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Celebrating love for Greek Heritage through art April 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.

As Greek New Yorkers get ready for the annual Greek Independence Day Parade Sunday, one Brooklyn man celebrates his Hellenic heritage all year round. 

What started out as a simple garden for George Kortsolakis has turned into an elaborate homage to his native island of Crete. Kortsolakis has re-created the largest of the Greek islands in the 12 by 12 atrium in his side yard in Bay Ridge by using all kinds of trinkets, shells and pebbles.

“I dream about Crete and I think about how to make Crete,” said Kortsolakis. “And I make Crete and what I did is exactly like Crete.” Kortsolakis decorated the island with olive trees and lighthouses, boats, and cars. He uses LiquidNails to keep it all in place. “Everything you see what’s there is there,” he said. “Nothing moves because I put them one by one.”

He also added all kinds of animals including a species that he says is native to his homeland. “We have an animal there we call kri-kri,” said Kortsolakis. “Kri-kri is only in Crete. You know kri-kri is not a deer, it’s not a goat. He jumps from mountain to mountain and the wolf cannot catch him.”

Kortsolakis came to New York in 1955 and says he’s always been able to create art with his hands. He was a tailor who worked for Gucci and Oleg Cassini among other big name designers and says some of his clients included Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra.

But since his retirement, it’s this yard art project that keeps his creative spirit generated. Kortsolakis started his Crete project back in 1992 and says he works on it everyday. “Oh my God, he’s sleeping and dreaming about what he’s going to do the next day,” said his wife Flora Kortsolakis. “And he’s active which is nice. He keeps himself busy.”

But sometimes Kortsolakis admits he may spend too much time on his mini replica. “My wife says ‘come in come in,’” he said. “I say ‘let me do this,’ and sometimes we have argument.”

Still Kortsolakis loves the attention. He’s received numerous awards for his work including one from the borough president. He’s gotten media publicity, and attention from the passerbys who stop to look in. “Every time I go by the block I like to go by this and see it,” said one young Brooklyn resident. “It’s really nice.” “It’s nice,” said another local. “I really never knew what I was though really, to be honest.”

Kortsolakis says he’s not done. He made the clouds and stars and now he wants to add the moon and sun. “It’s going to be the eight wonder of the world, because I have to put a lot of things more inside,” he said. A world as seen through the Greek eyes of George Kortsolakis.

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