I have so much to be thankful for that I don’t need one particular day set aside to remind me of this. Nevertheless, I happily will take the next two days off from my day job, hang out with my family, eat, and of course… fiddle with my art projects! I have an exhibition coming up soon (late January 2014 at the Carnegie Museum of Art and History in New Albany, Indiana) and I have been going through my Falls of the Ohio river junk and thinking about what this show might feature of my work? It’s going to be a two-person show and so there will be a great space to fill.
I recently went through my various river collections including my Fake Food Collection which is ongoing and I have added many new pieces over the past year. The Ohio River has been bountiful in fact over a ten-year period, it has been a regular liquid cornucopia. Although I haven’t counted each item, I’ll wager my Fake Food Collection has about a couple hundred pieces now… all of it collected one piece at a time, off of the riverbank. It’s interesting to think of this stuff as being a part of the fake food tradition. I’ve seen examples of fake Japanese sushi that look amazingly like the real thing…but not at the Falls.
After all these years, I’m still blown away…perplexed…morbidly fascinated and repulsed…insert other adjectives here…that so much of this stuff exits and that most of it is made from plastic. I’m just one person living near a river in the interior of a big country and this is what I’ve found at this single location. Do other American rivers flow with plastic produce and is it all floating towards the oceans? It’s so curious that we use a natural resource like petroleum to produce artificial food even if it is intended to be playthings. It personally strikes me as an affront to nature especially once it materially starts breaking down and merging with the substrates we depend on. Perhaps some of you wordsmiths out there will put your finger on exactly why this stuff is so provoking?
Okay…enough of that, now where’s the beef? Where’s the plastic meat the title of this post promised? I was curious about that myself and so I went through my collection and this is what shook out. Bon appetite!
Since Thanksgiving here traditionally means roast fowl of some sort…I thought I would start with a couple of roasted birds and drumsticks. Of course these items are miniature and I realize that a coin for scale would help. Okay, I’ve found my ruler and if you must know…the biggest object in the above photo is 3.5 inches or 9 centimeters long. The middle drumstick on the bottom row has a dark patina acquired from spending much time in the river.
This last image of roast fowl looks like something (probably the family dog) tried to eat! Notice the teeth marks on the carcass. Now that we are done with the appetizer… let’s move on to the fake hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I know the old salivary glands are probably kicking in now!
Here’s a couple of shots of the items in question. In ten years time, the river has washed up and I have found seven cheeseburgers and hamburgers, three loose bun tops, and yes…two crinkle cut french fries (only one is shown) all are made of various plastic recipes. Several of the burger toys I’m pretty sure were intended as dog toys. Some of the them still have the little squeaker in the bottom bun. The others probably came from children’s play sets. As you can see…they are variously dressed with condiments and the buns go from plain to featuring sesame seeds in white, brown, and black colors. I have some individual burger portraits too. Here’s several examples of how you can have it your way. The larger burgers are roughly life-size to slightly smaller than the real deals.
Ahhh…a black poppy-seed bun heavy on the lettuce and tomatoes.
Here’s a plain bun, segregate the tomato on one side and the lettuce on the other option. The meat here is more of a textural suggestion.
This is a gaudy burger with hints of mustard and two layers of tomatoes!
Not sure if that’s melted yellow cheese or more mustard squeezing over the edge? Looks de-lish nevertheless! If you are wondering what artificial food looks like in a natural environment…here are a two images of plastic meat as I found them in place.
This one has white poppy seeds on the bun, frilly lettuce, and a nice grimy river patina. Let’s leave the burgers and head into new territory. First an image of our next plastic meat subset.
I can remember the joyful moment of finding this rare double score. Two conjoined, Siamese twin plastic hot dogs resting on a bed of Styrofoam and river sticks. Of course, I had to take a picture! Now, for a snapshot of my hot dog collection.
As you can see…these tube steaks and buns vary in size. The largest example at the very top has all of its paint gone, but you can see where a fake mustard squiggle would be. Perhaps some of them are actually intended to be Vienna sausages, but who knows? One particularly prized find is the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile whistle in the bottom right hand corner. I’ve propped it up on a plastic french fry to get a better side view. There are plastic meats that I know are out there (like fake steaks or even slices of plastic pizza with f aux pepperoni), but I have yet to find examples by the river. I do have a code I go by…unless I find it at the Falls of the Ohio…I won’t compromise my collection with non-Falls items. It’s a part of the quest and fun of what scrumptious simulacra will turn up next. Is Rack of Lamb or Pot Roast on the menu…only time will tell? For now, I will content myself with this Double Decker Dog…Happy Thanksgiving from the Falls of the Ohio.
Posted in Absurd, Art, collections, creativity, Falls of the Ohio, recycled art, unusual collection | Tagged absurdity, Art, artificial food, artist at exit 0, Collections, fake food, Falls of the Ohio, flotsam and jetsam, found objects, photography, plastic, plastic hamburgers, toy food | 18 Comments »
Moving past the Woodland Trail Loop, I’m in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park. It’s been more than a month since I last visited this area. One of my favorite trees is here and although I’ve already missed the prime leaf color moment…I’m hoping some autumn splendor remains. Along my walk I come across a driftwood structure that has been stacked teepee-style by other park visitors. I see this kind of expression regularly and there must be a kinship between this activity and piling and stacking rock upon rock. It’s satisfying to do and when you step back from your work…it’s obvious you left an impermanent mark in the landscape that says you were there. The tree I seek is just a short walk away and in no time at all I arrive on the scene.
This old Cottonwood tree with its raised roots looms large in my imagination and is my personal favorite tree out here. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way because there is usually plenty of evidence laying around in the form of empty beer bottles, spent camp fires, and yes…the odd bits of furniture people drag to furnish the room that exists underneath the tree. I’ll wager for some…this is known as the party tree. I was elated to see that most of the junk (old tarps and a red couch) have been removed by some other purists. The Cottonwood tree had already dropped most of its leaves, but there were still a few hanging on. After resting a moment under the tree and admiring the distant view of Louisville across the Ohio River…I decide to turn for home. I was in the process of walking away when I noticed something moving along the fossil rocks. I froze to see if I could get a better look at the creature that was walking towards me. Naturally, my camera is at the ready!
Regular visitors to the Riverblog know that the Falls of the Ohio State Park is home to several out-sized insect species that have uniquely evolved here. All the different species are critically endangered and not to be harmed in any way. I was quick to identify this as the Golden Hour Ground Beetle. It was so named because it usually makes it first appearance of the day when the sun is about to set. Otherwise, it is nocturnal in its habits.
The Golden Hour Ground Beetle does not fly. It relies upon stealth and six strong legs to scramble across any surface. In form, it is not unlike the much smaller tiger beetles that also make the park their home. Unlike the smaller beetles, the Golden Hour Ground Beetle is a scavenger and not a hunter. I suspect this specimen was at the Cottonwood tree because it has learned to find scraps of discarded camping food here. This beetle has fairly large eyes that can gather the most meager light in the darkest of settings. It’s abdomen is banded with a coarse hair that insulates this insect during cold nights. As long as I didn’t make any rash movements, this giant bug was tolerating my presence.
I observed my new “friend” moving to the water’s edge to obtain a drink. I wondered if it had the ability to swim in its survival tool kit? I watched the insect as it searched all around the fossil rock shelves that were created by the river dissolving the old limestone away.
I came across a second giant beetle almost immediately after crossing the small creek that separates the western and eastern sections of the park. Male and females are virtually identical. There are gaps in our knowledge about their life cycle. This specimen was in the process of checking out a short, hollow log. I’m presuming that it was either seeking food or shelter? I think poking my camera through the end of the log spooked this one a little. It ran away, but didn’t go far. I kept my movements to a minimum and after a while it seemed to relax again.
I observed this 14 inch or 35.5 centimeter beetle relaxing on the exposed roots of a Sycamore tree. As the golden hour approached, the beetle stopped seemingly acknowledging this magic moment when everything is bathed in a warm golden light. I did the same watching the sun set before finding my vehicle in the parking lot of the Interpretive Center. To everybody in the wider world…have a great week.
Posted in Absurd, animal art works, Art, art and environment, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, nature photography, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam | Tagged Art, art and the environment, artist at exit 0, cottonwood tree, ecostory, Falls of the Ohio, found materials, ground beetle, insects, nature, nature story, odd insects, photography, recycled materials, Styrofoam, the golden hour, upscaled art | 9 Comments »
A gorgeous fall day with light that was almost impossibly bright. It’s autumn at the Falls of the Ohio State Park. Small groups of migrating birds including various warblers, titmice, and kinglets are moving through the willow tops. Around each stand of willow trees, the ground is covered by yellowing leaves that have been recently dropped. There is a fresh, spicy, vegetative fragrance in the air as the more recently shed leaves give up their essence before curling up and turning brown. Although I have been to the Falls numerous times lately… it’s been a few months since I last visited my old outdoor atelier in the woods. Today seems as good a time to check out how my site has fared in my absence.
The wooden structure that once surrounded my cached materials remains collapsed. Some of the larger pieces of Styrofoam I had gathered from the river have been moved nearby. Stuff has been scattered around, but that is also part of the ongoing history and fate of this material. I may refer to this junk as “mine”, but I don’t feel a true sense of ownership. While this material remains out here…it belongs to all of us. We created, used, and then disposed of it, often carelessly. I don’t have a lot of time to spend out here on this particular day and so I got busy making “something” from this largess. I select a few chunks of polystyrene that will become my latest figure and before long I attract an audience of one.
This Gray Squirrel seemed very intent upon my activities. Perhaps he thought there might be food involved? I have to say that I was really amused by this little animal checking me out. He watched me for a minute or two and then headed deeper into the trees.
The figure I created was not very complex. It’s head was rather skull-like and so I added a found black and white swimming noodle and a pink nose that was the plastic handle to something to give it more “levity”. One of the first places I posed my latest was by the larger remains of former projects that were moved away from the other Styrofoam pieces I had assembled. It doesn’t appear that whomever moved this stuff…did anything else with it.
Coming across a late season mushroom, its whiteness and material consistency reminds me of the polystyrene I salvage to make art with. Both the mushroom and Styrofoam are made from extracted, spent life. The difference is the mushroom is alive and one day will also return to the earth to nourish other life. The Styrofoam on the other hand, is a dead material and probably won’t decompose easily for quite a long period of time. To move away from thoughts about decay and such…I move into the light and to be near the water.
It doesn’t take long before I find just the right location that will represent this figure and day to me in photographs. I rediscover an especially picturesque willow tree whose trunk and roots have been sculpted by time and the river to form a portal or window. This is where I decided to photograph and leave this figure.
Because the ground was muddy and soft…it was also easy to stand my figure upright. My attention wandered back and forth between the possibilities this novel view afforded. I imagined the figure looking back at me through the portal and other shifting points of view. Here’s how the figure looked set up on the other side where I once originally stood.
The day was getting late and it was time for me to move on. On the walk back I came across a recently deceased mouse in the willow leaves. Something about this season brings out the melancholy in me. All life, no matter how small, strikes me as being worthy of note. Using my fingers, I raked the willow leaves away from the mouse’s body and created this parting image. See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio.
Posted in Absurd, animals, Art, art and environment, creativity, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, nature, nature photography, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam | Tagged Art, artistatexit0, autumn, dead mouse, ecostory, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, found art materials, melancholy, nature, nature story, outdoor art studio, photography, public art, sense of place, Styrofoam, willow leaves, willow tree | 14 Comments »
For a few hours more it’s Halloween in Kentuckiana. With a tornado watch in the air and rain for certain, it’s not boding very well for the actual observance. Sorry about that kids. It does seem to me that the actual going door to door and collecting candy is not the same prized occasion it used to be. It seems these days (and here’s where I start sounding old) every holiday has candy and it’s not as special as it used to be. Halloween is becoming more of an indoor activity with parties replacing the ceremonial wearing out of the shoe leather. Still there are decorations and costumes to carry on the tradition. While making my rounds at the Falls of the Ohio State Park…I keep my camera and collecting bag ready for any Halloween related or other spooky items. Among the more common Halloween finds are these plastic jack-o-lanterns. The bigger ones are used for actual candy collecting and the smaller pieces are novelties for the table. Here are a couple more the river has washed up.
Of course, all these novelties are made from discarded plastic which may turn out to be the scariest thing of all. Walking near the river’s edge, I will often be startled by sights of a spectral nature. The ghosts of objects and functions past hang mournfully from the branches of the willow trees. Observe these two ghostly images…if you dare.
During one recent high water moment along the river’s edge…I spotted what appeared to be “something” hanging upside down from a tree branch. It was animated, black, and hairy and after snapping a quick photo…I got out of there. In the back of my mind the words “cat demon” formed. I didn’t want to hang around and find out more. The hairs on arms were standing straight up! Judge for yourself.
Today we had a Halloween party at the art program that I manage. Needing a costume I had to do some quick overnight thinking and making…which often produces interesting results. How many times has having a deadline served you well? Looking at the river junk I have saved at my house…I created this head-gear? or weird sculptural hat to fill the bill. Here’s my “costume” photographed against a black cloth that makes it look like an art object. Imagine wearing this on top of your head!
The foundation is the Styrofoam shell of an old bicycle helmet. The effigy head is actually recycled from an old, now destroyed sculpture I made and left on site at the river. After the rest of the body fell apart…I wandered bye and salvaged the head since it was still in good shape. I had no idea what I would do with this head…until this opportunity presented itself. The eyes are plastic bottle caps from old dish washing detergent bottles. The red mouth is more waste plastic as is the yellow hand on top. The arms, nose, and ears are wood bits. The neck (which you can’t see very well in this image) is a polystyrene mushroom. The bungy cord which forms a chin strap, is the only element that did not come from the river. I have a beaver-chewed willow stick running through the head and into the base. A little glue holds it all together. If one can “prize” finding discarded Styrofoam…then I confess to liking the shells from old bicycle helmets. I have used several over the years to make various turtle and tortoises. Here’s an example that became the basis for my Cottonwood Turtle story from a few years back.
Well, it’s time to call it a day. Just a few intrepid souls in costumes made it to the door on this dismal night. They were well rewarded with chocolate and bubble gum. To close, here’s one final image from the river…what would Halloween be without witches and here’s one of the best. Trick or Treat from the Falls of the Ohio.
Posted in Absurd, art and environment, creativity, Falls of the Ohio, Green, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam | Tagged Art, artist at exit 0, creativity, Falls of the Ohio, found materials and objects, Halloween, photography, plastic, plastic jack-o-lantern, recycled art, river junk, strange hat, Styrofoam, unusual head gear, witch cup | 12 Comments »
It started with one. I had been picking them up for years…odd, yellow ocher orbs that the river marooned in various sections of the Falls of the Ohio State Park. Initially, I was intrigued by them because I knew they had to be something, but what? Early on I formed this association in my mind that these balls were giant pearls and they were gifts to me from the beautiful river. Made from a lightweight yet solid, hard foam, these balls weathered in very individualistic ways. Many of them had acquired a nice patina from their river journey perhaps floating long distances for many years. For a while, each time I would go on one of my excursions to the Falls of the Ohio, the river made sure that I would stumble upon one or more of these balls. Into the collecting bag they would go. Eventually, I found out what kind of balls they are and in case you haven’t guessed yet…here are a couple more images that will reveal what they originally looked like. I’ll start with one of these balls in the process of transforming, followed by one that is more intact.
My river pearls are the cores of contemporary softballs. How did all these softballs end up in the river? When I was a kid, a softball had a hard rubber ball in the interior which was surrounded by what seemed like miles of string wrapped tightly around the rubber ball. A two piece leather cover was then sewn over this “string ball” which completed the softball and was now ready to be played with. For those who might be unfamiliar with softball…it’s a game similar to baseball, but the ball is about twice as large as a standard baseball. I collected these softball cores for years, but especially during the early phase of my Artist at Exit 0 Project. After each river trip I would dutifully fill up boxes in my home’s basement with my found balls and then forget about them. Over time, I started picking up lots of different objects and using them in various ways as materials for my sculptures or as offbeat collections of odd items I was creating. I guess I always knew that I would return to these balls and make something interesting with them someday. That day arrived last week.
I had no idea how many of these balls I had collected or passed up over the years? This recent photo taken in my Louisville backyard shows about 110 out of the 160 balls I did save. I decided to act on my river pearls idea by making an impractically large pearl necklace. I carried all the balls I had to my friend Tom’s sculpture studio and used his drill press to drill a hole through each ball. That was a bit more of a technical challenge than I had first conceptualized. Most of these spheres are not perfectly round. In fact their imperfections (which I really like as evidence of wear by the river and elements) made each drilling a unique experience. Eventually, I got the job done and laid out many of the balls on the concrete pad in my backyard. Just as I was beginning to thread and knot braided nylon cord through the balls…the sky let loose a monstrous rain storm. By day’s end, nearly seven inches or 17.5 centimeters of rain fell and flooded parts of my backyard and basement! It was like being visited by the river in an interesting way. I had initially “graded” each ball by condition and color to form transitions in this giant strand, but the water and now mud from my backyard changed the color of each ball. I decided to make my first piece one hundred balls long. There is a knot tied with the cord that keeps each ball from touching. At my local hardware store I found a brass hook that I could use for a clasp to close my giant necklace. All that was left to do was to return to the river…to the place that I found all of these balls and inspiration and find a way to give thanks for these many gifts.
Loading the necklace into a large red plastic tub I carried my artwork down to the Ohio River. One hundred balls became surprisingly heavy and I was concerned about twisting an ankle or tweaking my knee as I walked over the driftwood. I came to a sunny place under the railroad bridge and laid the necklace out upon the sand for the first time.
Here’s a look as some of the weathering that occurred with a few of the balls. And here is one of the first images of the necklace joined together.
This was okay for a trial run, but I had other images in mind. I have always loved the willow trees in the park and I chose one of my favorite ones to “wear” my river pearl necklace. Yes, it’s a hopelessly romantic gesture, but I felt like “celebrating” this tree in a special way. Here are a few more images.
Moving closer to the river, I stopped by an old willow that was barely alive. I draped my necklace over its old exposed roots and created a few more images.
Once in a while, a park visitor would walk by and look in my direction and continue on as though I was engaged in a most ordinary activity! If I had stumbled across this scene…I think curiosity would compel me to say something. Next is another detail from my eccentric strand of pearls.
With the river within sight, I lifted my bucket of balls and headed towards the fossil rocks. It was a sunny, but windy day and my next idea was to put the necklace into the water.
I found a pool of water surrounded by Devonian inspired limestone that would prevent my necklace from being carried away by the current’s flow. Still, the wind kept changing the configuration and blowing the balls against the rocks.
I used a beaver-chewed willow stick I found on the bank to guide my necklace into shape between photos. The necklace which I now had named “La Belle Riviere” was the name originally given by French missionaries upon encountering the Ohio River for the first time.
It seems appropriate that the river which played a large part in bringing these balls to this shore…would continue to influence how this piece would be perceived.
I enjoyed how the gourd-colored balls harmonized with the surrounding riverine landscape. I felt some sense of accomplishment in creating this piece and being able to return it to the Falls environment to create this site specific work. It was also a fitting ten-year anniversary artwork since “La Belle Riviere” began with that first found ball a decade a go. I will see how well it holds its own in a gallery environment since I want to include this piece in a two person show I’m participating in this January. After these river photos…I loaded the necklace back into its container and began the slow walk back to my car. While making this work, I did have one admirer that found the work irresistible and I will end this post with its image. So long…from the Falls of the Ohio.
Posted in Absurd, Art, art and environment, collections, creativity, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, Ohio River, public art, recycled art | Tagged Art, artist at exit 0, Falls of the Ohio, fossil rocks, found materials, giant necklace, La Belle Riviere, nature, photography, recycled art, repurposed art, sense of place, site specific artwork, softball core, willow trees | 30 Comments »
Red-faced and bizarrely hairy, the unique caterpillar of the Tussock moth was munching its way through a maple leaf. Everything about its appearance says I’m not tasty and leave me alone. It’s now October and it won’t be much longer before the first frost and freezes arrive and with it the colder temperatures which will quiet insect life at the Falls of the Ohio until next year. The caterpillar inspired me to post a few other entomological images taken in the park. I confess that I have always liked insects as examples of how diverse life can be. I’m amazed at the incredible variety and forms that our six-legged friends can assume. Here’s another really weird caterpillar that I found at the Falls that I just haven’t been able to identify through any of my field guides. Does anybody out there in blog land recognize this?
This fluorescent green caterpillar has dramatic eye spots on its posterior that would incite a predator to strike there first. Its anterior is located on the opposite end and I would have fallen for this trick too, but noticed that it was walking backwards. I wondered once it completed its metamorphosis…would the adult be a moth or butterfly? Maybe some day I will stumble upon and collect a large cocoon I don’t recognize and I’ll take it home and watch a miracle as it emerges from its silken home.
During this time of year, certain willow trees at the Falls are exuding sap which draws a variety of insect life including various flies, hornets, and butterflies to these sweet “licks”. Whether the flowing sap is due to disease or injury is unknown to me? The large bullet-like hornets are so preoccupied with sipping the sap that they ignore me. To test this, I’ve carefully touched them with my finger while they were feeding and they remained docile. I was walking through the tall grass when I noticed a large flying insect land on the bush next to me. Despite its wonderful camouflage I was able to locate our next insect after a short search.
This is the Chinese Mantid which I read was introduced into this country in 1896. It is the largest praying mantis you are likely to come across in the United States and this specimen was about four inches or ten centimeters long. I’ve seen them grow larger, but not in this park. In fact, this is only the second mantid I’ve seen out here. There are several native species, but they are smaller and more obscure. And now, it’s time to reveal my most spectacular discovery which is a near but harmless relative of the praying mantis. Here is a picture of its head.
And now, for the rest of its body which is about two feet long or roughly sixty centimeters. I came upon this unique life form casually walking across the driftwood on its way to somewhere else.
Although as insects go this is a giant…it is also an extremely fragile creature. It is a member of the walking stick family. It relies on slow movements and its cryptic forms to merge with its surroundings. The Falls Phasmid is strictly a vegetarian and eats the foliage from a variety of different trees.
I came across this specimen in broad daylight. I had always heard that they were nocturnal and chose to restrict their movements during the day to avoid detection. Walking stick insects are among the largest insects we have. This species is additionally strange in that its head, thorax, and abdomen are so clearly differentiated. Some scientists have gone so far as to suggest a bit of mimicry at work here. On the surface it does seem to possess a superficial resemblance to a giant ant which might be enough to dissuade predators from attacking it.
I did observe this particular Phasmid making return trips to a particular willow tree where it clung to a nest-like structure that was hanging down from a branch. The meaning of this structure was not immediately apparent. Perhaps the Falls Phasmid uses this form to help it overwinter? Keeping a respectful distance away, I did see the stick insect walking slowly over the riverbank, but I couldn’t tell if it was searching for something in particular and I did not witness it feeding.
Originally, the Falls Phasmid may have had the ability to fly. Other walking stick insects from around the world have vestigial wings that suggest a different past. Our specimen lacks even the most superficial suggestion of wings which hints at an ancient lineage. Perhaps all stick insects evolved here first and spread around the world much later?
I watched the Falls Phasmid for a while and took a bunch of photographs of it before leaving the park. I’m curious about that tree that it likes to hang out on and so will check it the next time I’m here. On my way out of the park, I also came around this wonderful Viceroy butterfly and thought that this would make a fitting image to end this post. When I think of the butterflies that inhabit the park…this is the species that comes to mind first for me.
Posted in Absurd, animal art works, animals, Art, art and environment, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, Originality, recycled art, sculpture | Tagged absurd story, Art, artist at exit 0, bugs, Falls of the Ohio, found materials, giant stick insect, insects, nature, nature photography, nature story, Phasmids, photography, recycled art, sense of place, site specific art | 10 Comments »
I wish I could remember the exact written passage where the image of a bottleneck captured my imagination. Back tracking through my books has not revealed the exact source, however, I do remember that the context came from biology and more specifically the history of life. Of the five great extinction cycles, the one that closed out the Permian period (roughly 245 million years a go) was the most brutal and efficient. All those trilobites that had been so successful for so long hit the wall. At this time the super continent Pangaea existed. Millions of years of continental drift and the resulting global climate change are the leading hypothetical causes for this extinction. Regardless, the effect was that the majority of life’s diversity as it existed then and which filled up that particular metaphoric bottle…did not make it through the bottleneck. Fortunately, some life did survive, but it would take subsequent millions of years for life to evolve and radiate out to regain its former glory.
We like to think that we stand atop life as its ultimate achievement. We frequently miss the bigger picture of which we are small part and are even oblivious to the effects we have on everything else around us. The bottleneck effect has been adapted by other systems to illustrate that which is a hindrance or impediment to progress. The basic idea, however, remains the same. Whatever is in the bottle is going to get squeezed on its way out that is if the contents do in fact make it out. In my own blog, I don’t mention U.S. politics much, but lately it is in the news and it’s troublesome. Our seeming inability to govern ourselves…to in effect allow small selfish groups to manufacture bottlenecks strikes me as self-defeating and doesn’t bode well for the future.
At the Falls of the Ohio State Park, I literally find bottlenecks all the time. Unlike their plastic counterpoint, the glass ones don’t break down as much. There must be something about the material strength of glass that is increased when it is forced into a tube that makes it extra resilient. Over time, their sharp edges do get worn down and their surfaces become frosted through tumbling in the sand. Personally, I find glass to be a far more attractive material than plastic. I’ve come to look at our artifacts in much the same way I might regard a fossil as examples of objects that have been touched by and affected by life.
There’s something about the process of “finding” that is compelling if not compulsive for me. I try to stay watchful for opportunities, particularly if I come across an image or material that I can apply through my art. The process of collecting, examining, and comparing is also personally meditative and relaxing. I started photographing bottlenecks years a go with no goal in mind. Just more documented stuff among all the other stuff along the riverbank that I come across each time I visit the park. Looking over my photographs, forgotten images of bottlenecks would catch my eye again.
Other than take contextual images, I guess the next thing I did with bottlenecks was to stick them on the ends of branches and sticks. This allows the light to play through the glass revealing its jewel-like attractiveness. It might also cause someone else to notice that there is a lot of smashed glass in the park. Granted, the river floats a lot of bottles in here from upriver, but there is also a lot of drinking that goes on here via the local folks. Why pack your empties out when you can just throw them on the ground? One bottleneck on a branch led to more…in fact the whole arc of these now bottleneck projects has trended in the “more” direction.
I guess this last image is a bottleneck candelabra? I find many of the bottlenecks I’ve used near stands of willow trees by the water’s edge. I suppose bottles that float in are snagged in the tree’s exposed root system eventually breaking through contact with floating logs and leaving the shards in place? People also throw bottles against the trees which has the same effect. Rarely, do I need to walk very far to find enough glass to create a small project and image.
Here’s one project made from bottlenecks collected around one particular willow tree. I liked the way they looked collectively stuck in the mud and their tubular arrangement reminded me of fossil corals which also references the Falls of the Ohio. Here’s a few other similar site specific groupings of bottlenecks.
The next couple of images are from my last bottleneck piece. In addition to lots of waste glass…I also find discarded fishing line, often in the same places. I brought these two materials together for this ephemeral work. Recently, I was talking with a good friend of mine and we were remarking about how much of our lives seem mediated by and require reading various kinds of screens. This last glass project may have something to do with that because the bottlenecks are arranged in a flat, parallel screen hanging from a horizontally growing willow branch. I wonder if anyone else ever saw this and what they may have thought about it?
Well there you have it! I suppose these bottleneck projects will now crop up on occasion like my found coal pieces do as intimate site specific expressions. For now, it’s enough to present them as images without trying too hard to extract every bit of meaning from them. Bottlenecks in the broader sense are challenges. May we always remain open to meeting them. So long from the Falls of the Ohio.
Posted in Absurd, art and environment, collections, creativity, environmental art, Originality, public art, recycled art, sculpture | Tagged Art, art and the environment, artist at exit 0, bottleneck, bottleneck effect, environmental art, ephemeral art, extinction cycles, Falls of the Ohio, found objects, glass, nature, Permian period, photography, recycled art, site specific art | 13 Comments »
Older Posts »