It’s the Falls of the Ohio and it’s nearly midwinter. The quality of the light feels like it’s coming from banks and banks of incandescent tubes in the sky. It doesn’t even feel like light, but more like a heavy presence more akin to fog than photons.
There are fewer people out today. The last of the last snow lingers on in the cool places and tomorrow it will probably be gone. I’m trudging along the river and getting muddy. I use the stick I brought along to test its sticky depth and tap the thickness of what ice I encounter.
Close to shore dozens of mallard ducks are dabbling in the muck. I wonder what they are finding to eat? Whatever it is it seems to be worth the energy expense to go after it. The normally iridescent colors on the drakes are now subdued and await the splendor of the sunlight to reveal their gaudiness. Watching the ducks I slip and slide in the less secure places along the riverbank. My wife is not going to like seeing these shoes! Once in a while, I find a good spot to rest and scrape mud off the bottoms with the edges of a stick.
I walk by familiar spots along the way to my open air studio. I like checking out the uprooted trees and appreciate their exposed root masses like the fine subterranean sculpture they seem to me. Seeing a tree like this is an odd sensation because you know the roots that supported and nourished this tree claimed a space in the earth that was hidden from view. I often think of these conceptualized spaces. There is a complete lack of greenery that lays the structural aspects of the park open for inspection. Sometimes the driftwood feels like the bones of the river.
The sculpture group I’ve come to call the “The Choir” is still standing. I’ve enjoyed seeing what happens to these guys. Visitors are still playing with them and I notice small changes here and there. As the eyes, ears, noses, and mouths fall off, the character of each personage changes. The starkness and artificiality of my material choices contrasts with all the wood that surrounds them. When I work in my spot, “The Choir” watches my back. I like this recent photo of my studio spot.
The wood tells its own story. All the sticks that wiggle, twist, and reveal character are grouped together and await their potential to be realized in just the right sculpture. This site looks like it could be ancient. I remember photos seen in a book about Andeevo in Russia where entire winter structures were made from the remains of mammoth skeletons covered in prepared hides. That was life 15,000 years a go. I can picture my site covered by a tarp and maybe I’ll try that this year if the river allows it and the opportunity presents itself.
Meet “Skippy” who is named after the glass I used for one of his ears which came from the bottom of a peanut butter jar. I found it in the sand. The raised letters told me the brand name. “Skippy” is also made from Styrofoam found along the way, plastic fishing bobbers, rubber, a plastic mouth guard, and various woods. The “Choir” is visible behind the studio site.
I don’t have a good story to go along with this figure. I did kind of imagine that Skippy was checking out the river line and looking for fresh and unusual flotsam and jetsam.
Cold, wet, and muddy Skippy entertains himself by looking for colorful or unusual artifacts such as these found on this trip. The joy in finding is its own reward.
So many lost toys almost all of the time. Each time I come out here I find some plastic representation of life. I usually take a picture of the object as found and then it goes into my collecting bag. I like that relationship between images and objects…although the years worth of objects is starting to take up serious space.
This is where I last saw Skippy. He was standing by the snow with a willow tree framing the view behind his head. The bright blue of a plastic drum adding a note of wondrous color in an otherwise drab riverscape. We have a way to go before Spring and everyone I know is already sick of winter. I’m going to try to stay positive and look for the beauty in the common place. I wonder what the groundhog’s shadow will say?