After watching the goldfinches in the willows and collecting the latest the river had to offer…I headed to my outdoor studio. I have the day off from my day job and it is also Kentucky Derby weekend. The weatherman is telling me that today will be the day to be outdoors because a cold, wet front is coming through the Ohio Valley. It has been a few weeks since I last visited as life has taken me in other directions. When I was last at this spot, I stashed the surviving and repaired “Flood Brother” next to a tree. In the interim, other people have come across my spot and looked through the junk I’ve assembled here. As for my Styro-figure…I found what was left of him nearby. Here’s a look at the remains.
I found his body first resting upon the older driftwood. He was missing his head and arms. Scouting around, I was able to find bits and pieces including his head staring at the world through his remaining cyclops eye.
Rather than reconstruct him for a third time, I decided to recycle him. I gathered the pieces and parts and hauled it back to my studio. For now, I will let these chunks of polystyrene rest.
The first step in creating some sense of order is to straighten out the mess my previous visitors have left me. I sort through my sticks that I will use for potential arms and legs. I gather up the smaller pieces of Styrofoam and put them in the river-chewed milk crate. I rummage through my collecting bag and select the elements that will make up the face of a new character. I take a few moments to watch robins chasing a young Cooper’s Hawk through the willow trees. Near me, I hear the first notes from a Northern or Baltimore Oriole. It’s reassuring to know that they have returned. Also, there is a noticeable increase in insect life and I’ve observed bumble bees, hornets, and small butterflies going about their business. The sound of running water is always in the background. Picking up a head-shaped piece of Styrofoam I begin to form a new figure.
So far, it’s a smiling figure with a segment of pliable found plastic for a mouth. The ears and nose are also plastic toy pieces. The eyes are river-tumbled pebbles of coal. I use my pocket knife to do this work. The next step is to add a body.
I chose a hunk of Styrofoam from my larder that seemed torso-like. Feeling that it required additional detail, I added two walnuts to reinforce the chest idea. I further added a third piece of Styrofoam that simulates a pelvis and gives the figure added length. Some internal sense for proportion told me I needed to do this even though the entire idea and the resulting figure strikes me as being absurd and who else would notice or even care about this? Beaver-gnawed willow rods connect the head and hips to the torso. Over the years, my working methods have evolved and I definitely have material and form preferences where none existed at the start of this project in 2003. Through trial and error I selected wooden driftwood arms and legs to give my static figure some life, energy, and a suggestion of movement. Here is the first photograph of this spring figure made in the place it was created. Later, the two of us would go out to explore the landscape around the Falls of the Ohio State Park.