Summer in the City II

Cycling through downtown Vancouver is one of my favourite things to do, and I love Chinatown, Strathcona, and the area around the docks. When wandering through the back alleys there I am always fascinated to see how the street art has changed and developed.

This small labyrinth is tucked away near Union Street.

Many murals grace the walls of buildings and bridges down here; this first nations sun is part of a large image beneath an overpass near the old Sugar Factory.

On Alexander Street, in Gastown right near Chill Winston’s restaurant, is the gallery and studio of Choboter, an artist whose name was previously unknown to me. His works are vaguely reminiscent of Pollock’s drips, although more kitschy, with women’s faces and bodies embellished upon the paint drips and drops.

One of the blocks along Hastings is constantly metamorphosing. Every time I ride by, another piece of old time Vancouver has disappeared to be replaced by yet more restaurants, coffee shops, and palaces of consumption.

SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts faces off against the not-so-Regal Hotel across the street, its windows usually full of interesting art.

I have been photographing the alleyways between Cambie and Richards for a few years now; each time I return, the images have changed. Having been away from the area for a year, it was interesting to see what has happened with the street art and graffiti.

The alley behind the Dominion Building yielded some cool stencil art.

These large-scale wall stencils represent the contemporary evolution of printmaking art. Rather than the small, rather intimate aesthetic of traditional printmaking, these works are big, bold, and often have a socially conscious point to make.

However, there’s also lots of the usual guys with huge guns, death’s heads, and rampaging monsters thing …

A few weeks ago we checked out Tomoyo’s small installation Yearning at Solder and Sons books and cafe, 241 Main Street. Originally from Japan, Tomoyo has lived in Vancouver many years. She also spends part of the year in Ladakh, India where she is involved with the Tibetan community. Her drawings speak to issues of community, spirituality, and the injustices perpetrated on the people of Tibet.

Solder and Sons is right near the Main Street viaduct, from the top of which is a great view out over the docks, the harbour, and the North Shore mountains.

Riding along the Carrall Street bikeway from False Creek to Gastown, we pass the Sun Yat Sen Park and Gardens, recently voted the World’s Top Urban garden. It is an oasis of calm and green beauty in a sea of concrete.

From the gardens we can see the revolving “W” of the former Woodwards Department Store, now the epicentre of downtown eastside Vancouver gentrification.

While vestiges of the gritty downtown eastside remain, such as the West Hotel, the areas untouched by real estate hipsters are shrinking in the face of an influx of expensive doughnut shops and trendy restaurants.

At the yearly Powell Street Festival, the remains of Vancouver’s original Japanese community gather in Oppenheimer Park (between Powell Street and the waterfront).

See more pics here and here.

Viernes de Dolores

A small performance for Viernes de Dolores, the Friday of Sorrows that begins Semana Santa, inspired by the Guanajuato Virgen de Dolores altars.

See more pics here.


Dia de las Flores: Death and the Devil visit the Colonial House, Guanajuato

For the Dia de las Flores, Ty and I decorated the front archways of our colonial house; using locally-made masks of Death (a tiny tin skull wearing a black sombrero) and the Devil (a papier mache horned demon mask) we recreated the encounter of Death, the Devil, and the Maiden imagined so starkly in images such as those below by Hans Baldung Grien.

Death and the Maiden by Hans Baldung, 1510

Death and the Maiden by Hans Baldung, 1518

“In this painting a voluptuous young maiden turns to receive the kiss of her lover, only to discover, to her horror, Death. The skeletal figure gently holds her head, a gesture that belies the finality of his impending bite. His patches of wispy hair and rotting skin mock her flowing tresses and supple flesh. The dark setting, unnoticed at first, is a cemetery as she stands on a gravestone, perhaps her own. This Vanitas picture (an image that alludes to the transience of life) typifies Baldung’s predilection for erotically charged twists to more conventional themes, such as the Dance of Death. ” (Web Gallery of Art)

For more information on the Memento Mori, and other installations on this theme that I had done, click here and here.

See all the photos of the Guanajuato piece here.

Amed Beach Tree Piece: Colour Therapy

Blue Star Bangalows is unique in Amed in having the most beautiful  large leafy tree on  the beach right in front of the restaurant.  It was this tree, and Barb and Tony lying beneath it, that initially attracted us  to this place on our first visit. The day had been very hot and dry and the tree beckoned us from afar like an oasis. No one knows what the name of this tree is but its leaves and branches provide a cool green-ness and shade from the hot Bali sun.

I had purchased skeins of coloured wool from a shop in Levuka, Fiji, intending to wrap a palm tree at the Beachouse, a project which I never got around to while we were in Fiji. But here the low hanging branches of this tree called out for colourful wrapping. After winding ten differently coloured skeins of wool around two branches, inspired by the bamboo pole decorations along the streets in east Bali, I also hung ten bamboo pinwheels obtained from the beachside cemetery on the same branches. These twirled and spun in the wind, looking very much like hands against the blue ocean and sky.

In the evening Ty and I hung up the coloured LED lights to illuminate the pinwheels; the lights also shone on the ground beneath with many varied hues.  The tree and its decorations then provided a theatre set upon which Barb and Komang enacted a stately dance, the colours tinting their faces and hands with a changing kaleidoscope of colour as they moved, effecting a kind of colour therapy. Many thanks to Barb and Komang for their performance!

Read more about colour therapy here.

See the complete set of photos here. If you use the slideshow function, you’ll get an impression of movement.

Amed Beach Mandalas (Jemeluk Bay, Amed, East Bali) & The Rocky [Beach] Horror Picture Show

After having seen the beautiful flower designs created in circular water bowls in Ubud, and seeing the two marble-topped tables sitting on the beach out in front of the Blue Star, I was inspired to create mandalas from whatever material could be found on and around the Jemeluk Bay beach.

I wandered up and down the beach collecting different coloured rocks, seed pods, shells, small bamboo offering baskets, bits of broken crockery, and flowers. These I arranged on the table top in concentric circles fanning out from a central core. Later, in the evening, I added small coloured LED lights that I’d brought from home to the composition. I also added some of the frangipani flowers that I’d picked up at Iluh’s place. The pieces looked beautiful against the dark blue of the sky and sea. Within this setting, illuminated at night with small LED lights, myself, my partner, and several local community members joined in three public performance pieces invoking the spirits of the dead. Such performances are somewhat transgressive within a Balinese society that believes in witchcraft and the dark powers. These pieces were sites of intense interest to the Jemeluk community of fishers and subsistence farmers, none of whom had ever been witness to or participant in anything like it.

As I was working, several people, including the guys and gals at Blue Star Bungalows, came to see what I was up to, and posed in the background, the light colours illuminating their faces and hands in combinations of red, blue, purple and green. On the second evening, things got a bit hysterical, as Lole and Eka and others took turns posing as Count Dracula, with coral sticks as fangs, cackling and laughing in the night.

Today I put together a second set of mandalas, this time using some of the materials gathered from the beachside cemetery which Barb showed us.

There we found lots of dried offering baskets and quite a few more elaborate bamboo structures, all of which were used in burial services and left behind to disintegrate in the elements.

One of these mandalas includes part of a coconut tree, the part that holds the coconuts to the tree itself. It looks quite a bit like an asymmetrical tower, and is vaguely reminiscent of a Balinese cremation tower, the Wadah.

See all of the pictures here and here.




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.

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.

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.