Plastic Goddesses

At the Babayan Culture House in Ibrahimpasa, I loved working with found objects and actually found quite a few bits and pieces with which to work. At Dalyan, while I had planned to continue in this vein, the poor weather and lack of available found goodies stymied me. Now, in Kas, I have found some objects, and the weather and ruined venues are congenial. A few days ago, while out riding my rental bike around town, I took a slightly different route back to my apartment from the antique theatre, and came upon the Hellenistic temple that I’d been looking for without success the day before. It is not actually much of a temple, more like a pile of stones, but a few meters of the foundation walls have been left standing. The temple is in what is now a local family’s backyard; their roosters and hens use it for a feeding ground. While I was walking around the temple taking pictures, I spied through a wire fence, leaning against a rock wall in what looked like the family’s not-yet-planted vegetable garden, mannequins – one full body female, complete with painted hair and makeup, two headless female torsos, two sets of legs (from different bodies), and three feet.

Found objects at the Hellenistic temple ruins

With my minuscule amount of Turkish, and many hand gestures, I asked the family, who had emerged from their home to see what I was doing, if I could have the mannequins. They seemed delighted to have me take them away. At first, I was only going to take the complete one but they persuaded me to take them all by giving me a long rope with which to tie up the legs for transport. Locking my bike up at the temple ruins, I carried the first plastic body through town and up the hill to my apartment, drawing many quizzical looks and stares from passersby. Next, I roped up the two sets of legs, and put the two torsos in my string laundry bag, and dragged the whole complex over to the Doric House Monument Tomb, a 4th c bce gravesite on the hillside opposite the antique theatre. While walking slowly with this burden, my movements generated ferocious barking from a local dog who seemed outraged at my excess of body parts and peculiar motion.

Inside the tomb, carved along the top of the wall facing the entrance door, is a relief of 26 headless dancing women; unfortunately, it is barely visible now because the wall has been so blackened from people lighting fires inside the tomb. Having in mind this frieze and the caryatids at the Acropolis in Athens, those beautiful headless female statues holding up the roof of one of the temples, I positioned the torsos and legs in various ways inside and outside the tomb. Finished for the day, I left the mannequins stacked up in the corner on the stone benches.

Plastic Goddesses

Looking from my balcony, I can see the House Tomb on the hillside; the next morning I could also see that there were people clambering in and on the tomb. When I arrived tomb-side, four young men skipping out of school were already there roasting wieners. While they ate, I continued working with the mannequins. My original plan had been to paint the plastic bodies and move them around the hillside. However, while I was working, the four seemed very interested in what I was doing, so I asked them if they’d like to paint the figures. They agreed with enthusiasm. I said they could do whatever they wanted, with the exception that no “bad words” were to be painted and no paint was to go anywhere on the tomb itself or the grounds around it. The four guys worked in pairs, selecting the colours and patterns themselves.

(*note: I later found out, from Nils Filmer at the Gumusluk Academy, that the colours chosen are those of two Turkish football teams. The yellow-red combination represents Galatasaray and the yellow-blue Fenerbahce)

Later, I took the full body mannequin over to the theatre and took several pictures of it there; however, by then the wind was howling and it was difficult to position the body without it falling. I leaned it against a beautiful hilltop tree and enjoyed watching the multicoloured crepe paper ribbons unfurl from the mannequin’s hand and ripple wildly in the breeze.

Two days later, still intending to paint the headless torsos and legs I had left behind in the tomb, I returned to it to find that someone had positioned the bodies on the stone benches inside as if they were the corpses that had originally occupied the tomb. This person had also reattached the feet to one of them, albeit on the wrong legs. So, instead, I decided to paint their back sides, which the young men had left unpainted, and put them back on the tomb benches again in the same prone position to see what would happen to them next. I like the idea of other people coming across them and interacting with them as they wish.

After an hour or so of that, I hopped on my bike and rode down to the harbour where there were craft tables set up with merchandise for sale. I purchased a small Turkish doll, sort of like a Barbie, from the Busy Bees expat group; this group gives all the sale proceeds to handicapped children in the area. The doll has long brown hair, enormous eyes, bendable limbs and a rather cute pair of high heeled sandals – I decided to move her around town, too.

The next day, I carried the top portion of the complete mannequin, and the tiny doll, to the 4th c bce Lycian tomb cut into the cliff face just down the road from my apartment and photographed them in it. Later, I took them to the Kucuk Cahil (Little Pebble) Beach, the beach and derelict rusted bathing platform at the edge of town, and the promontory overlooking the bay on which are Kas’ two helicopter landing pads.

Plastic Aphrodite

In ancient times, this area of Turkey used to worship Apollo (the sun god), Artemis (the moon goddess) and, particularly, Leto, their mother. The lover of Zeus, Leto was commanded by Zeus’ wife Hera, to spend an eternity wandering from country to country and spent most of her enforced holiday time here in Lycia. Most of the temples in this area are dedicated to these three deities. In addition, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is said by Hesiod to have been born from the sea foam generated by Oranos’ castrated genitals at Cyprus, not too far east and south of here. I thought about these ancient legends as I selected sites for my plastic goddesses.


Here is a poem dedicated to Aphrodite (called the “Kyprian” or “Kypris” because she was born on Cyprus) by the 3rd c bce Greek woman poet Anyte:

“Kypris keeps this spot”

Kypris keeps this spot.

She loves to be here,

Always looking out

From the land over

The brilliant sea. She

Brings the sailors good

Voyage, and the sea

Quivers in awe of

Her gleaming image.

See more pictures here.