DAY FOUR: ARTFUL ENCOUNTERS
I go to the highest point
on Hydra and
lay flat out on my back.
To my right is the orange
haze of the Aegean.
Above me the immense sky.
The only sound is a distant
rumor of Greek music.
I see the lights of Hydra,
a chain of pearls,
bone-white, forming skeletons.
I must have defeated
a minor god to be here.
With my index finger
Hydra: Deeper than the Bones – Soheyl Dahi, 2006
I awaken late on the fourth day to a brisk morning breeze. Perfect weather, I think, for the interview and lazy afternoon lunch that I have scheduled with Dimitrios and Lola.
I am held up even more by the slow train of mules brightly decorated with ribbons, bells and bows as they gently sway up the hill past the house. I greet them with a smile on my face, however, they having become a symbol to me of the slow, natural pace of the island. And son and father, as I learned yesterday, wave with a grin as well as they lead the team on its merry way.
On a spur of the moment decision, I decide to take a new path to port, and turn left instead of right as I would usually do. This leads me on a gentler slope to the port and I discover yet another aspect of the island: namely, the stately villas the teeter upon the hilltop like drowsy felines reclined upon their towering walls, in search of a bit warmth in the ever present glistening sunlight. Each has its own distinct colour, style and decorations, yet all are laden with heavily scented blooms with in a rainbow of hues that light up their pale walls like a Cremonini painting. The paved alleyways and streets are silent, but in the distant one can hear the call of those already open for business or strolling along the port. It brings to a small side street that leads out directly onto the port next to Nereid, one of my favourite shops on the island.
There, as soon as I arrive I run into Alkis, son of the owner of Greco Gold and a famous Hydriot himself, standing outside the shop laughing with a friend. Immediately, he gives me a warm peck on the cheek and shoos me inside, where Dimitrios awaits with his two dogs, playful creatures who greet me as joyously as their master. At once, I feel much warmer, encompassed in the magical circle of Dimitrios’s cheer, boisterous charm, and a persona larger than life that hails down joy and warmth on all fortunate enough to know him.
What charisma, I had thought when we first met, and found even more pleasingly so in the following days. Indeed, like some heady cologne that lingering in one’s thoughts and spirit long after meeting it is a bright aura that, once encountered, never fades from one’s memory.
After a short chat about the upcoming days events, we promise Alkis to drop back by afterwards, before we head off to the Pirate Café and choose a comfortable space outside to sit. Once there, the afternoon takes on a rather surreal quality as we watch in wonder a parade of slender, amazon-like models in a thin veneer of clothing pose in the middle of the square. They seem jubilant despite the bitter wind, listening intently to the energetic to the energetic figure pacing around in front them, dressed casually in loose shorts and a bright t-shirt, camera held casually in his hand. Beside them, a rack of clothing and the ethereal figure of a striking, older woman, recognisable even from a distance. She silently watches with an air distant, yet intense.
Then, from nowhere, an ethereal figure naked of foot skips across the white and brown cobbled stones, bare legs tanned and supple, blonde hair blowing in the wind. She is only wearing a simple dress, yet strangely enough seems indifferent to the cold, as if untouched by the nippy elements of the day that so tortures us normal mortals. Indeed, the ray of light emanating from her for a moment causes even the sun to grimace and look away in shame.
And though it is far, far away from Malibu and years since her days on Baywatch, she is still stunning. No surprise therefore at the heads that turn as the tourists gape, while the locals, slightly more discreet, breeze with by with a brief side-glance, as if her presence there were completely normal, her appearance an every day occurrence.
No matter. She drifts along as if unbothered by its sudden tantrum, nor the numerous eyes which attempt to catch a sly glimpse of such unexpected Iliadic pulchritude.
The shoot is the first of a two-day saga that will provide its own Hellenistic form of diversion, the actors both an integral part of the audience and the intrinsic nature of the drama unfolding on the stage.
Dimitri regards it all with an air at once of delight and savoir faire, to him it being a wonted, if not quotidian event.
“Let’s go inside”, he says. “We can meet up with them after and you look a bit chilled.”
And I am although Wendy, the owner, has been gracious enough to loan me her own delicate blue scarf in the softest of cashmere, which she herself lovingly placed upon my shoulders. Zara, as beautiful and statuesque herself as the models yet sashaying across the promenade, brings us another cup of coffee and regales us with stories of the summer’s passing events while we wait for Lola to arrive.
LOLA MONTES SCHNABEL
Lola, on Hydra for the exhibition of her work at the 2016 Hydra School Project, rushes in a short time later dressed in a thick cashmere sweater and jeans, colorful bangles jangling on both arms. She is tall and statuesque, woman her lions-mane of tawny hair tied up this afternoon in a loose chignon. Nothing, however, distracts from her beauty; neither the casualness of her dress nor her lack of makeup and rebelliously tumbling tresses.
Over soup and tea for Lola and homemade lentils and wine for me, we have a long, winding discussion about life, art and Hydra. Dimitri and Lola tell me about their upcoming mutual projects as well as own artistic work as well as how they met and why they have remained such close friends since.
The reason is easy to understand, both being warm and open, as well as intuitive, intelligent, deep feeling individuals. Despite their fame, there is also nothing snobbish or arrogant about either, a rarity in and of itself considering the glittering milieu from which they come. Indeed, from our very first meeting, I have been treated not only as an equal, but also as a friend.
This is what makes them exceptional, as people and artists. They have an incredibly well developed sense of the real, combined with a deep-seeded appreciation of all that is personally and creatively humble and honest.
Conversation flows easily and the interview goes well, as does the newfound amity budding over our late-afternoon discussion. One that ends for me with a clear understanding of their artistic vision, creative impulses and aesthetic drive, but as well of them as truly unique, good-natured, kind-hearted people.
LOLA AND DIMITRIOS ON LOLA AND DIMITRIOS
At no time was this more apparent than my first night at our first meeting. Within a few minutes of talking, she told me things about my life impossible to know and even harder to guess, a natural intuitiveness that quickly gained her my respect as well as trust and enabled me to open up to a complete stranger in a way I would otherwise find quite difficult and that is her inner charm, her special gift.
It is not surprising therefore that she has gained much admiration for her vision as an artist as much as who she is at heart, for the palette of glorious colors, movement and life that embellish the film she makes and canvases upon which she works. If anything, she is a true child of the Renaissance, able to work simultaneously in several differing mediums.
As a photographer, curator, sculptor, painter, artistic mentor and patron of the arts, Dimitri is a grand Master at Hand as well, turning his skills to various forms and genres with equally devastating talent, riveting eye and undeniable skill. And, like the man himself, his creations bold and vibrant.All in all, two wonderfully artistic individuals drawn to each other by work and mutual respect, as well as a shared passion for life.
This sentiment is reinforced when we meet later for dinner. Dimitri and Lola are in a merry mood, having spent a few hours drawing together and discussing the upcoming show in Athens of her her work that he is curating. What follows is a several more hours of laughter as we share desert and coffee and discuss the strange, but wondrous magnetism of the island that has drawn us to it all.
Indeed, it seems to collect like-minded spirits such as Lola, Dimitri and myself much ,as has the well-feed and contented cats which lounge in the hot sun on its cool rocks and the well-kept donkeys that swish in pride their tails as gawking tourists pass them by.
The Hydriots are a happy group of people I have found and, having spent only a few days here, I understand one, for how could not be in such delirious bliss.
Thus, like each night before, I fall into bed light of soul and happy of heart, knowing that I have found somehow had the incredible fortune to find myself in a truly special, hitherto unfamiliar world.
*Full interviews with Lola Montes Schnabel and Dimitrios Antonitsis following Part VII
COMING UP TOMORROW: PART V