One last driftwood post before hopefully moving on to the current conditions at the Falls of the Ohio. As my knee heals, I have been sifting through my own digital photographs. Sitting at home, I have been spared the relentless heat that has defined our summer. Artist at Exit 0, however, does miss bearing witness to life along the river and can’t wait to get back! I thought I would end this driftwood series by looking at wood that is more organically expressive. As mentioned in a previous post, the river processes a tree by removing its branches into increasingly smaller segments. With all the broken down wood present at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, it can be a challenge to find a piece that implies movement. Here are a few larger examples that I find to be especially sculptural.
I come across many unique pieces of wood in the park that feel as satisfying to me as many abstract sculptures made by man. Walking around a particularly nice piece of driftwood, I am rewarded with different viewpoints that remind me that the object I am regarding share a common space. Here’s a different image of the same dramatic driftwood log and the experience in perception changes as you move around the wood. I notice not only the arc of branches and roots, but the spaces between forms as well.
Here’s another nice piece that I came across this year and it also has many nice sculptural qualities. I love the “S” curve snake-like motion implied in this driftwood.
When I see a piece of wood this twisted and convoluted I’m reminded that nature is the true sculptor here. Doing the shaping are water, wind, and the life force of the tree itself whose innate “intention” is to live.
It’s hard for me to imagine that works of art were considered ” superior” to the “corruptness” of nature. Fortunately, the philosophy of aesthetics is ever-changing, but still could use additional tweaking from what strictly enhances the experiences of our lives to embracing a better appreciation of life in all its forms. Even when we use ourselves as the egotistical measure of all things we should be starting to understand by now that the quality of our very lives and that of our descendants depends upon the overall quality of the natural environment.
When I’m at the river I try to be as present in the moment as much as I can, however, my mind does day-dream a lot about the relationships between art, man, and nature. I believe as my friend Ellen Dissanayake has eloquently expressed through her well-researched books that art has survival value otherwise our species would not have spent thousands of years involved in this activity. My reaction is to try to use my creativity in this special place using the materials I find on hand to try to further this conversation along. The sculptures I make to tell my little stories are combinations of natural and artificial materials. The river-eroded Styrofoam I use for my figurative work is usually so static in form that to enliven it requires finding rootlets and branches that the river hasn’t fully removed all sense of gesture and movement. These pieces become the arms and legs of my characters that help imply animation. The picture above shows roots I collected while walking over the driftwood that the river did not completely break apart.
It’s interesting how often trees enter the picture. One nice touch in the opening ceremony of the recently completed London Olympics was the large tree image that brought nature into the festivities. Key to the life of a tree are the roots that help bring water and nutrients to its tissues. By growing and burrowing through the soil the root system helps buttress the tree and holds the soil together. This is especially important on a riverbank. Since driftwood is essentially deadwood…I didn’t want to wrap up this post on such a dismal note. At the Falls of the Ohio live many tenacious trees and here are images of a few of them that have weathered many a storm, flood, and the activities of man.
Before the idea of climate change and global warming there was already enough change occurring through the busyness of our species. I remember looking at satellite imagery of the Amazon region a few years a go and being able to see the tell-tale grid system of logging roads and farms supplanting the jungle. Deforestation is continuing at an even greater rate now. Our trees need our love and we need the free services they provide. Now for one last look at another resilient tree at the Falls of the Ohio.