It’s a new year at the Falls of the Ohio and this is my first foray of 2013. As expected, I have the park to myself. It’s cold, but not unbearable. I can tell that the river has risen and fallen since I last set foot here. The riverbank is rearranged with freshly deposited driftwood and junk. The only wildlife to be encountered are birds. I see the geese and ducks I expect to see, but the stars of the day are the hundreds of Ring-billed gulls that are flying over the river. I begin my visit by walking the riverbank looking for potential art materials and anything else of interest. I do find lots of new Styrofoam, but the pieces are heavy and frozen with water and too much to carry. If the river doesn’t rise again soon, I may get the chance to move the bigger polystyrene chunks to my studio under the willows. Walking the shoreline, here are a few of the other “gifts” I encountered courtesy of the Ohio River.
Half buried in coal dust and gravel is this plastic, scary Santa Claus. I know we just celebrated Christmas, but I couldn’t resist posting this image. He looks old to me and I pull him out of the mud and drop him into my collecting bag. I may try to research him and see if I can find any info about him. On this day, I also found another doll head.
I’m always finding dolls and doll parts. The interesting thing about this particular find is the location. I have on other occasions also found old doll parts in the exact same place. I’m beginning to believe that prior to this area becoming a park it may have served as a landfill? In other areas of the park it is clear that this area was used as a dump from the amount of back fill I come across. Nearby, something blue in the sand catches my eye and I take a look.
In case you were wondering, bowling balls do float. I turned the beautiful blue-marbled surface over and discover that this ball has split in half. The interior is made of a dense, hard foam and this is the reason these balls are buoyant. The outer covering is a very hard plastic and I’m wondering how great a force is needed to break one of these balls open? I imagine it is considerable and is another reminder of the power of the river. Here’s one last find before moving on.
As I walked the riverbank, this jar of peanut butter was deposited by my feet! I wonder where this came from? Near the river’s edge I’m also picking up freshly peeled willow sticks. This is evidence that beavers are in the area. The sticks all bear their teeth marks as they nibble the bark for food. Beavers are very secretive and I have only seen them twice in the past ten years. I like willow wood for its ivory color and use them quite a bit in my river sculptures. I wonder if beavers would like peanut butter?
After scouting the river I head up the bank to the area under the willow trees that I have been using as an outdoor studio for the past year. This ground is slightly higher, but is no match for a flooding river. I have made many temporary studios over the years where I cache the Styrofoam and sticks I use for my figurative sculptures. It’s been perhaps two months since I last visited this spot, but to my eye, not much has changed. I set my collecting bag and walking stick down and select a couple of pieces of Styrofoam for my first figure of the new year.
Before too long, a new figure takes form. Today, I’m breaking in a new knife because I lost my trusty Swiss Army knife out here. That’s two knives I’ve lost since beginning this project and think of my losses as tribute necessary to appease the river gods. My new figure also sports one other find from this day…it’s a button that says “Kentucky is My Land”.
After saying so long to his kin, my latest and unnamed Styro-figure sets out to explore his world. The day started out sunny, but now has turned gray and cloudy. I probably won’t stay out here much longer since the wind has picked up a bit too.
Here is further evidence that the river has risen and fallen recently. A freshly deposited tree has been stranded on the bank and provides an opportunity for investigation. In the distance and past the railroad bridge, one can spy part of Louisville’s skyline. Curious about the tree, my newest figure climbs on top to survey the world from this vantage point.
Every day is a new wonder especially at the Falls of the Ohio. 2013 is a new year, but it also marks my tenth as the artist at exit 0. When I started my Falls project I wondered if I would be able to sustain anybody’s interest much less my own? It was fun learning from the WordPress yearly summary that my blog has been visited by people living in 103 different countries during 2012! I suppose more people now know about this special environment as a result of my activities here which is cool. The Falls are a unique window into the history of life from its past to the present. It’s a place where nature and man’s nature intersect which tells us something about who we are in this moment. I hope my blog continues to be a venue where people can get a sense that creativity can be an active force in shaping the world for the better. As for my latest creation…he decided to hang around to greet any new visitors by the fossil rocks. Perhaps by now, he has gone home with one of them? See you later from the Falls of the Ohio.