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.