Posted in animals, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, Falls of the Ohio, nature, nature photography, Ohio River, tagged a moment in time and place, American goldfinch, Art, artistatexit 0, birds, black willow, Falls of the Ohio State Park, nature, nature photography, photography, Tree, vignette, willow blooms on May 3, 2013 |
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Falls of the Ohio State Park…early May. Many of the willows along the river whose fibrous roots are holding fast are also in bloom.
The yellow flowers are catkins and open before the long, thin leaves appear. It’s warm and windy along the river. Tomorrow it will be different. American goldfinches are feeding on the willow blooms.
The sound of rolling river waves against Indiana are interrupted every now and then with goldfinch song. The males are becoming more and more yellow. Does the pollen of the black willow also help this bird?
For me, it’s blooming willow on Oak’s Day. The derby is tomorrow. I’ve a lot of river to explore for a few hours more. Who knows what else I might find?
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Posted in Absurd, animal art works, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, fresh water, nature, recycled art, Styrofoam, watershed, tagged Art, artistatexit0, birds, creativity, Falls of the Ohio, imaginary bird, nature, photography, recycled art, river, sand drawing, Styrofoam, water on March 31, 2013 |
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I come to the river because I like the sound of the water. It does more than act upon the sand and driftwood here. After hanging out at the Falls of the Ohio I feel relaxed because the rhythm of the water is also the rhythm of nature. The waves that move back and forth slow my own internal sense of timing and puts me in sync with the universe. The work-a-day life begins to lift away and a calm seeps in. I don’t even need to be aware of the sound. I know it is there and I trust it. This restorative quality of water is not to be underestimated in this fast-paced, multitasking world and it is free if you are open to accepting its magic.
Spring is late in arriving this year. It’s been an up and down cycle of mostly cool to cold temperatures. Also, it seems that the river has been a little higher for a bit longer than I remember over the past several years. 2012 was positively balmy compared to this one. It’s amazing how much difference a year can make . Today is nice and the sun is shining and I get an early start on the day.
Currently, there is plenty of driftwood lining the riverbank. By studying how the driftwood was deposited, I get a sense for the water and how high it rose over the land. Since this is Spring…I’m also on the lookout for seldom seen birds that are traveling through our area. On my last outing, I was walking over the lines of driftwood when I spotted an unusual shorebird. I managed a few images of it and I would like to share those with you now. It was right in the middle of the driftwood and if it hadn’t moved…I might have gone in a different direction and missed it. I live for these moments.
This is the increasingly rare Great Lakes Oystercatcher, (Haematopus polystyrenus) as seen at the Falls of the Ohio State Park. It has a large red bill like the two other oystercatcher species that live along our country’s marine coastlines. Unlike them, this bird is strictly Midwestern and prefers fresh water wetlands, creeks, streams, and rivers. The large bill is used to pry open the shells of fresh water clams and mollusks…although it is known to take crustaceans and other invertebrates upon opportunity.
The reason this bird is becoming scarce has everything to do with it losing its main food source. The Tennessee and Ohio River Valleys are the world’s epicenter for fresh water mollusk diversity which is a little known fact. Unfortunately, because of the many changes that have occurred with our rivers, these clams have become our most endangered animals with many species having become extinct already. These clams are fascinating in their own right and have complex life cycles. Wherever you find them is usually a good indicator of the quality of the water. The Great Lakes Oystercatcher won’t find much in the way of its preferred food at the Falls. The original clam diversity is missing and these days you are more likely to encounter Zebra Mussels or Asiatic Clams and both are well-established, invasive, nonnative species.
I was delighted by this almost comical bird which is rarely observed in this park. It went about its business examining the driftwood and probing the sand for morsels of food. I also watched it fly to the water’s edge and it was intent on checking out what the river was washing ashore. The whole encounter lasted about 20 minutes before the bird flew off for parts unknown. Satisfied with the day, I gathered my collecting bag and headed home.
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Posted in Absurd, animal art works, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, nature, nature photography, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, watershed, tagged Art, art and nature, artist at exit 0, birding, context, creative ornithology, Falls of the Ohio, nature, nature story, photography, recycled art, Styrofoam on February 4, 2013 |
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The Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio is even higher now since my last visit with the fishermen. We have had some wild weather in the interim. First it gets unseasonably warm and then a cold front collides with a wet weather system originating in the Gulf of Mexico. The results of this can be very dangerous as this is the perfect recipe for a tornado outbreak which did occur south of here. My family was awakened to the sound of tornado warning sirens at 4:30ish in the morning. We began that day in the basement of our house which was a rude awakening even for the family dog. Luckily, we didn’t experience any damage although it rained hard and was very windy. And after the cold front blasted through it became extremely cold and was followed by snow. I think we have seen the gamut of winter weather and I was glad to hear the “groundhog” did not see its shadow in Pennsylvania meaning that winter would come to a normal end this year. That is if you believe animals can predict the weather?
I am certain this time that my outdoor studio under the willows is history by now. The Ohio River has claimed the spot and my cache of art materials. Unfortunately, there is a ready re-supply floating in the water. It seems I begin many a post with what amounts to a weather report, but please bear with me. My blog concerns itself with the local conditions which are the context that my adventures and stories are set in. I’m also amazed and concerned that I can detect variations in our weather patterns having lived in this area for so long. Much of the time I feel I’m bearing witness to events of importance to us all. What is happening here is also occurring in other places in the world. As I was walking through the woods on this day, I was surprised by the bird life I was encountering when I expected to see nearly nothing. My Eastern Bluebird friends were still hanging around and they had company. I saw White-breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Brown Tree Creepers and many more especially near the river’s expanding edge. I also saw and photographed another amazing bird which makes up the bulk of this post.
Fellow bird watchers had put the alert out that an unusual visitor was seen hanging out at the Falls. A young, male Snow Cock was seen near the Woodland Loop Trail which is a bird not seen in these parts since the late 19th century. As you can imagine this is a northern bird used to the cold and snow…in fact it depends upon these conditions for its survival. The Snow Cock (like some ptarmigan species) turns nearly white in winter. The rest of the year it sports plumage that is more like leaf camouflage. Regardless of the season, the Snow Cock is a cryptic animal and is shy and retiring. Except of course when it’s time to choose a mate when the males make it a point to be as noticeable to their own kind as possible. I was hoping the bad weather would cause this wayward Snow Cock to linger and I was rewarded by its presence. I took as many photographs as possible. I have a feeling that I won’t ever see this exact species out here again.
The Snow Cock is also called the “Snow Turkey” and “Styro-grouse” because of the large fan of tail feathers it uses for courtship displays. That’s how I found this particular bird which wasn’t all that wary. The young male was rehearsing his dance and song and establishing a lek or territory where he would fight other males for the attention of the females. Although this bird wasn’t going to hang out at the Falls forever, it was nevertheless, practicing this important survival skill. Other interesting field marks included a head crest, an unusual beard growing from his chest, and a long bill for seeds and insects.
I watched the Snow Cock look for just the right spot to strut its stuff. It was frequently hopping from one vantage point (usually a tall stump) to the ground and back. The call of the Snow Cock as you might guess is very chicken-like and not particularly beautiful in its own right. To my eye, it seemed very interested in the water which was noticeably spreading over the land. This might be the first flood it has ever experienced?
I kept my distance from the bird and quietly followed it through the woods. I observed it drinking from melting ice and I left it be hanging out near a large Osage Orange tree along the trail’s path. The wind was beginning to pick up again and more flakes were in the air. Despite wearing good gloves, my finger tips were cold and painful. I decided that now was a good time to go home and I did. I hope the next time I’m out here that the conditions will be more favorable for an extended visit. I had one other small surprise waiting for me along the Woodland Loop Trail. I passed the spot by the creek where I watched the fishermen catch sauger and was amazed and amused that the figure I had made from river junk that day was still there! He was missing his nose, but otherwise he was intact. I guess the fishermen appreciated him as I do you for tagging along on another adventure at the Falls of the Ohio.
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Posted in Absurd, animal art works, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, nature photography, Ohio River, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, tagged Art, artistatexit0, birds, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, found materials, Ibis, nature, nature story, osprey, photography, recycled art, repurposed art, sense of place, site specific art, Styrofoam on November 4, 2012 |
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It’s hard for me to believe that October has come and gone. There isn’t much sand left in 2012′s hourglass. I’m virtually alone (if you are only counting people) at the Falls of the Ohio today and it’s understandable. The weather is cool, gray, and an occasional spit of rain falls against my face. I like it out here when it feels a bit lonelier because my chances of seeing wildlife increases. Such was the case today when I explored the area next to the tainter gates and under the old railroad bridge. This area is sheltered a bit from the wind and many times I have found birds in the high grass and low trees near the sloping riverbank. Today I observed Song Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Mourning Doves, and Hairy Woodpeckers in immediate proximity to each other. In the sky, the first of the Ring-billed Gulls has arrived and a pair of Osprey with their broad wings searches for unwary fish too close to the surface of the water. Many of the tree leaves have dropped and it looks like we will have a bumper crop of cockle burrs as I pull dozens of them off my shoe laces and socks. Their prickly hooks irritate my skin as they work through the fabric of my clothing. On days like this I’m just trying to attune myself to the subtleties of this landscape and I’m amazed at how often my patience gets rewarded here. As I was walking to photograph uprooted trees against the flood wall…
…I spotted something shockingly white moving near the water’s edge. Carefully moving as close as I could…I recorded this image of another rare bird seldom seen at the Falls of the Ohio.
A few more pictures in relatively close succession and I was able to identify this beauty as the Lattice-necked or Brown-winged Ibis. I prefer using the Lattice-necked moniker because the long neck with its unusual patterning is distinctive to this bird alone. I happened across an individual that was hunting for food and stalking the margins of the water. I did observe it feeding on black snails that were common on the rocks. I recall from my old art history days that the ibis was a sacred bird to the ancient Egyptians and often was mummified to accompany dignitaries on their journeys to the afterlife. In my mind I made the association that this ibis species in front of me was sacred to the life of this river. Enough gabbing, here are a few more pictures.
This ibis species is more commonly seen around the Gulf coast and points south of here. Every once in a while, a storm or hurricane will blow a few individuals into the heartland where they are a welcome treat to the hardcore birders. The Lattice-necked Ibis has always been less common than the other larger shorebirds. It is less aggressive than the herons and egrets which out-compete the ibis for prime nesting and feeding sites. This bird did spy me and flew away, but only a short distance away. I was able to catch back up with it and captured these final images of this graceful and dignified bird.
Here is the same ibis that found a nice fishing spot next to a small whirlpool. Every now and then a little fish would get caught by the rotating water only to find itself food for the lightning quick ibis.
I felt refreshed and energized by my encounter with the ibis. I left the river with a song in my heart which I whistled all the way back home. Above me, two osprey I had seen earlier were circling in the clear, cool blue sky…another blessing of this day.
BONUS FEATURE…in process shots of how the ibis was made. The head and body are pieces of Styrofoam I found out at the Falls of the Ohio. The bill of the bird is a plastic handle from something…perhaps a feather duster? The bird’s eyes are two small pieces of coal. The neck I’m guessing is the plastic arm of a hanging flower planter? At the base of the neck, I attached a small bit of white plastic hose I came across. The brown wings are the soles of two mismatched shoes I found. The tiny tail and legs are found wood. These are all the materials that make up this sculpture which owes something to the tradition of decoy making. Thanks for tagging along with me on another adventure by the Ohio River.
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Posted in Absurd, animals, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, nature photography, public art, recycled art, Styrofoam, tagged Art, artistatexit0, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, fresh water, Green-backed Heron, Mourning Cloak butterfly, nature, photography, recycled art, science fiction story, Styrofoam sculpture, weeds, wildflower images on October 25, 2012 |
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Beloved, once again I evoke you from this beautiful water world I have discovered. Repairs to my ship go slowly, but progress is being made. Because of the uniqueness of this world and its potential importance to Styrosia, I continue to venture forth from my hiding places to discover what other life forms call this planet their home. I continue to monitor the “bipedal humanoids” learning what I can from translating aspects of their culture using our technology. The humanoids are unpredictable and possess enough data to be dangerous. They are best seen and experienced from a distance. What I have also observed is that the humanoids have a great curiosity about their own world. They are constantly engaging in explorations of discovery and seem to exhibit a need to know how the universe functions. The irony here is that while they express concern for life at large, they are also systematically working to undermine the very conditions necessary to preserve and promote as much diversity of life as possible. Every day life forms become extinct before they are even formally acknowledged as existing by their sciences. This is a great topic, perhaps one for a future communication? Today, however, I want to transmit a few images of interest to amuse and delight you from this alien world. I would like to begin with an unusual characteristic that is exhibited in the local rocks and has been revealed through water’s ability to dissolve and shape the chemistry around it.
The appearance and proliferation of life on this planet is its most outstanding feature. No where else in the explored universe can rival this world for the sheer variety and numbers of life forms that have uniquely evolved here. At my current location are the preserved remains of life forms in calcium carbonate rocks of marine organisms that originated more than 350 million years a go. Ancient as this is, the history of life is traceable to more than 2 billion years a go. The humanoid scientists measure one year as being the amount of time it takes their planet to make one complete revolution around its star. I believe it is correct to assume that life began in the ancient waters or “primordial soup” as the humanoids envision it. Life and this planet have grown up together and each has influenced the other. This planet is far from static and its oceans and land masses have shifted across the globe over deep time. Today, humanoids travel great distances to peer at these local rocks. What are they ultimately looking for in this ancient coral reef? My hypothesis is that the humanoids are drawn to seeking a feeling of connection to the history of life on their own home world. There is something in their behaviors that also suggests that they are mystified by the phenomena of their own existence.
While the humanoids look for the proof of their connectivity to the history of life on their planet, many other interesting forms don’t question this and simply “be”. I have especially grown fond of the sessile life forms that have decided to flourish in the spots most favorable to them. Once a year, these stationary forms decide to climax in an electromagnetic spectrum display that is pleasing to the eye. I have decided to take as many self images in the company of these “flowers and plants” during this “flowering” using my self as a measure of scale.
Many of these “flowers” participate in symbiotic relationships often with very diverse and contrasting species. This particular sessile life form attracts flying animals that feature exoskeletons. The flowers provide nourishment for these animals and the plant finds an agent to move its genetic material from itself to others of its own kind. I have observed more of these smaller, exoskeleton-bearing creatures than all the other animals combined and they would make a rich field of enquiry that could occupy the careers of many Styrosian scientists. Here is a different example of such an animal.
This is what the humanoids call a Mourning Cloak butterfly and I observed it warming itself in the star light. It’s reverse coloring is cryptic and resembles a dried plant bio-solar panel. Its mouth parts have been adapted over time to make a tube that can easily extract sugary liquids produced by the plants that these butterflies favor. There is an exchange of services that benefits both life forms involved in this process. Other flying animals with a very different morphology also inhabit this space. Here is a sequence of images from what the humanoid data base refers to as a Black-throated Green Warbler looking for “insects” among the “willow trees”. Their movements are quick and this species is just traveling through on its way to a warmer environment in the southern latitudes of this world.
These animate life forms are called “birds” and have internal skeletons made of a lightweight material. They also have an unusual outer covering that gets shed once a year and helps these animals to fly. Here is a different and much larger bird I came across feeding at the water’s edge.
From the streaked markings and lighter coloring I identified that this is a juvenile Green-backed Heron. I disturbed its hunting and feeding along the water’s edge. Observe that it has a crest on its head which it uses to register increased alarm. In the next moment, the heron jumped into the sky and with a few quick wing beats was gone from view. My love, I think you will enjoy the sessile life forms as much as I do! The humanoids refer to them as either “flowers” or “weeds” and they don’t try to escape if you express interest in examining one like the animate life forms do. Following is a small portfolio of self-images and some of the variety in these self-sufficient life forms I have experienced on a single solar day.
I have noticed that the humanoids have reserved some animosity towards the sessile life forms that they refer to as “weeds”. To my sense organs, I can not tell the difference between preferred species and the ones considered to be undesirable? If one quality of a “weed” is its ability to thrive in a variety of conditions…one would think that the humanoids would admire this since this is a quality they share with “weeds”! This is certainly a planet of mysteries and contradictions and how I wish you were here to experience it with me. I have observed that the photons emitting from the local star are traveling farther to reach me with each day. The temperatures have also been getting cooler and the sessile life forms are undergoing changes to the cellular solar panels which are turning color themselves and in some cases falling off the main body of the life form. There is a frenzy among the smaller exoskeleton animals to gather as much energy from each plant as possible. I’m predicting that this world will go into a dormant period before re-emerging in the warmth of a new solar year. It is also now time for me to end transmissions for the moment. How I hope you and my fellow Styrosians are receiving them? Finally, I will conclude with two images. One is a self-image of me in front of small white and yellow “weeds”. The last image features some of the flying exoskeleton animals attracted to this plant. Until its time for my next communication…good by from the water world.
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Posted in Absurd, animal art works, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, tagged Art, birds, creative ornithology, creativity, ecosystem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, hummingbirds, material culture, nature, nature story, photography, Planet Earth, recycled materials on August 26, 2012 |
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At long last I’ve made it back out to the river! It’s been about eight weeks now since my last visit. Today I have a double purpose…the first is to drop off one of my Styrofoam and recycled material sculptures for an annual fund-raiser that the Falls of the Ohio State Park Foundation hosts every year. I’m glad to do this and hope my donation does well in their auction. Despite the years I’ve been making stuff out here it still strikes me that most of my materials are literally trash. I suppose I will never get over that. It seems to me that it takes a certain kind of person who would want to own one of these creations! The other more fun purpose is to check out what’s different along the river and maybe make something new. Immediately, I can see that the hot summer continues to take its toll. At first, it was the relentless heat, but now that is coupled with a serious lack of rain. The river is low and everything looks dry.
Over the course of this summer we have had just enough rain not to be considered a disaster area. This is hardly a ringing endorsement and I find a small laminated notice tacked on to a bulletin board that reinforces how dry it is. I think to myself that some of the people I’ve encountered out here over the years who do shoot off fireworks or build fire pits are not likely to read or heed this warning. When I’m in the park, my preference is to move away from the most public areas and so with my walking stick in hand I head down the Woodland Loop Trail. I’m still not confident enough to want to test my repaired knee too vigorously, but this trail is fairly easy.
The trail is shaded which I welcome since it’s still over 90 degrees out here. I pass many what I would consider late summer blooming plants that have flowered earlier than usual. I did see several stands of tall Pokeweed plants with their black berries, but even these weeds have wilted leaves. I guess what moisture these plants could muster up went into the production of their fruit? These berries are a favorite food of several bird species. In the past, I have used the intensely dark purple juice from Pokeweed berries as a pigment in some drawings I have made. This color, however, is fugitive and ultimately fades in the light. As I walk, one distinctive sound I keep hearing is the tell-tale sound of gray squirrels gnawing on the rock-hard walnuts that are clustered around the few walnut trees along the trail. There’s not much meat inside one of these nuts and it seems like a lot of work for little reward.
Out on the exposed fossil beds the sun is baking, but under the shade of the trees it is still fairly green. Since my last visit, however, I noticed a lot of dropped tree limbs and a few whole trees that have keeled over and appear to be the result of wind damage. I have seen a few birds including two Hairy Woodpeckers and as I walk along the trail I keep getting scolded by Carolina Wrens who resent my intrusion. In the distance I recognize the calls from the Killdeer plovers that are looking for food along the water’s edge. The rarest and most unusual bird, however, is just up ahead.
I’ve only seen a couple of the more common and native Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds this year…and so I was taken aback and delighted to come across what I later identified as Isaac’s Hummingbird (Archilochus isaaci ). To my knowledge, this is the only recorded instance of this Cuban species reaching this park. I’m guessing that Tropical Storm Isaac (purely coincidental, but also appropriate) which is threatening the GOP conference in Tampa Bay at this moment may have blown this rarity our way? Hummingbirds of which there are over 300 hundred recorded species have been known to wander thousands of miles away from their more familiar haunts.
I came across this hummingbird dozing on a fallen branch. It would open its eyes every once in a while and regard me. I kept my movements to a minimum and completely forgot about my aching knee in the process of creating a few images of it. I was able to snap off six pictures before it took off. As you can see, this bird (also known as the Yellow Saberbill) has a bright yellow bill it uses to extract nectar from flowers. Its light blue body, brown wings, silver tail, and whitish-head are diagnostic of this species. I don’t know what it is about the Falls of the Ohio, but I have seen other unique hummers out here before. Digging through the archives…I present two of them again.
This is the ultra rare Arctic Hummingbird appearing at the Falls of the Ohio to sip nectar from the equally scarce Ice Blossoms.
I encountered this Cumberland Greencrest back in 2010 not far from the place that I saw the Isaac’s Hummingbird. Both of these rare hummingbirds stayed in our area for a couple of days before moving on. This is what keeps me coming out here…I just never know what I’ll find or discover! This was a short, but eventful trip and I thank you for tagging along. Here’s another view of the river with the exposed Devonian fossil beds.
POSTSCRIPT: The inspiration for this particular post comes from another WordPress blog I enjoy entitled “Ekostories”. Isaac Yuen is its creator and he’s an aspiring environmental writer. Issac has a talent for weaving stories and making connections about responsible stewardship of our planet. At the time of this writing, Isaac has a wonderful post about a book entitled the “Flight of the Hummingbird” that I think you may enjoy…so please check it out. Here is his link: http://ekostories.com/ Finally, one last peek at this elusive hummingbird checking out a flower blossom.
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Posted in Absurd, animals, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, nature photography, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, tagged absurdity, Art, artist at exit 0, black vultures, climate change, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, found objects, heat wave, land art, Louisville, nature, photography, public art, recycled art, repurposed art, sculpture, Styrofoam on July 8, 2012 |
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The record warm spring we experienced in the Kentuckiana area is being followed by the extreme record heat of this summer. Twice I have ventured out to the Falls when the thermometer had passed 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 on the Celsius scale. My youngest son told me (without prompting) that he thought this heat was evidence of global warming. The idea that we could alter the climate in some way has reached our children’s consciousness and changed their awareness of what kind of world they will inherit. Kids get it…why don’t politicians and business leaders do the same? This should be a global priority because the quality of our environment makes everything else possible. I’m at the river today to continue this role I’ve created for myself as witness/participant in this historic place. Here’s a brief record of what I found and made on a particularly brutal day. I’ll start with more coal flakes that I made at the water’s edge.
Walking around the park at its eastern edge, I collected the river-polished coal I came across and with these black rocks created two designs. Because of the heat, it doesn’t take long for my clothes to start sticking to my skin. For relief, I splash water over my face and arms. At first, I left the interior of one of the flakes open, but later decided to change it. I did scout around for the other coal projects I had left here previously, but they were either missing or deliberately destroyed.
Here is the second design with the interior filled on the first coal flake. Why some people find my “art” to be more offensive than the trash that is ordinarily found here is puzzling to me? Why more people don’t find all the random trash to be an eyesore and do something about that is another mystery. My best answer is that “art” has a way of focusing and concentrating energy that stands above the ordinary. To be noticed is not always a good survival strategy. My work gets hammered because it sticks out and there is something in the human condition that would rather break things than fix them.
It’s still morning and I see the resident Black vulture colony is also at the river’s edge looking for dead fish or fishing bait. There’s nothing like coming across a partially opened pack of chicken livers that some fisherman brought for catfish bait. The flies and the vultures say thank you. I’ve come to think of these vultures as familiars and part of me likes to believe that they even recognize me and allow me to approach a little closer than usual.
A couple of hours later and the vultures have done what I’m about to do…namely seeking shade and relief under the willow trees. I find a few vultures standing on the ground with their wings outspread trying to catch the slimmest of breezes, but there is none today. Reaching my stash of Styrofoam I look around and everything appears as I left it. It’s just been too hot for most folks to want to be out here. Rummaging around the polystyrene, I chose a few pieces and construct a new figure. This piece has remained nameless, but if you out there in the wide world want to name it…that’s fine with me. It’s also been too hot to think of titles and names. He is another in a long line of absurd figures I’ve created with the collaboration of nature. Here’s the head made from Styrofoam, coal eyes, fishing float nose, some kind of plastic piece for the mouth, and wooden ears.
As you can see from the last image…I have lots more Styrofoam to use up before our next big flood. I began my latest figure with the body. I came across a piece that suggested a sitting pose and so that is what I made. Upon completion, I moved my new “friend” to various locations and tried him out in various contexts.
In the end, I decided to pose my figure in the remains of a private outdoor party that was held out here since my last visit. This must have been no ordinary “celebration” based on all the spray painted graffiti now on the logs and stumps surrounding their camp fire. Take a look.
I’m more accustomed to seeing graffiti in an urban setting where tagging trash dumpsters and buildings is common place. I’m still sorting out how I feel about coming across a scene like this? Has anything actually been harmed…it doesn’t appear so. When lovers cut their initials into the bark of a living tree, those cuts are there for the life of the tree. All this spray painted wood is dead. Still, this hardly seems like a nature loving act especially since the “artists” left their large beer bottles behind. I think they did it because they could. Their handiwork to my eye also lacks an aesthetic dimension, but now I’m sounding like an old-fashioned art critic. I guess here is as good a place to say that I’m taking a hiatus from visiting the park to recover from my impending knee surgery. I’ve been stomping about out here with a bad left knee for over a year and it hasn’t gotten better on its own. An MRI showed two tears in my lateral and medial meniscus. With hope, I won’t be down long and I will continue the riverblog with other stuff probably from my various collections. I’ll end this post with a small piece of plastic I found on this hot, hot day. Since I started this post with some perceptions from a child about the environment…perhaps it is even appropriate? It may take something akin to divine intervention to improve the condition of the world.
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Posted in animal art works, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, nature photography, Originality, public art, recycled art, Styrofoam, tagged Art, artist at exit 0, bird art, creative process, creativity, Falls of the Ohio, found materials, nature, photography, recycled materials on June 2, 2012 |
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I enjoy processes and since I had additional images relating to my last post…I thought I would throw them in for fun. I also harbor this very idealistic idea that everyone is born creative…it’s just that most people don’t view themselves in this way which I believe is at the heart of our environmental dysfunction and a great shame. Somehow we have replaced creating with consuming. The following images hopefully show that you can create magic out of nothing. There isn’t anything technical happening here. If you can do Mr. Potato Head than you have the basic idea behind creating this bird. The materials are not manipulated greatly. I like nature to form the shapes I use. The only carving involved is in cutting slots into the body to hold the wings. I did shave away one wing to make it thinner. I did poke holes in the head for the eyes. I shortened the willow roots for the legs and the beak is held in place with a wooden peg just as the head attaches with its own little stick which also helps the head to swivel. Now I know this sounds a bit flip, but the hard part is seeing the possibility behind something that’s intrinsically worthless and imagining what else this could be? Looking at the following series of images at home, I’m struck by the altar quality of the log I have spread out my materials on at my temporary outdoor studio. I do feel that being an artist is a reverential activity. I like to think my “art” is somehow in the service of life. I believe you will recognize most of the components of this bird, but they include Styrofoam, wood bark, dried willow rootlets, the plastic nose cone of a small bottle rocket, plastic and foam “gaskets”, and charcoal for the eyes. All materials were found on site at the river. I found the little bowl that morning and it’s great to hold the little pieces I use. I’m not a great photographer in the classic sense in that I don’t concern myself greatly with exposures and settings. My camera is set on automatic. I do, however, try to create an interesting image or composition that “says” something to me about that day and this place. Give it a try…it’s fun to do!
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Posted in Absurd, animal art works, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, nature photography, Ohio River, public art, recycled art, Styrofoam, tagged Art, artist at exit 0, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, birding, birds, blogging, Falls of the Ohio, found materials, nature, photography, plastic, polystyrene, recycled art, Styrofoam, vultures, warblers, willow trees on June 2, 2012 |
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Since my last visit to the Falls of the Ohio State Park the willow fuzz has peaked. Cottony drifts have gathered in places that offer some protection from even the slightest breeze. The way the light shines on this gossamer surface is magical! Before venturing into today’s avian adventure…a personal blogging milestone announcement as this is officially post number 300! I hear the champagne corks popping already. I had little in the way of expectations when I started this Riverblog, but I have been happy with this medium for describing my project. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if blogging would hold my interest, but it has. I have also enjoyed the wide community that is out there and I thank everyone that has stopped by or left a comment. As regular visitors know…I’m a big bird watching fan and I enjoy the many challenges that this hobby presents me. A once in a lifetime experience can begin with a quick flash of the wings that may last just seconds. It causes me to be acutely present in the moment. Venturing down to the river I see the resident flock of Black Vultures has returned for another season. I photographed this wary pair looking for dead fish or anything else edible.
The foreground in this image is willow fluff covering the sand. I find the two vulture species that hang out at the Falls to be really interesting birds and I have posted on them many times before. There are more furtive species out here as well and I had the good luck to stumble upon a small mixed flock of warbler species. Among this group were several Magnolia Warblers and I have a few images of them. I love their coloring with their black streaks on their bright yellow breasts. Magnolia Warbler is a misnomer since they don’t seem to favor that tree in my experience. I found these warblers to be very tolerant of my presence and I was able to follow them as they moved from one willow tree to another in their search for small insects.
Warblers are tiny always on the go creatures and their many species are a highlight of the spring migration. Many of the warbler species I see are passing through our area to points mostly north of here. I came across another seldom seen bird that I hope you will enjoy. It’s called the Brown-winged Robin and it too is traveling through the heartland. I have a series of this bird too beginning with a specimen I found wading through the willow fuzz. Is this pre-nesting behavior?
Here are a few more shots of this rare bird in the environment at the Falls of the Ohio. The brown wings are diagnostic as is the bright red beak.
There are many more bird species both real and imagined that I look forward to presenting in future posts! I hope to continue to share with you the great variety of life that I find in this relatively small place as it reveals itself to me. One other announcement for folks in my immediate area. I will be presenting my project at the Pecha Kucha event at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky the evening of June 5. This will be an outdoor event and coincides with the transit of Venus occurring on that night. Essentially, this slide show presentation form I believe began in architectural circles and speakers have 20 slides at 20 seconds a piece to present a topic. It goes by fast so you need to be pithy which can be a challenge! If you are interested in more information just click on my Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest link in my blogroll. I hope to see some of you out there and thanks again to all who have checked out the Artist at Exit 0 Riverblog over the years! Now for more willow fuzz!
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Posted in Absurd, animals, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, nature photography, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, watershed, tagged Art, artist at exit 0, Falls of the Ohio, found objects, Louisville, Kentucky, nature, photography, public art, recycled art, repurposed art, romanticism, Styrofoam, waterfalls on May 13, 2012 |
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Today I heard the river calling on a spectacular day at the Falls of the Ohio. Apparently, I was not the only one who heeded this call and the park is already full of people upon my arrival. I checked out the fossil cliffs and quickly determined that there were too many people at this location for me and I moved on. Ducking under the trees I moved into the shade, but before I did I stopped to hear an American goldfinch that had taken up residence on a willow branch right above my head. His perch is on the borderline of sunshine and shadow and he was singing away in his timeless goldfinch way. In appreciation I took in every note as though his song was meant for me.
Under the protection of the forest’s canopy, I came across many other spring birds including a magnificent male Pileated Woodpecker hammering away at the soft wood of a decayed log in his pursuit of wood ants and beetle larvae. I even came across a turtle…although it’s not the type you typically find out here. It is, however, a reminder that this bottom land where I’m walking was recently flooded. This turtle moved into this area with the rising river. I have a small collection of sand molds and this is my fourth different turtle design I’ve found in the park…into the collecting bag it goes.
Another unusual sight was a plastic five gallon bucket that also floated in with the high water. Checking it out, I tried to determine whether this bucket was half full or half empty with mud and whether or not this reflected on my general outlook on life?
Eventually, my walk brought me to the creek that marks the western limit of the park’s Woodland Loop Trail. As I moved to this spot…I was also picking up the bits and pieces that form my latest Styrofoam figure. I posed my latest creation in a location above the creek where it meanders into the Ohio River.
I like this place because it affords a good view of the Ohio River sweeping westward. I also enjoy checking out the mud along the creek’s banks because animals leave their tracks here. This time I could distinguish raccoon, squirrel, heron, and dog tracks. Because the water running through this creek is also tied to the City of Clarksville’s sewer overflow system…during peak rain storms water comes rushing through the creek. As a result of these torrents, large boulders and stones that were buried in the mud and soil come to the forefront and help create small cascades and waterfalls.
My little man did what I also like to do which is sitting by a waterfall and losing myself in the sound of running water. This sound and effect are so peaceful to me that I wonder if it also affects my brain’s waves? It’s easier to clear my mind with the sound of water as a backdrop and makes me lose my sense of time. Today, the creek offers up several terraced waterfalls and my Styroman visited them all. Here he is by waterfall #2.
This dramatic shot depends a lot on the angle which wasn’t as acute. Now for a couple more views.
One frequent criticism of my project which I embrace is that it is overly romantic and sentimental. Ironically, these are also qualities I find missing in much contemporary art which seems to rely upon one’s head more than the heart. I try to involve both feeling centers in my work. My brand of romanticism comes from trying to evoke some sense of the sublime and respect for nature through all the garbage and habitat destruction that marks our era because this ongoing planetary degradation ultimately affects our own and other species’ chances in the game of life. Believe it or not.
This is the last waterfall my figure visited and is marked by crisscrossing logs that were deposited here during the last good flood. I like the composition created by all this interlocking wood. I hung out here until the light started to slip below the horizon and I turned for home. My mind felt relaxed and open for nearly anything. I think this is ultimately what brings me back to the river time after time. I can forget my daily woes, politics, and the work a day world and for a few hours transport myself to a more real and peaceful place. I hope all of you out there in the wider world have discovered places that do the same for you.
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