For those of you in the know, another role we are proud to fill is that of Events Coordinator and Official Tour Guide for the City Reliquary Community Museum and Civic Organization in Williamsburg. We’re essentially a collection of collections of NYC stuff, from vintage Brooklyn seltzer bottles to the “2nd Ave” sign from the original 2nd Avenue Deli. The founders of the home-grown museum, Dave Herman and Bill Scanga, are two collecting-obsessed NYC nerds (god bless ‘em) who wanted to share their personal collections with the rest of the world. It started as a window-front museum on the corner of Grand and Havemeyer streets in 2003 and has since moved into a storefront space just around the corner, at 370 Metropolitan Avenue. Every so often, another city organization learns about the CR, and has Dave and Bill out to give a mini-lecture about the stuff in our museum. So it was that we found ourselves in Bay Ridge last Wednesday night, giving a talk to the Bay Ridge Historical Society.The talk went smoothly, as it generally does, in a room full of senior citizens who were eager to hear anything about their New York of old. We talked about the Croton Reservoir while showing off a brick from pipelines; we told the story of the Brooklyn Bridge, and passed around some U-bolts from the underside of the walkway; we related the history of the Statue of Liberty and displayed a book of vintage SOL postcards. Afterwards, VP of Collections Bill Scanga and I took off by bike for old-school red sauce Italian joint the New Corners Restaurant (open since 1936). But we were sidetracked, fortuitously enough, by the massive art installation of the island of Crete, by local artist George Kortsolakis, on 79th St between Ridge Blvd and Third Ave.For the past twenty years, Kortsolakis, an immigrant from Greece, has been living and working on his dream: rebuilding a miniature version of his homeland in the front yard of his Bay Ridge home. Sheltered in an ornate gold-painted shack, Mr. Kortsolakis’s Crete is a majestic, multi-hued thing, with cobalt blue pebbles making up the ocean, broken chunks of cement for the roads, plants for trees, little Lego men and toy ships in the harbor, even a miniature Icarus, with wax and feather wings, lounging on the beach. His island of Crete is just seven feet long, but within it lives an exhaustive universe of houses, cars, and creatures, including the krikri, a wild goat-type creature that is said to leap from sheer mountainside to mountainside.
Although it was nearing 10pm on a weeknight, we walked up to Mr. Kortsolakis’ front door and rang the bell. A tiny, stoop-shouldered old man, complete with glasses, thinning hair and a bushy white moustache came to the door. We inquired if it was his artistic creation, and he resoundingly replied “Yes! Is mine! You want to see? Wait, I turn on the lights for you!” Five minutes later, the installation was awash in blinking Christmas lights. Mr. Kortsolakis proceeded to give a history, in his thick Greek accent, of his ever-evolving obsession. We tried to tell him that we run a museum in Williamsburg where this would be a perfect fit, but there was no getting a side word in between his excited life-and-art story and explanation the incomparable model below. Just as well — to remove the model from the man’s front yard would be as foolish as a certain mythical figure flying too close to the sun.
More pictures from the evenings events can be viewed here.
(originally published on www.thelmagazine.com on 4/23/08)