Posted in animals, Art, art and environment, creativity, Green, Louisville, Kentucky, recycled art, tagged Art, Earth Day, Louisville Zoo, lowland gorillas, Mayor Greg Fischer, Metro Louisville, recycled materials art contest, Trashformation on April 21, 2013 |
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One of the benefits of being a long-time member of a local art community is that on occasion you get asked to help judge art contests. I began my morning on Earth Day at an awards ceremony held at the Louisville Zoo. Last week I was one of six judges looking at children’s artwork (from preschool to high school) made from recycled elements. Originality, material diversity, and creativity were the criteria. The art exhibit is entitled “Trashformation” and this is the inaugural event hosted by the zoo. Although most of the entries were from Louisville, art projects also came in from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The winners from each of the various school group categories were recognized on an absolutely beautiful Spring morning.
Graciously presenting the prizes to the students was Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer. The kids and their families were excited to have the Mayor on hand and he was very cordial and approachable. Mayor Fischer reinforced the idea of how critical it is to preserve and protect the environment. The Mayor highlighted a few of the green initiatives his administration has championed including appointing a Metro Director of Sustainability, increasing curbside recycling, and surveying the health of Metro Louisville’s tree canopy. Making the status of the urban environment a priority is vital to the city’s quality of life and is good for business as well.
Kids need little persuasion on the importance of reducing, recycling, and reusing. They seem to get it and now it’s up to the rest of us to get on board! Here is the winning team from the group category. Their winning entry featured a recycled globe, plastic bottles, aluminum foil, plastic, and cardboard.
On the table are a few more of the winning entries across various categories. The homemade orange recycling bin made of cardboard and aluminum cans is a witty submission from a middle school duo. Other notable projects included a shoe box diorama of the zoo and a bird with nest and eggs made from a recycled art book.
This creative “Recycle Man” was a popular choice among all the entries. The girl standing next to the Mayor is the artist who made it. A large crowd was on hand thanks to a “Two Dollar Day” promotion sponsored by Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities.
This young lady accepted her award for her artwork and couldn’t wait to share it with her family. I’m sure there were several fond memories created on this morning. After the awards ceremony I decided to check out some of the animals at the zoo. The Louisville Zoo is Metro Louisville’s most popular attraction. In addition to being a fun destination, the zoo is also well-known for its many conservation successes. I always enjoy watching the Lowland Gorillas and they were having breakfast outdoors on this fine morning in the Derby City.
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Posted in Absurd, Art, art and environment, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, Green, Louisville, Kentucky, nature, nature photography, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, watershed, tagged Art, artistatexit 0, driftwood, earth, environment, Falls of the Ohio, flooding, found materials, nature, Ohio River, photography, recyled art, repurposed art, sculpture, site specific art, Styrofoam, trees on April 20, 2013 |
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It’s Thunder Over Louisville weekend which means the largest fireworks extravaganza in North America will happen tonight. This is the kickoff event for the Kentucky Derby Festival which culminates in the horse race itself on the first Saturday in May. The festival is a two-week event and while fun for residents and visitors…can also be an obstacle course if you are trying to get around town. I like using the bridge on 2nd Street to get to the Falls of the Ohio State Park, but it is shut down and being used for the fireworks display. At its height, Thunder Over Louisville (which also includes an air show) has drawn 800,000 people to the banks of the Ohio River on a single day. I’m hoping to access the river and the park tomorrow. For the moment, I have images to post from my last visit. Looking through the pictures, it occurred to me that I had captured moments in the lives of individual trees that I would like to share. The area continues to green up and many trees are producing their pollen. For allergy sufferers, this is an especially difficult time. If I was affected by seasonal allergies…I doubt I could do this project. There is something about being in the bottom of the Ohio Valley that seems to bring out the worst for those allergic to various molds and pollen.
I started this adventure on the Woodland Loop Trial near the Interpretive Center. The path eventually leads to a small creek that at the moment has a tremendous amount of driftwood lining the contours of its banks. All this wood was deposited here by the Ohio River swollen from winter rain and snow melt all along the length and breath of the river valley. More high water could eventually carry all this wood back out into the river for parts unknown. Still, this represents a lot of trees. I have this idea in my head that as a result of climate change, we have all this extra water and energy in our weather systems? Where does the water from retreating glaciers and Arctic melting go? I’m guessing that some of it is evaporated out of the oceans and into a warming atmosphere where it influences the global weather patterns? This excess water eventually precipitates out causing more severe weather events including flooding. This increases riverbank erosion and tree loss. Is there a limit on how much water the atmosphere can absorb? Of course development along the rivers takes its share of trees too. The cumulative effect of many actions continues to shape the environment.
These exposed tree roots are something that I’m noticing more of at the Falls of the Ohio. I’m assuming that frequent high water causes this? This isn’t necessarily fatal and these trees can survive as long as the riverbank stays in place. In addition to more water…an increase in storm related wind velocity has also been noticeable over the years. We have had a lot of trees simply blow over and be lost in this manner. Continuing to walk westward in the park, I can see that my favorite cottonwood tree continues to be developed as a party hang-out.
I posted on this wonderful cottonwood tree not too long a go and remarked on how it was once again becoming a focal point for parties. The fire pits are larger and there are more beer bottles and cans around this tree than before. I’ll bet this place is especially magical illuminated by camp fires. Plus, more found wood has been used to hide a large silvery sheet of corrugated plastic to impart a more naturalistic appearance. From inside and under the tree, you can see in the distance part of the downtown skyline of Louisville which will be filled with fireworks tonight. Over the years, this tree has been discovered by different generations of folks and continues to hang in there. I hope this will always be the case. The next big flood will eventually wash all the additions away as it has done before.
Here’s an image that demonstrates how high the river can rise. This snagged pallet has been hanging out on this tree branch for a couple of years now. Trees can demonstrate some resilience in the face of adversity. I know of a couple of trees at the Falls that have made use of improvised “planters”.
Cast off tires are a ubiquitous element of river-born trash. Somehow this willow tree has found a sheltering toehold in this wheel. I’m curious to learn whether this tree can continue to grow and survive in what is ultimately a restrictive space? On this walk, I also came across this unusual juxtaposition and thought it might fit in this post too.
This may be as near as I come to having a tree suggest that it could do laundry too! The surface root of an old willow tree has caught this old jacket. The last high water floated this plastic laundry basket into this area and it settled next to the root. This is not your average still life. The gravel in the photo was deposited here by the last of the retreating ice age glaciers.
To conclude this post…as I was walking along the loop side of the trail, I spotted a piece of Styrofoam in a ditch. Retrieving it I discovered one of my previous sculptures from several months a go. I originally included him in a story that featured sauger fishermen. Except for a missing nose, the sculpture was complete. I was surprised that it survived intact going on several months now. Looking through my collecting bag…I replaced the lost nose with another piece of found plastic and set him up to greet visitors along the trail. Here’s a final picture showing him next to a tree that the wind blew down last year. Thanks for hanging out with me for the past thousand words. Have a great weekend!
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Posted in Absurd, animal art works, Art, art and environment, birds and birding, creativity, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, Green, nature photography, Originality, public art, recycled art, sculpture, tagged Art, artist at exit 0, birds, creativity, detritus, Falls of the Ohio, John James Audubon, nature, ornithology, photography, recycled materials, repurposed materials, site specific art, Styrofoam on April 7, 2012 |
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It’s Spring and I’m walking the eastern section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park looking for birds. I have done this religiously for years and have seen most of the species that have been recorded in this park. I love birds because they are such beautiful expressions of life. I envy their extreme mobility with so many species able to call greater parts of the globe home than I will ever experience. This is the time of year when many different types of birds that have been wintering in South and Central America undergo remarkable journeys. Some will pass through this area on their way to locations as far north as the Arctic Circle. This is my chance to see them… if I’m lucky. The Falls of the Ohio also has another significant bird connection through the life and work of John James Audubon. He essentially started his life’s work that would eventually become The Birds of America, one of the great achievements in publishing and the most expensive book in the world, by first drawing many of the birds he encountered at the Falls of the Ohio. Audubon’s example and his journal descriptions of the world he inhabited are frequent touchstones for me and this project. Two hundred years later…very little remains of the original landscape he was familiar with. That process and transformation of the landscape is continuing and unfortunately not always in a positive direction. Birds are such great indicators of the quality of the environment because they are sensitive to changes…the canary in the coal mine was a real thing. To enjoy birds and birding is an activity that takes you out of yourself for a little while and causes you to engage life on its own terms. On this day (which also happened to be April Fool’s Day) I did experience many of the usual year round resident bird species, but did not see any of the neotropical migrants that make the Spring migration so special. So, when this happens, I’m not above creating my own bird species. This post is devoted to a new bird I discovered out here and I’ve named it the Variegated Oriole.
The Variegated Oriole receives its name for being multicolored. I first encountered this bird as various bits of detritus that I came across walking the shoreline of the Ohio River. For the head, I used a small piece of river-polished Styrofoam. Its brightly colored beak is part of a plastic and polystyrene fishing float that I cut with my pocket knife. The eyes are small bits of coal. I used a green foam gasket or washer to act as a transitional element between the head and the body. It’s a trademark of mine that I seem to do with almost every piece I make out here. For the body, I found a blue piece of river-polished high density foam? that I cut a few slits into the sides to hold the wings which are made from pine bark. I took one piece of bark that the river peeled off of a tree and I split that in half to form matching wings. The tail is a piece of yellow plastic I found that reminded me of a bird tail! I cut another groove into the blue body to insert and hold the tail in place. The feet, are just rootlets that I sharpened and pegged into the body. That’s it in terms of materials which I tried to alter as little as possible as not to trump what nature and the river had already shaped. It’s important to me that this be a true collaboration. If “we” are successful, then something of the spirit of a bird will take hold and inhabit this small sculpture.
After finishing the bird…I seek out environments that will help put this avian creation into some kind of context. Everything matters and I hope my pictures convey something of the time of day, the season, the quality of light, the condition of the environment, etc…all those elements help create a sense of place. I move through the willow trees posing the bird on various stumps and branches. I usually take a lot of pictures.
Sometimes, I will imagine what kind of habits my new birds might possess. In the case of the Variegated Oriole…it is not too different from the Northern or Baltimore Orioles that live and nest in the park. They are among the migrants I look for. I heard one the other day calling, but didn’t see it. The real orioles that live here are adapting to local conditions by using artificial materials (fishing line and barge cable fibers) in the construction of their hanging basket nests. I’ve posted on this before in this blog a few years a go. I think Audubon would have been interested in this. Anyway, I left my bird sitting on a branch for anyone to discover. It might still be there and I will find out today when I once again venture out to the Falls of the Ohio State Park. Perhaps new birds will present themselves to me? I will let you know what I find…next time.
One week later…I returned to the spot where I left my faux-feathered friend and he was no longer perched upon the branch where I left him. I was able to locate most of him scattered on the sand except for one wing. My guess was that he was felled by a well-aimed and thrown rock. The head was shattered and will need to be replaced provided I recyle these pieces back into a bird again.
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Posted in Absurd, animal art works, Art, collections, creativity, environmental art, Green, Louisville, Kentucky, recycled art, unusual collection, tagged Art, art exhibition, art gallery, artistatexit0, Bellarmine University, Falls of the Ohio, found materials, Louisville, McGrath Gallery, recycled art, Scott Scarboro, Styrofoam on September 24, 2011 |
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Hard to believe a week has passed since this exhibition opened and summer has made room for autumn as well. Such is the passing of time. As promised here are a few views of the show my work is in which opened at Bellarmine University’s McGrath Gallery on September 16. The exhibit is entitled “Outcasts and Artifacts, artwork from a disposable world”, “Al Gorman and Scott Scarboro”. I snapped a few installation views before people arrived for the opening. Thanks to friends and family as well as a well-timed snippet in the local paper… a good mix of folks came out to see our work.
I have a lot of stuff I’ve gathered and made to select from over the years and I decided now was a good time to see my sign collection hanging on a wall. I found that I still enjoy looking at these artifacts. I like hand painted signs and one of my very first jobs was working in a sign shop. I have this idea about history being interpreted from examining the existing fragments and this collection fits. I also like finding the occasional sign where the universe is seemingly “speaking” to you by providing enigmatic clues.
My “Fake Food Collection” was another one of my various collections I put on display. I have shown this before, however, it seems each time I go to the river I find another piece or two for it. As a result, this collection keeps getting bigger and bigger and no longer fits in the Styrofoam box I use to store it. I found every piece at the Falls of the Ohio courtesy of the Ohio River beginning eight years a go. These are the pieces I did find and I often wonder about the ones that got away! To me, all the predominantly plastic representations of food are another signal of our disconnect from nature. The smell of the plastic is really noticeable. I think this collection presents initially as something humorous until the reality of it sets in. This seems to be a part of my art’s modus operandi.
Among the sculptures I displayed are a couple of early pieces that I have never exhibited before. Such is the case with “Fang” on the right and my version of the meeting of the explorers “Lewis and Clark”. ”Fang” still has its original dirt on it. Also in this shot are my “Squirt Gun Collection” and a small predatory animal I called the “River Ghost” which I featured in a blog post last year. Most of these Styrofoam sculptures I consider to be “relics” of a larger process I engage in and weren’t originally intended to be stand alone objects. Although I have saved many works over time, the vast majority of them were left behind to await their fates in the park.
Scott Scarboro is an interesting artist who lives in New Albany, Indiana that also works with found objects and materials. His stuff is more “urban” than mine and he makes use of old toys and yard sale and flea market finds. He likes to tinker with the mechanical and electrical workings in these toys so they neither move nor sound as originally intended. Of late, Scott has been exploring the uses of sound in sculpture in public art settings. The paintings began life as wall paper remnants that then became drop cloths that Scott worked back into. Scott and I have been friends for many years and our artistic paths seem to intersect frequently.
Another view from the gallery. Scott made the robot painting as well as the lamp. The two of us spoke to an evening art appreciation class at the university that went really well. We were able to engage the class with our art and ideas and I believe most of the students were not art majors? As a result of our talk many of these students came out for the opening reception.
Two “devilish” works by me and Scott. The Styrofoam sculpture I entitled “Faun or Blue-tongued Devil” and the wall piece Scott made using a toy jet fighter plane. One idea that both of us like working with is “repurposing” existing objects and making new statements from them. The world is after all already filled with a multitude of objects that can be reinterpreted without using freshly extracted resources from nature.
Also in the show were two Styro-turtles I’ve made. The white one was featured in one of my recent posts as the “Cottonwood Turtle”. I was pleased by how that story and images turned out. Both turtles include old bicycle helmets in their making. The black one’s body under the helmet is actually a foam wig stand in the shape of a human head. For many of the works I presented, I also included laminated hard copies from my blog posts that showcase the sculpture on exhibit. I have to say that I still prefer seeing my works in the contexts of where they were created and as a result I probably don’t pursue the exhibition opportunities available to me. In closing, here is one final shot featuring three of my pieces and a shameless sign I painted to get gallery visitors to also visit my riverblog! I still feel that this is the best place to get a fuller sense of what I’m doing at the Falls of the Ohio. All the rest is fragmentary and tells a smaller part of the story. My thanks go out to Bellarmine University and Caren Cunningham for the invitation to exhibit and Laura Hartford for all her hard work in preparing for this show.
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Posted in Absurd, Art, art and environment, creativity, ecosytem, Falls of the Ohio, fresh water, Green, nature, Ohio River, Originality, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, watershed, tagged Art, artistatexit0, Falls of the Ohio, nature, recycled art on December 31, 2010 |
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Another year’s worth of fresh water has passed under our bridges. It’s been an eventful year in many ways and to recap things sounds like more energy than I currently have to expend on something at this moment. I guess I can’t party like I used to! So, here I am limping my way across the finish line with Post number 223.
I love the way ice changes the riverscape at the Falls. Over the years, I have been a lucky witness to some interesting ice formations. On this last trip, however, the ice present seemed to cover surfaces in a glassy coating. I decided to take a walk along the river side of the Woodland Trail. It was cold, but the wind was calm which helped things a lot. I made this figure that I named “Acorn Eyes” from stuff out of my collecting bag and objects that I found along the way. The snow and ice formed a lighter background that actually helped objects to stand out more clearly.
Here’s a colorful shoe followed by a child’s playground ball I came across.
One natural object that caught my eye was this ice-covered milkweed pod. This plant is very important in the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.
By the sycamore trees I found a spot I like that has these wonderful exposed roots. You could still see the mottled greens and whites of the tree bark through the thin coating of ice that covered them. I decided to take a few pictures here with my newest Styrofoam figure.
With as much pressure as is regularly put upon this landscape, I marvel that there are any trees here at all. The river is a powerful force washing away most everything that stands before it. Subtler still, but also very effective is the role ice plays in breaking apart the fossil rock. Water seeps into the smallest cracks and as the temperature drops below freezing, the water expands into ice, further wedging apart the gaps. In this way rock is split and broken down.
Walking along the trees that border the river, you can see the remains of logs that were washed into here during previous floods and eventually became stranded. As they decay, they release their nutrients back into the environment. I like looking for the patterns formed by the various layers deposited.
I am also looking forward to whatever the new year brings. May it be a positive and peaceful one for all. I know the river will keep life interesting for me…and I hope I can do likewise for you through this blog. See you next year!
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Posted in Absurd, animal art works, Art, art and environment, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, Green, Louisville, Kentucky, nature, nature photography, Ohio River, Originality, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, tagged Art, artistatexit0, Falls of the Ohio, Louisville, snow, snowmen, Styrofoam on December 26, 2010 |
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We awoke to a white Christmas in Louisville. Just enough snow to cover the lawns and trees. By now all my Falls of the Ohio holiday cards have been sent out. Usually, I have several designs going at once. This year, I made cards featuring snowmen, a dog I made from river delivered Styrofoam, as well as one featuring a Styrofoam polar bear with one leg I found out here amazingly enough! Sometimes the cards are funny and sometimes they riff on some aspect of the holidays we could live without.
Both of the snowmen I made were created using parts of old Christmas ornaments I have found out here. Usually, the perfectly round Styrofoam balls I find were originally fabric covered baubles meant for the tree. This first snowman also features a bottle cap hat which gives you some sense for its scale. The nose on this one is actually a miniature carrot I also discovered in the sand and kept for just such a purpose as this! I waited for the snow to arrive which it did this year just in time.
The little dog came from a previous post that most everybody missed and so I don’t feel as badly about recycling one of my former projects. In this case, I thought the dog came out particularly well and deserved another chance to shine. It’s made from Styrofoam and sticks, plastic, and tiny bits of coal thrown in to create eyes and a nose! He’s so light that he doesn’t leave tracks in the snow!
I featured another image of this dog in my last post on the spoor of a particularly large bird which was a fun juxtaposition to work with. In this overall group of photos, the object’s shadow plays a role as a design element. As I recall, this was a very cold day with wind which caused some issues with the camera’s batteries. I had little time to snap these before the camera turned itself off. Among the other bits of polystyrene I was carrying on me was a “bear effigy” that I found out here this year. I posed it in a few places along the way and here are some of the images.
Emerging from its hibernation, the one-legged Styro-Polar Bear encounters a rapidly changing landscape. What was historically all ice and snow is now a melting landfill.
I mounted the Styro-bear on a small piece of wood I found out here so it could stand up. I found it in damaged condition missing one of its legs. I have no idea what this was originally intended to represent, but it reads bear-like to me. The bear is such a resonant image going back to the beginnings of art and ironically I find one that says something about the here and now and our relationship with nature. Much has changed.
One final snowman before closing and this one wears a blue hat! I made this guy as a window decoration for a display at work, but couldn’t resist adding his portrait to the winter series. Although he was made with Falls materials…he’s strictly a visitor.
Happy Holidays, Winter Solstice, etc… to everyone out there. My best to all in the coming year!
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Posted in Absurd, Art, art and environment, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, fresh water, Green, Louisville, Kentucky, nature, nature photography, Ohio River, Originality, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, tagged Art, artistatexit0, Falls of the Ohio, nature, Styrofoam, tree roots on December 5, 2010 |
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Because the work a day world had me preoccupied, it’s nice to be able to return to the river. This interaction with the Falls occurred about a week a go, but it also takes me back to the early days of this project. To stir the imagination I would challenge myself to only use materials found within the circle of a chosen tree. The results were often incongruous, but it was fun to do. The following polystyrene figure was made in a similar way where I allowed myself only materials available in a small area.
I found just enough Styrofoam for a head and body. Splitting a nut in half became the solution for the eyes. Bits and pieces of brightly colored plastic further called attention to the head.
The first heavy frost is near now. The flowers have bloomed and the seeds are going on their own journey. Migrating sandhill cranes have crossed overhead. I’m by this small “creek” that’s more of storm sewer overflow for the nearby village.
There’s always water flowing …even when it’s not raining at all. People like to fish here especially when the river is high and catfish are close to shore. When we do get high water, this spot catches many of the logs that drift in here and become stranded. I like to walk on top of this bridge when I’m crossing over from one section of the park to the other.
I moved the small figure I had made to the creek and snapped this portrait. On the riverbank I can find recently chewed willow saplings and I know there is a beaver currently around. Evidence of past beaver encounters mark some of the dead trees near the creek’s mouth.
Also in this vicinity are some of my favorite trees. There are particular sycamore and willow trees that have exposed root systems. These trees appear to be uprooting themselves and moving on which they do very slowly and deliberately!
The river has retreated from here for now. This is also a favored place for fishermen. The nearby fossil cliffs make a convenient place to cast a line or build a fire. The underlying limestone sends currents flowing in multiple and treacherous directions. The water here is usually well oxygenated and so it attracts fish.
I left this figure by the side of the path and walked to my vehicle. This day began sunny but quickly turned overcast and gray as it wore on. To close, here is another view of a tree with a great platform of roots showing by the nearby fossil cliffs.
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Posted in Absurd, animals, Art, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, fresh water, Green, nature, Ohio River, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, watershed, tagged Art, art in public places, garbage, nature, photography, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam on November 3, 2010 |
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I was looking around the driftwood for whatever there was to find and having a good time. I found this toy giraffe head with the puffy cheeks. I also had the good fortune to watch from a distance a beaver that was cruising close to the riverbank. It’s only the second one I’ve seen out here that was alive. I kept trying to get closer to take a better picture, but soon the beaver spotted me and dove underwater. I never saw where he eventually resurfaced…but I know they are out here. Their chewed willow sticks are among my favorite materials to use for my art.
It was shortly after the encounter with the beaver that I met Marlin for the first time…in fact he tried to scare me away!! He took me by surprise and I don’t know how someone or “thing” so large was able to approach me without my knowing it? Soon I learned that Marlin can move quietly when he wants to. Here are my first camera images of him that I shot reflexively as he attempted to frighten me away.
When I clearly was not going to flee, his face actually took on a more fearful expression as though he was more afraid of me to begin with.
I did my best to reassure him that I was out here at the Falls to be respectful and appreciative of being out in nature and this seemed to reassure him some. I found out during the ensuing conversation that his name comes from the fish image on his bling necklace he wears. It was also found out here among the driftwood and so we had some common ground right away. We are both beachcombers of a sort. Here’s a better look at that fancy necklace that I thought was a kid’s canteen at first, but now I have no idea what this really is except it’s a toy of some sort.
Getting to know Marlin a little, I learned he was a bit of a philosopher and observer of life. Human beings in particular have been a favorite object of study. Marlin mentioned how impressed he was with our ability to create something out of nothing, but was mystified why we couldn’t see the bigger picture and ramifications of our actions? We took a walk together along the river talking about this topic.
Marlin said he saw many people out here and some even brought their children along. He said he enjoyed this notion of one generation following in the footsteps of the one that came before, but was worried that the wrong lessons were being transmitted about how to treat nature. He walked a few feet from me and bent down to pick something up he found lying in the dried mud and sand.
It was a plastic sack full of trash left behind probably by fishermen. Marlin found it confusing that a person could bundle their refuse so carefully and then forget to pack it out. It was left to rot on the riverbank. When other people see that this kind of behavior is tolerated…it just encourages them to do the same. Marlin wondered if it was part of humans’ natures to be so contradictory and if so…how did that help our kind rise to the top of the food chain? He also wondered why someone else who saw this bag of trash didn’t take it with them…even if it wasn’t theirs? I’m afraid, I wasn’t able to provide much in answers to his questions since I struggle as a human too with this issue.
Marlin moved closer to the water and said that if this bag were left unattended that it and whatever the contents were would surely find their way into the river. I couldn’t dispute that. Marlin also said that people like coming to the river to recreate and that ultimately their very drinking water comes from this source…why would you foul it? Other life forms like fish, birds, and even that beaver I watched earlier all depend on this water to be as clean as possible. Why would we be so careless as to poison it with all our various waste products?
Water is the lifeblood of the planet and we can’t even imagine life without water. It is a precious resource! I listened to Marlin preach a little more and then told him I had to go home. As I said my goodbyes, I took that bag of trash Marlin found with me and deposited it in the nearest trash can I could find. I promised Marlin that I would try to do my part by also spreading the word about keeping our shared planet as clean as possible. This is how Marlin looked…as he parted company with me.
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Posted in Absurd, animals, Art, art and environment, creativity, ecosytem, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, Green, Louisville, Kentucky, nature, nature photography, Ohio River, Originality, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, tagged Art, Falls of the Ohio, fungi, insects, nature, nature photography, recycling, Styrofoam on October 2, 2010 |
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I was walking through the woods on a sun-dappled day looking for migratory birds when I came across a new friend. We talked for a little while before introducing ourselves. Both of us remarked on the dry weather we have been having and I said that it’s official now. September was the driest ever in the commonwealth of Kentucky since records have been kept dating back to 1871. We have had a spits-worth of rain… that’s it. Overall, this has been our third driest month ever, beaten only by two Octobers over the course of the past century. We both wondered if this was an omen for this October? We certainly hope not. Having created some common ground, I introduced myself and she said to call her Minnie, Minnie Buckethead.
As it turned out, Minnie is an interesting old lady with a fascination for everything in the woods. I asked if she had seen any migrating warblers and she had. American Redstarts, Black and White Warblers, were moving with small groups of other birds including Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. I had seen nothing. I definitely need to get up earlier in the day to catch the bird show. Perhaps Minnie was taking pity on me and she said that there were a few other things happening in the woods and would I like to see them? How could I turn down such a nice offer from an old lady?
We walked over to a large willow tree and I saw Minnie crane her neck and squint her eyes from the sun and she scanned the willow bark. “Here” she said and I checked out what she was pointing at.
At first I thought it was a bee, but it was larger and more robust and not as big as a bumble bee. There were others. Walking around to the shady side I could determine that they are hornets of some kind. The hornets and other insects were licking whatever was exuding from the willow tree.
“Don’t worry, they won’t get you”, she said. The hornets were so preoccupied with the sap that they were quite tame. Walking around the tree gave us this sight. Three different species of butterflies also taking advantage of the willow bark. The one in the foreground is the Red Admiral. Although I hadn’t seen the hornets doing this before, I did say to Minnie that I had observed many butterflies on these willows and wasn’t it nice that so many living creatures could set aside their differences to take advantage of this common resource. She just smiled.
I was appreciative of Minnie showing me the tree and so I tried to impart a little knowledge to her about the local cicadas. I had come across a dead female in the sand,(identified by the hypodermic needle of an ovipositor she uses to lay her eggs under the thin bark of a tree). I asked Minnie if she knew anything else about their life cycle and she said she didn’t and so I went on. I told her that after the egg hatches under the bark, the nymphs drop down and burrow under the ground and attach themselves to the tree’s roots. With this species, after a couple of years of sucking tree juices, they emerge from the ground and become adults which for cicadas, is a brief moment in time. They mate, lay eggs, and then die after a glorious two weeks or so. You find their split skins where they transform as juveniles into adults near where they emerged from the ground. Here’s a pictures of the dead cicada, the split cicada skin, and a fresh adult.
With any life cycle it’s hard to know exactly where to begin and I suppose that’s the classic which came first question… the egg or the cicada? I’ll leave that to brighter minds than my own for now.
Minnie listened attentively and then asked me to follow her. She had something else to show me before we parted company. We walked away from the willow tree to an area where several large logs were decomposing. She pointed a thin finger at a yellow patch on one log’s side and I could see it was some type of fungus. It seemed to be spreading outward as it broke down the tissues inside the tree.
It was both fascinating and oddly repellent. On another nearby log was yet another fungi which I could identify as a fresh bracket or shelf fungus. The bright colors also seemed on the lurid side to me.
Minnie talked to me about what a wonderful system that nature has created to break things down after death. Like these fungi were doing to what were once living trees. She talked about how life depended on materials being able to decompose in order to release the nutrients that are needed for life to move forward. This is what it means to live naturally and that we should look at the systems that the planet has in place and to learn from them. With that, I took my leave and waved good-by to the old lady in the woods.
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Posted in Absurd, Art, art and environment, creativity, Falls of the Ohio, Green, Louisville, Kentucky, Ohio River, Originality, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, tagged Art, Falls of the Ohio, figurative art, found materials, public art, recycled art, Styrofoam on August 22, 2010 |
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The heat and humidity remain unabated. I think this is the hottest summer I have spent at the Falls of the Ohio. Yes, there were always super hot days in the past, but this year we have had many more of them. I was excited about this weekend because I have three days off, few family obligations, and I planned to go out to the river to see and make what I could. I have collected some large pieces of Styrofoam and it’s time to use it before the river eventually rises and carries it all away again.
On this day, I have made one of my tallest figures ever. This one is a head taller than I am and when you add the extra long arm…it is even more so. I can’t say that I worked up a story to go with this one…yet. If, however, he hangs out long enough, I’m sure I will think of a narrative. For now, this is what I made and in the process I drank all the water I brought with me and soaked through my shirt. A mixture of sweat and sun block kept running into my eyes which led to a few choice words said by me. Fortunately, there wasn’t anybody around to hear them!
After I made this figure, it seemed to me that it had some affinities with the Wallace and Gromit characters. I think it’s because of the close-set eyes and large nose? I like that this guy has a sense of humor which can’t be said about some of the figures I have made before. He’s probably amused that anyone would choose to spend their day off engaged in this activity!
What prompted this sculpture was the long stick I eventually used for one of his arms. The body is somewhat elongated and the extra long arm brings this out even more. Perhaps the arm is an evolutionary adaptation for picking fruit from the higher branches of the tree? In this way, it works similarly to a giraffe’s neck with its ability to reach the topmost leaves.
The brutal sun kept me close to the shade of the willows, but even this had its issues. There are mosquitos in the shadows and the humidity is trapped by the vegetation and foliage. Being uncomfortable made me less patient with myself. Every once in a while I would get distracted by the song of a wren or the myriad insect life around me. There are still many butterflies and wasps visiting the flowers and willow trees.
I had a few technical problems to work out. The main one being how will this sculpture stand upright? Even though the sand and mud are soft, this figure is clumsy and comes down to a point. My solution was to rest the figure on a tripod of sticks. Two of them can be seen, the third “leg” lends support from behind the figure. Once it cools down, I would like to move this sculpture around the different vignettes that the Falls offers and see if I can improve upon the photographs. For the moment, I consider these evidence that I made something on a fairly uncompromising day cut short by the heat. I decided to leave early and left this figure resting against the trunk of a tree. I can’t wait for it to cool down a little. I can tell Autumn is around the corner. I detect a hint of yellow in the leaves around me that were a bright green not too long a go.
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