My last full day in Gumusluk


My last day at the Gumusluk Academy – I can’t believe that four weeks has past. And I can’t believe that my time in Turkey is nearly at an end! When I first left Canada on Dec. 31, this trip seemed like it stretched out into infinity and now I only have just over three weeks left. I’ve enjoyed my time here in Gumusluk – I’ve met some lovely people here and done some work that I am pleased with. I have really enjoyed working in the studio here – the space is large and cool, great especially in the heat of the day. Yesterday, the lonely bull was grazing just outside the studio windows – apparently, sometimes he actually comes inside the studio if someone leaves the door open wide enough … I dismantled my last assemblage and took bits of it outside to install in the garden. I am going to leave these bits and pieces up and told Meral that Eda is welcome to play with everything there, to paint on it if she wishes. I’ve left behind some paints, paper and pastels for them to use – I had to downsize – I’m tired of carrying around heavy luggage. I’m also leaving behind a fairly large bag of mostly cool weather clothes which I am not going to need in Side, if the last two times I’ve been there are any indication – 40-50 degrees is what I’m expecting there most of the time. The two things I definitely won’t miss here are the insects and the animal chorus.

Around noon I pedaled my bike down to the Club Gumusluk beach and met Ilknur, Meral and Eda there. We lay on sun loungers, watched the kids play and had a nice talk with an older woman and her daughter from Istanbul who have rented a village house here for three months. She is a painter and is getting ready for a show at a cake shop in Istanbul. The tiny cat that I’d seen the other day was there, too, as well as a largish brown dog. A man that Meral knew from Istanbul has set up his open air antique store in the back of the restaurant with an eclectic mixture of stuff, including rugs depicting Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding and John and Robert Kennedy, the American politicians. After a lovely afternoon swimming and lazing around at the beach, we walked over to Eren’s house and up to Iklesia where she gave Eda an introductory piano lesson on the Bosendorfer grand. As they worked, two birds flew in the window and swooped around inside before finding their way out again.

Later that evening, Ilknur prepared a feast for my last dinner at the Academy – sea bass, two different kinds of salad, and dolma, accompanied by a few bottles of wine. I made the mistake of drinking white and red wine; only one glass of the latter but I am paying for it now with a serious hangover. Nesa, the poet from Cyprus, Emre, Ilknur, Eda, Meral, and Seray joined me for this feast. Latife came down for a bit, as well. This morning I will have breakfast and then fire up my walking shoes and drag myself and my luggage up the road to catch the minibus to Bodrum where I will be spending the weekend.

See pictures here.

Variations on a theme of Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne's Lace II, detail

I know all you readers out there are just dying to know whether I got my prints sent off for Cracow. Well, Seray – bless her heart – was able to get Latife’s printer up and running last night and printed off my entry form – hallelujah – which she presented me with at breakfast. I had a hair appointment, so I didn’t linger over my meal but ate and hopped on my bike for the ride down the hill to the kuofur hair ladies. The two women running the tiny shop speak no English so Meral had told them yesterday what I wanted and I was hopeful that things would go smoothly.

The shop has two little stations and one tiny sink – no hair dryers, as I realized halfway through when I was wondering why my hair was taking so long. Usually, hairdressers in Vancouver put me under the dryer to speed things up but dryers do not exist here – neither hair nor clothes dryers. Everything is air dried. Periodically one of the women would ask me something in Turkish which of course I did not understand; they’d them repeat it a couple of times louder and louder, as if that would make a difference … why do people do this, I wonder? I’ve seen it before in Italy and Mexico. After two hours in the chair I was released and happy with the hair. Back at the ranch, I went down to the studio, filled in the Cracow forms, packed up my prints in the large plastic plumbing tube, and got into Ilknur’s car for the trip to the post office. Thank God that little chore is over … no problem with the tube and it is now winging it’s way to Poland, I hope. I had a couple of other things I wanted to print so we went to the internet café, where, once again, they could do nothing for me. After trying my flash drive on several ports, none of them could read it and I could print nothing there … damn. Just as I was about to get really annoyed, Seray’s boyfriend happened by. He is a computer guru and works just around the corner at the municipal office so he was kind enough to print out my two documents on his computer without any problem. What kind of an internet café does Gumusluk operate anyway? (Note: I wrote this comment when I was grumpy)

After a cup of tea with Ilknur, I rode my bike down to the beach to sit for a while enjoying the very brisk wind and watching two wind surfers try to control their craft as they screamed around the bay. On the way back, I stopped at several fields to cut more Queen Anne’s Lace for my assemblage. I did not realize that these enormous white blooms each have a small bluish-purple flower in their heart. I had always assumed that the dark speck at the centre of these flowers was a bug and thought it curious that every bloom I saw had such a bug … some of the blooms did also have real bugs, too. Queen Anne’s Lace here grows huge and appears just as the korek are turning brown and dying out. Almost all the wildflowers that populated the fields and road sides early in May are gone; only daisies and sardunya are left. It’s too hot for the others.

I worked on my still life in the afternoon and then joined Ilknur, Meral and Eda for dinner under the trees. We dined on manti (Turkish ravioli with yogurt and garlic), bulgur, rice, a vegetable stew and a compote of cherries, all of which was delicious. As we ate the animal chorus began; the braying donkey sounded as though he was in pain, and a host of male dogs howled after a female in heat, including Paki, our resident young unneutered male. The lonely bull bellowed in sympathy – this beast roams the hills just below my room and moans at all hours of the day and night. After dinner, I took some pictures of my variation on the theme of Queen Anne’s Lace as the sun set.

See pictures here.

Bodrum and Gumusluk Gambacisi

Halikarnas disco, Bodrum

Yesterday I had a very busy and lovely day. In the morning we had new guests at the Academy, Meral, a Turkish woman married to a Dane and living in Denmark for the past 6 years, and her daughter Eda. I met them at breakfast, which we had at the table under the trees next to the pool. Meral brought her daughter to the Academy, hoping that she would be able to interact with Turkish children and learn some of the language and culture. Unfortunately, there are no other young children here and actually none in the near vicinity. After a lovely breakfast feast, and some time spent in the studio preparing my prints for mailing, I wandered up the road at 1 pm and grabbed a dolmus for Bodrum.

Ayla was waiting for me under the trees at the Bodrum otogar and we headed down the main drag towards the harbour. She took me to a local dessert restaurant which specializes in Turkish milk desserts, especially varieties of pudding. I sampled a chocolate with ice cream concoction and she had a rice pudding with topping of fruit and nuts. As we ate we watched the tourism police, travelling in a large pack, give grief to vendors in contravention of the bylaws regarding business practices. Not too far from the dessert place we stopped at the shop of Ali Guven, sandal maker to the stars, and had a look at his handmade leather footwear. Apparently he was the first to design gladiator sandals and the photos on the wall with famous people attested to his popularity with the rich and famous. Then we made our way along Bodrum’s main bar and shopping street, a pedestrian thoroughfare with shops and restaurants on both sides of the street. All the restaurants and bars on the water side have terraces and/or tables on the beach, filled with gorgeous sardunya and bougainvillea flowers and vines. Bodrum has two bays and two sides of town, the older Greek side where the beach is located and the newer Turkish boat harbour full of gullet yachts for hire. On the Greek side you can still see the remains of old Orthodox churches which have been converted into shops or restaurants. Far up on the hill is a hotel called the Monastir built on the remains of an old Greek Orthodox monastery.

Our next stop on the Greek side was the jeweller’s boutique – we spent some time drinking tea and talking with the young designer and trying on various rings made of precious and semiprecious stones. He makes them big – big stones and big settings. He also showed us several prints of an Alevi mythological figure (whose name escapes me at the moment) with the head of a woman, six feet with snake heads and a tail with the head of a snake, accompanied by roses; this creature is a fertility goddess and he has several images of the figure in different colours with different kinds of flowers. From there, we wandered down onto the beach and plopped ourselves down at a beachside bar for a beer and iced tea and watched the kids and dogs frolic in the water. Both of us took the opportunity to wade in the cool water.

After that refreshment we walked along the seaside promenade between the palm trees to the end of the bay where Bodrum’s famous Halikarnas (so named because of the town’s ancient name of Halicarnassus) disco is located harbourside. After waiting for quite a while in the vestibule while someone asked someone else if I could take photos inside, we were shown into the disco proper and I took some pictures of the somewhat cheesy fake Greek temple décor and the disco dancers practicing on the stage. This place only gets going after midnight and then goes until 6 am; if you so desire, you can dance with Bodrum’s beautiful people in soapsud bubbles all night long.

We passed on that opportunity and took a taxi up the hill to see the Manzara Hotel, designed and built in 1982 by Ayla’s husband. This is a beautiful boutique hotel built on several levels and terraces, with two lovely pools around which older German women were sunbathing topless. We were greeted by the manager Birsen, Ayla’s longtime friend, and chatted with her over a soda water on ice while I enjoyed the view down over the harbour and castle. From there, we took another cab down the hill again and over to the Turkish section of the harbour to a restaurant that Ayla had thought had some Thai food. Turns out the restaurant was Italian but had one Thai appetizer, fish cakes; we had the fish cakes, which were very tasty, and some mediocre pasta with two nice glasses of white wine. After dropping Ayla off for a meeting at the tour office, I made for the otogar and the dolmus back to Gumusluk. The weather was perfect – sunny, clear skies and breezy with between 34 and 39 degrees … in Canada, that would have counted as a major scorcher – unheard of! But my blood must have thinned out since I have been here and to me it just felt pleasantly warm …

Ayla told me that lemon would keep the creatures that have been biting me away so we bought some cheap lemon cologne at a drug store and I slathered it on myself. However, it did not seem really to make any difference at all. The bugs must be beside themselves with joy at my Canadian blood because I continue to get bitten day and night. Today we heard that because it had been a rainy winter and early spring here in Gumusluk there had been a vast infestation of fleas around the peninsula. However, these bites don’t look like any flea bites I’ve seen before and I am convinced they must either be spiders or gnats.

This morning a few more guests arrived at the breakfast table under the trees – Nesa, a poet from Cyprus, and Li Li, a poet from Beijing residing in Sweden for the last 20 years, both here for a literature festival being had in a town about 4 hours east of here.  Li Li told me that there was not much of an Asian community in Stockholm, that the weather was bad there, and that he would actually rather be living in China. Whereas in Sweden he might get 15 people out to a poetry reading, and that would be a good turnout, his poet friends in China get 100. He and Nesa decided to give a reading of his poetry to the assembled breakfast crowd of myself, Seray, Ilknur, Meral, Latife, Emre and Ahmet Filmer, the other Academy founder who has just arrived back here. Li Li read in Chinese, then Nesa the Turkish translation and I was asked to read a poem in English. Li Li was also kind enough to give me one of his books, Snow’s Confessions.

After that, Meral and I went to take her daughter for a haircut, then hopped on a dolmus to the Kekik bar at Kadikalesi where I had seen children the day before. However, unlike Sunday, when it was so crowded, today we were the only ones there. It was a beautiful day, though, sunny, hot and very windy and the water was lovely.

A couple of days ago I had arranged with Gary Berlind to go to his pension to hear him play the viola da gamba. Meral was very interested in hearing it, too, so the three of us grabbed a dolmus to the municipal office in Gumusluk, from which Gary retrieved us and brought us to the pension he shares with his landlord Danny Koplowitz, a Brit who has lived in Turkey for many years. Danny is an eccentric character with many talents, guitar, translation, woodworking, who learned how to speak Turkish while serving 12 years in a Turkish jail … the pension is full of wooden cabinetwork which he did himself. Joining us also were his dog Six Toes, his Van cat with one blue and one green eye and a slanted face from a jaw infection and his very large red and white tom cat Sultan. Danny is in the midst of refurbishing the terrace of his pension for the coming season.

Gary put on his troubadour’s hat and played several tunes on his bass gamba, the solo instrument of the gamba family. He also has two smaller viola da gambas and a cello, but these are for playing in small groups and with instruments such as the harpsichord. I very much enjoyed the samples he played for me, mostly pieces from the 16, 17 and 18th centuries. Apparently there is quite a large repertoire of music for the viola da gamba … who knew? But back in the olden days before tv and the internet people actually would get together and play music with one another on viola da gambas. I say out with tv and bring back the gamba! After having spent the last seven years in Turkey, Gary is seriously planning to move to Israel where he might have more music performance opportunities.

I needed to print out some documents in order to ship my prints so after leaving the pension, we stopped in at Gumusluk’s one internet café only to find out that nothing there was working, including the printer, this after hearing that Ilknur’s printer at the Academy also was not working. We tried getting the phone man to print the document on his printer but he did not have the program needed to print it – damn. When we got back to the Academy finally, after waiting for the Bodrum dolmus for quite a while, I also found out that Latife’s printer was not working. This kind of thing I find enormously frustrating in Turkey. Not just here, but other places, too, things don’t work properly or are broken and no one has bothered to fix them or, for some reason, can’t fix them. (Sometimes, as in the case of the dishwasher here, for example, a serviceman has been called and just does not bother to show up, even after having promised for several days in a row to show up). Seray was kind enough to copy my document onto her computer and is going to try to get the printer fixed so that I can print it out and mail my tube of art work off. Maybe tomorrow …

See pictures here and here.

In the studio, Gumusluk

Dancing in front of Queen Anne's Lace, detail

Yesterday was a beautiful day at the beach – it could only have been more perfect if Ty had been there to share it with me. I rode over to Kekik Beach Bar and was able to nab the last sun bed on the beach there. Since it was Sunday, the day the working men have off, the place was packed with families. Several of the people that I’d seen there the day before were there again with the rest of their crew. Every seat in the place was taken. Since I have been spending so much of my time alone the last 4 and a half months, I enjoy it when I am around big groups of people, even when I don’t know who they are. It feels like being part of life. Many small children were there making sand castles and frolicking in the water. A large family group celebrating someone’s birthday had a cake brought out to them. And the two dogs were joined by a third, an enormous male golden retriever who was let off his leash periodically and allowed to run and jump and swim into the ocean to retrieve branches thrown for him.

Lying on my sun bed I enjoyed the heat and breeze – it was a very windy day and the waves were nice. I floated on my back as the waves pushed me along parallel to the shore. About 5 or so Seray showed up, having walked across the hill from the Academy. We spent a couple of hours together there, then I returned on my bike to retrieve the laundry I’d left hanging and photograph my assemblage.

In front of the Queen Anne’s Lace piece I hung up the two large photographs bound for Cracow in a few days. I had originally intended to hang these from a clothesline in either the ruined house at the top of the hill or, possibly, one of the ruined windmills. However, when I was downstairs in the studio in the morning unpacking my tube, I noticed the two trees standing just outside with the town panorama in the background and thought that it might work to install them there. I put up the string but when I tried to affix one of the prints, the wind was just too strong; rather than ripple gently in the breeze, the print was swung violently up in the air so I decided against it. Instead, I grabbed two more wooden easels, set them up on either side of the still life, and hung the two photographs from the line strung between them. I was interested in seeing how they would look in the candlelight. I also decided that I would perform some calisthenics in front of them to see what these movements would look like captured on film. I liked the shadows created by the movements of my arms, legs and hair and the way that my moving body became translucent when photographed in front of the still objects, all except my feet.

See pictures here.

Turgutreis and Kadikalesi

Large format printing

Saturday – market day in Turgutreis. After breakfast with Seray, I grabbed my bike and rode up the hill towards the gumbet – disused cistern – at the top of the hill and took the opportunity to take a few pictures of my little Styrofoam lily pad koreks, still floating around on the water along with the discarded pop and water bottles and other assorted junk. Whitewashed the last time I’d seen it, between now and then the cistern has been spray painted with graffiti once again. I rode up and over the hill behind the Academy, pausing briefly at the top to take a few pictures of the ten day homes. Someone was telling Ilknur that the Greeks living on Kos, the nearest Greek island to here, mock the Turks for having sold off all their land for these ghastly housing developments. I zoomed down the hill, bouncing over the many speed bumps, and rode along the main road to the Turgutreis market where I spent some time looking at textiles and long summery dresses without buying anything.

Earlier this week, I received an email from the President of the Cracow International Print Triennial informing me that my works had qualified to the Phase 2 of selection of the International Print Triennial Krakow 2009. The deadline for submission is June 15 – not very far away – and so I needed to get my work printed so it can be sent off tout suite. Asking around the market area for large format printing, a restaurateur took me to a tiny stationery and art supplies shop which, lo and behold, had a large format printer. Amazingly, I had my flash drive in my purse with two of the images on it (this without any planning at all on my part) – what are the chances of that, I thought to myself. Anyway, I watched and waited as the guy and his helper printed out my pictures in between helping what seemed like a million people with photocopy jobs. With my two rolled prints in hand, I then hunted around for a big plastic tube, finally finding one at a hardware store. I inserted the prints into the tube, taped up the ends with plastic and strapped the whole thing to my bike’s crossbar with two luggage straps bought at the dollar store. Because the tube is quite big around, it was difficult to ride since my left knee was pointed out at an awkward angle. Anyway, I managed to make my way out of town back along the main road and decided to stop at the Kadikalesi beach for a break.

Seray had told me about Kekik Beach Bar so I rolled down the laneway, onto the beach and found Kekik without any trouble. A somewhat laissez-faire structure greeted me, with two chillout areas and a covering of very dry, old palm fronds, rickety old chairs and tables, and sun beds out front. I felt right at home. The place was very pleasant, patronized by Turks on holiday; families with several generations of people played and lounged. One granny dressed in a stylish brown Turban and lacy knee socks was knitting a sweater while her daughter made a sand castle. Two men gutted fish and threw the guts into the water. Four kids floated on bits of Styrofoam and tossed small fish at one another. Two dogs lounged lazily. I lay down on a sun bed and just about fell asleep in the very warm sun; waking up with a snort, I decided to go for a swim. I have not swum in the ocean since Kas – it was very nice, cool but refreshing. After, I sampled some fries – good – and lemonade – not so good, before rearranging my tube on my handlebars and pedaling back along the main drag.

On the way back, I stopped briefly at the municipal cemetery. I have been riding past this gravesite for three weeks and not stopped so now was the moment. I looked around at the carvings on display, a strange variety of subjects and styles – lots of lions, for some reason. And the graveyard itself was peaceful as the sun’s rays were slanting across it. I remember when I first visited Turkish graveyards, I thought to myself, “Wow – there sure are a lot of R. Fatiha’s in this town”, since many of the headstones had this inscription. It took me a bit of time to realize that “Ruhuna Fatiha” must mean something like “Rest in Peace” … sheesh.

Back at the ranch, I was still a bit peckish so I strolled over to the Foundation dining hall where pots of food are usually waiting on the counters. Tonight – o joy! – chicken. I have not been eating much meat for the last while, with the occasional exception of what the Turks call sausage, and I would call bologna, put in borek or mixed toast. Most often, there is a starch dish, pasta, rice or cous cous, some kind of mostly vegetable stew, and, often, salad. Today, for the first time, there was roast chicken and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

See a few pictures here.

Bodrum and Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne's Lace, detail

Ayla and I had arranged to meet in Bodrum this afternoon, but she phoned early in the morning to say that she’d been called in to work and couldn’t make our appointment. I decided to go into Bodrum anyway and go to the free hamam session that I’d been given by Director Tours as a thank you for purchasing the Ephesus/Pamukkale trip last weekend. I grabbed the dolmus and arrived downtown at around 11 or so and made my way down to the harbour. I had a ringside seat at the café nearest the castle and drank a cappuccino while people-watching. It was really fascinating to see the variety of people who wander by; I guess because Bodrum is a fashionable place at the moment, visitors are wearing the most varied getups. Last time I had seen a couple straight out of Las Vegas in the Wayne Newton era (is he still alive?), she with huge hair, huge breasts, huge high heels and mega makeup, he with white slacks, white belt, and bad 70s hair a la the Poppy Family (if anyone out there remembers them …).This time brought a parade of women of a certain age wearing white short shorts (white short shorts!!), tank tops, and weird little high heeled slippers – really atrocious fashion sense. News flash – women over a certain age should never, ever wear tight white short shorts, or tight white anything, for that matter. Actually, IMHO neither women nor men should wear tight white short shorts at any age … I just had a vision of that old man on the beach in Lipe Island, Thailand in a white thong … eye burn! Single women with looks of desperation, Turkish and other men on the prowl, kids screaming for ice cream, cats begging for food … just another day at the fair.

I entered the castle, having asked if the underwater museum was open and received a reply of “yes”. However, the cashier neglected to inform me, and I missed the sign saying so, that the rooms were not open until 2 – damn. The weather was not as good as the last time I was in Bodrum – overcast with the odd little spit of rain so I didn’t want to wait around for 2 hours to see sunken ships, although I would have enjoyed seeing the glass wreck, I think. I did get to see a room of small display cases of glassware from Roman wrecks around the peninsula but I was annoyed with myself for not checking the opening times more carefully. After exiting the castle, I wandered through some of the pedestrian shopping streets, and then some small back streets with beautiful flowers and tiny lanes on my way to the Director Tour office for the hamam.

I had been told by a few people that the hamam in Bodrum was a very good one, and that’s where I’d assumed I was going – wrong. I got picked up by the transfer man and taken to the hamam in Gumbet, sort of a suburb of Bodrum further along the coast in the direction of Gumusluk. After being dropped off there, I was greeted on entry by the stares of the male employees hanging around the vestibule. The hamam’s manager, in describing the treatment, immediately tried to get me to purchase more than what was included with my package, saying things like “The soap sud massage is not a real massage … you want aromatherapy” (to the tune of 25 euro and up) … I did not want aromatherapy to the tune of 25 euro and up and told him that I only wanted what was included in my package and he immediately had no more interest in me. We were off to a bad start.

After changing in the small change room and leaving my things in a locker, I was waved into the hamam steam room with marble slab and left there for about 15 minutes to relax in the heat. Then a man came in, and without much in the way of communication, gave me the worst peeling I’ve had in any of the hamams I’ve been to. It lasted all of about 4 minutes. Then, another man performed the soap sud massage – it was ok but too short and he kept talking and trying to hit on me as he was working. I was not at all happy and very glad that I had not paid for it, because the session was terrible. At least, I got a free ride back to the bus station in Bodrum to grab my dolmus home.

Once back at the ranch, I hopped on my bike, intending to retrieve my korek from the beach. When I got down there, though, I saw immediately that someone else had removed them for me – they were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps someone took a fancy to them and carried them off home – I hope so, rather that than have them end up in the garbage or burned. I stopped for a beer and a mixed toast at the Club Gumusluk restaurant and bar on the beach and shared my sausage and cheese sandwich with a pregnant cat who had a tiny triangular face and a largish belly. I am a sucker for Turkish cats. On the way back, I acquired more korek stalks from the hillside to replace those lost and some stalks of Queen Anne’s lace with which I will compose a still life assemblage later.

Over the past few days I have painted ten thin banners of translucent tracing paper in different colours to more or less match my painted korek stalks. I was thinking about hanging them up in a tetractys configuration behind an installation of korek, and then later making them into lamp shades to put around my tea light candles. I installed them in the studio on three pieces of string stretched between two easels, on either side of a still life of Queen Anne’s lace, two hands, a silver tea pot, korek heads and candles on the wooden table. On the floor in front of the table I placed the final two banners on either side of a pedestal with a still life of red and pink sardunya and jasmine flowers; on these banners I placed 6 glasses with silver korek heads resting in water and 6 small candles. I enjoyed the shadows cast by the plants on the wall and ceiling of the studio; these shadows moved and changed as the candles flickered and the water in the glasses trembled.

See pictures here.


Korek on the beach

Yesterday a guy with a dump truck dropped off a large load of stones in front of Eyip’s mother and child sculpture; apparently these will be used in some way to rebuild the theatre toilets … Mehmet and Zubeida have been busy with scythes, cutting the long grasses along the paths and outside my building. Since these grasses are hiding places for the creatures that bite me, I am happy to see them go.

Today is a silver-blue-grey windy day in Gumusluk and a busy day it was for me.  After a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs with basil, tomato and onion, white cheese and olives prepared by Seray and consumed pond-side, I gathered up my 6 smaller korek stalks, put them in a large blue garbage bag, hung my mannequin-hand bag over my handlebars, jumped on my bike and headed down to Gumusluk beach. Since the ground around the Academy is rock-hard and pretty much impossible to dig into, I had decided last night that I would install the korek on the beach somehow, since the sand would be easier to work with.

I first set up my small assemblage on the base of the abstracted figurative sculpture in the middle of the beach next to the cemented-over house. Then, spying two nice feathery trees in the sand a few meters away, I decided to move them there. I hung the red and gold tablecloth from one of the trees with string, then planted the six korek stalks and the two hands holding crepe paper ribbons in the sand around that tree. It was very windy and the ribbons blew briskly in the breeze. Seeing the coloured stalks standing around the slim white-painted tree trunk amused me and I lay on the sand for a while next to it. The sun was very warm and I watched two wind surfers struggle with the wind and try to zip across the bay on their boards. Since it was really too windy to try to ride back with my big bag of korek flapping into the bike tires, I simply left them planted there on the beach.

I had arranged to meet Gary Berlind, a musician and expatriate American living in Gumusluk, for coffee down by the bay at 2. Since I was a bit early, I strolled along the beach, past the fish restaurants, past the vacant beachside villas and apartments advertising rooms for rent, past the dozing cows resting under the trees, to the end of the bay. There the tree that I had photographed a few weeks ago, with its lovely reflection in a pond in a field, was now sitting in a bone dry bed with no vestige of water left. Passing several young green korek in the field next to the beach, I noticed that they all harboured some kind of red insect, sort of a combination worm-spider.

After googling the Gumusluk Sculpture Symposium, through a series of websites I had found Gary’s name and was interested in hearing about his experiences living in Turkey. We met at the Dalgic café and sampled some cheese and spinach gozleme and my favorite – Nescafe – as we chatted. Gary explained to me how he had ended up in Istanbul after a career begun in the States as a double-bass musician, then musicology student, then computer and PR dude, then, having given it up after 35 years, beginning again as a musician on the viola da gamba in Turkey. Later, we walked up the hill to Iklesia, the historical chapel on the hill next to the Dolmus station, and Gary introduced me to Eren Levendoglu and her husband Mesrut, the couple who live in a stone house just below the church and run the cultural centre out of that venue. They have just acquired a tiny grey kitten from Ilknur at the Academy; the little beast is still crying for her mother.

I had photographed the exterior of Iklesia when I first came to Gumusluk and had marveled at what a great little spot it was. It was delightful to meet Eren and she was kind enough to show me the interior of the church and play a couple of pieces on the Bosendorfer – Bosendorfer!! – grand, one of three pianos (two grands, the other a Beckstein, and one upright given to the Academy) recently donated to Iklesia. It was amazing to listen to these two fabulous grand pianos played, with wonderful sound, in this small venue in Gumusluk. The church is also used for artist residencies, exhibitions, and classes, and is the main venue for the Gumusluk International Classical Music Festival, which Eren directs, held every summer for the past six years. Eren was born in Zimbabwe of an English mother and Turkish father and studied music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London before relocating to Turkey.

Here is the Gumusluk Classical Music Festival website:

Here is Gary Berlind’s website:

See pictures here.


Korek, detail

I have been painting dried korek stalks for a while now, big ones and small ones, long ones and short ones. I had imagined placing them in various locations and photographing them so today I gave that a shot. Unfortunately, the weather was hot and muggy and somewhat overcast, not too auspicious for photography. I had wanted to see what the painted stalks looked like against the blue sky and the background of the valley so I arranged them along my terrace wall, pressed against the cement by a disused, rickety wooden sun lounger. I also visualized seeing them suspended, somehow. In order to try this out, I ran a length of string from a tree to a cement post in front of the pond next to the amphitheatre. I then attached the 14 stalks with smaller bits of string to this clothes-line-like apparatus. As mentioned, the weather conditions were not optimum but I did like the way they looked suspended beside the pool with the valley in the background. I will leave them hanging overnight and hope that it will neither rain nor be too windy and that they will still be suspended there tomorrow.

Last night I had dinner at one of the fish restaurants on the beach with Ayla, the French language guide from the Ephesus trip. She took the minibus out from Bodrum to meet me and we had lots of laughs while drinking a couple of glasses of Turkey’s national aniseed drink, Raki, and nibbling on tiny fried red fish. Ayla is a Turk from Istanbul who learned how to speak French in Switzerland, became a guide, and guided the rich and famous around Turkey and to Europe for the past 30 years. Recently widowed, she returned to guiding from a hiatus in order to recover from losing her husband. She is a really delightful woman and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening.

See korek 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.