeared; all that survives is a ruined basilica (now a cultural centre named Iklesia) and, at the highest point of the peninsula, what may have been a church. There are, however, numerous ancient stones to be seen in and around the village, and it is quite possible that the masonry from these buildings has been reused and now forms part of the foundations and buildings of the modern village.  At the school about a mile inland there are some column capitals and Roman mosaics.

Although there are no major structures remaining it is still possible to see sections of mosaics on the shore & beneath the water of the entrance to the harbour and on the spit of land to the north west of the harbour. Other features are visible just below the water; there are the remains of a tower, and more structures are visible in the north-western bay.

In the 3rd century BC Myndus was mostly in the hands of the Egyptian Ptolemies, and was still so in 197BC when the Rhodians, as friends of Egypt, undertook to protect her ‘allies’ against Antiochus III of Syria, and gave their freedom to Myndus and others. It was after this, apparently, that the Myndians first began to issue their own coinage. There are a number of historical references to an active Jewish community in the town around 139BC. The city was for a short while held by the rebel Aristonicus about 131BC, and after the murder of Julius Caesar in 43BC, Cassius (one of the main conspirators) sheltered his fleet there; the city was later punished by Mark Anthony. After the defeat of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, Mark Antony gave Myndus to the Rhodians, but she was soon taken away again owing to the excessive harshness of their rule. At around this time it is said that Anthony and Cleopatra dropped anchor in the harbour as they travelled from Egypt to Rome.

The city wall was originally some 3.5 km long. The fortification-wall on the mainland may be followed for its whole length, and is best preserved on the south-east, the most vulnerable side, where it is strengthened with frequent towers. It is about 9 feet (2.74m) thick and constructed in part at least of the green granite which was also used for the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. The quarries from which this stone was cut may be seen close to the shore at Koyunbaba, about two miles to the north.

The fortifications also included the peninsula; a hundred years ago the wall could be traced all round, but this has now disappeared. There remains, however, another wall running from north to south up the spine of the hill. It has the same thickness as the mainland wall, but is built of larger blocks less regularly fitted. It has been called ‘the Lelegian wall’, but this name stems from the old belief that Lelegian Myndus stood on this site; in fact the masonry is quite unlike that of the genuine Lelegian towns. This wall has always been something of a puzzle. As it stands, it appears meaningless; with the peninsula walled all round, what could be the point of dividing the interior down the middle with a wall of this solidity? It makes sense only as a continuation of just such a main-land wall as in fact exists, and may be the beginning of an earlier fortification system which was almost immediately abandoned in favour of a wall encircling the whole peninsula.

See pictures here.

Tetractys II

Tetractys II

Spring is back in Gumusluk. A gorgeous sunny day with a fairly stiff wind greeted me this morning and I decided to ride my bike to Eski Karakaya (Old Black Stone) village. This tiny hamlet is located in the hills above Gumusluk, across the valley from the Academy, and can’t be seen from my balcony because it is on the other side of the hill. Both Nils and Pelin had told me about it, knowing my interest in ruins, and described it as a “dead village”.

I had to ask several people in the village how to get there and found the turn off at a roundabout not too far from the Academy but on the opposite side of the Berggruen Sitesi housing estate next to us. The small road headed straight up and wound its way along the mountain, up and up and up, past several groups of local houses, past what looked to be a strip mine, past the lone ruined light house on that side of the valley, and around the bend to the other side of the mountain. I could see the village on the hillside from the road. About half the stone houses looked to be ruined but the village did not appear to me to be “dead”. I could see several large and very nicely renovated stone houses with terraces and flowers stretching up the hill towards the kara kaya, black stone, that gives the village its name. I rode my bike as far up the hill as I could go, locked it up, and walked along a very tiny path through the grass to look at the houses. There are no streets as such here and no vehicles – cars must park at the entrance to the village where there is a tiny parking lot. I wandered down the hill and past several beautiful stone houses and saw the most enormous korek. So heavy that it tipped over, the plant was as huge as a tree. I plucked two dried korek from the hillside and carried them back with me balanced on the handle bars.

This evening’s still life is a continuation of yesterday’s. The korek have been moved to the floor, still in their tetractys configuration and have been replaced on the table-top by what I think are giant red carnations and tiny soft leafy fronds from the bottom of the korek stalks. I have also added larger leafy korek fronds to the top of the chair backs to enjoy the shadow they cast on the wall. I also like the reflection of the still life tableau in the large plate glass windows of the painting studio against the backdrop of the foliage outside.

See pictures here.

Korek Tetractys

Korek Tetractys

Today I took my bike for a spin into town to go to the weekly Gumusluk market. The market here is quite small but has nice fresh vegetables and a couple of stalls with beautiful fabrics. I bought 3 very inexpensive small table cloths, one handmade in beiges, browns, and a bit of gold, and two other machine made ones in red and gold and purplish-blue and gold. These I will use for my installations. I also zipped down to the harbour and sat by one of the marble seaside sculptures eating a spinach and cheese borek. Of course, the moment I sat down, a cat appeared and I shared my treat with it. Then, naturally, several other cats came rushing over, hoping for a bite.

I love korek plants – they are so strange looking, almost humanoid. The large flower-like heads have identical smaller flower-like heads protruding out of them. In some lights, and from some angles, these smaller appendages look like hands and fingers. I have been collecting them, both relatively fresh green ones and dry stalks, for installations. Since they are such interesting shapes, I had been wondering what these flowers would look like if illuminated by candle light from below. I also wondered what kind of shadows they’d cast against a white wall.

I set up a tableau of korek plants downstairs in the studio, including a wooden table, a wooden chair, two hands holding crepe paper ribbons, one large candle, and 17 small tealight candles. On the table I arranged ten flower heads in glasses filled with water in a triangular formation, called by the ancient Pythagoreans the tetractys, the number of the universe. Ten is the sum of the first four numbers, 4+3+2+1 – my korek flowers are arranged in rows representing this summation. The candles are also arranged in a triangular formation under and around the flowers, causing them to cast shadows on the wall behind. The water in the ten glasses moves ever so slightly, also causing interesting shadows to be created when illuminated by the twelve tiny candles.

The Pythagoreans represented numbers by patterns of dots, probably a result of arranging pebbles into patterns. The resulting figures have given us the present word figures. Thus 9 pebbles can be arranged into 3 rows with 3 pebbles per row, forming a square. Similarly, 10 pebbles can be arranged into four rows, containing 1, 2, 3, and 4 pebbles per row, forming a triangle.

One particular triangular number that the Pythagoreans especially liked was the number ten. It was called a Tetractys, meaning a set of four things, a word attributed to the Greek Mathematician and astronomer Theon (c. 100 CE). The Pythagoreans identified ten such sets.

Ten Sets of Four Things

Numbers 1 2 3 4
Magnitudes point line surface solid
Elements fire air water earth
Figures pyramid octahedron icosahedron cube
Living Things seed growth in length in breadth in thickness
Societies man village city nation
Faculties reason knowledge opinion sensation
Seasons spring summer autumn winter
Ages of a Person infancy youth adulthood old age
Parts of living things body three parts of the soul

Read more about the Pythagoreans here.

See pictures here.

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.