Many thanks to all who have wished me well in my new position at the Carnegie Center for Art and History. The people I work with are wonderful and the “old dog” that is me is enjoying learning new things. I noticed on the internet, Facebook in particular, how much people love posting about their pets. I’ve decided to take a page from the animal lovers of the world and try to post something both dog and Falls of the Ohio related and here goes! I start with a picture of our family’s dog. This is Cory and she will soon be eight years old. She is named after the town of Corydon, Indiana where she is from. Her mom was a pedigreed beagle and her father was…a one-eyed, black and white spotted Chihuahua/farm dog who took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself. Such is life! Regardless, the puppies were beautiful and Cory seems to have inherited the good qualities of both breeds. My youngest son, Adam, did the choosing and I recall she was the only female in the litter. In appearance, she looks like a miniature beagle and I love her coloring which is black and tan with little white feet. Cory has warm, brown eyes. She is smart, alert, playful, and devoted to our family to the point of being rather possessive. When I come home from work or the river, she is by far, the most excited to see me! Over the years her greeting me at the front door continues to be something I look forward to with deep fondness.
I decided one cold winter’s day to sort through some of the items I’ve found at the Falls of the Ohio over the years and classify them into more coherent collections. Out of my large and ever-growing toy collection, I determined that I had enough dog-related pieces to form a stand alone collection. I gathered the items up and here they are reassembled on the riverbank for this “class photo” of dog characters. This is just the stuff I decided to pick up and put into the collecting bag and does not count all the pet bowls, balls, and chew toys I’ve encountered. I might have picked up all these other items as well, but there is a certain threshold of plastic fatigue that is reached that is hard to move past. There is just so much needless stuff in the world and a lot of it seems to find its way into the Ohio River. The sheer over-abundance of our material culture has certainly shaped my personal direction as an artist.
While this is all just kitsch, some of this is fun and has endearing qualities that recall good moments from childhood. It’s amazing how much a tiny piece of crap plastic can have these other associations attached to it. I do recognize some of the characters portrayed, but not all. It’s actually become part of the challenge to try to identify what some of this stuff refers to? In this photo I recognize good old “Snoopy” from the “Peanuts” cartoon strip. There looks to be a pair of “Weeble” dogs and a couple of others (including a Dalmatian with a fire hat) that are from children’s play sets.
Here are two items from the “Clifford, the Big Red Dog” series. There is “Clifford” in the form of a juice bottle cap with a black patina from being in the river for a long period of time. I believe the other character is “T-bone”. Originally, when you pulled the bone on the string it would cause the dog’s body to vibrate.
I don’t recognize this guy? He’s kind of cute in a bug-eyed way. I’m sure there was a lot of time and effort that went into the myriad decisions to produce this item from beginning concept to finished product. That also includes extracting the petroleum from the earth and other ingredients that went into this exact plastic recipe.
This cutie seems old. I tried looking on a few toy sites, but could not identify this specific piece. I wonder if in fact it is made of rubber that has become rigid over time?
This earless, body-less, squashed, brown, plastic dog head was probably once part of a child’s pull-toy. That’s my best guess here.
This photo is from a few years back and shows a plastic “Huckleberry Hound” toy as I found it on Goose Island. I remember this character from my childhood and was shown along with “Quick Draw McGraw” cartoons. I later used the blue dog for a story I posted. Here’s an image from that story entitled “Lost and Found Hound”.
I wrote this story in 2010 and was inspired by the lost and stray dogs I sometimes encounter in the park. Sadly, plastic is not the only thing that gets disposed of out here. I did have one adventure at the Falls where I was menaced by a feral dog, but usually, they are very wary and difficult to approach. In my story, there is a happy ending and owner and dog are reunited. I guess it was kind of touching or at least as much as putting Styrofoam, plastic, and sticks together can be. I’ve never taken Cory to the Falls of the Ohio State Park. For one, dogs are supposed to be on a leash…not that everyone adheres to that. I guess I fear I would lose her if I let her run loose. Her nose would soon be overcome with “scent joy” and that would get the best of her. There are so many intriguing smells out here that make up a vast language that we have forgotten about that dogs still remember. Although she usually comes to me when I call her…out here, she could be gone in a blink of an eye and it’s not worth that. We will just stick to our neighborhood’s park. I have a couple other “dog” related projects I’ve made over the years.
Here’s an early project I created when I was less interested in stories and more interested in images and objects. You can’t tell from this picture, but I also made an “old woman” figure to accompany the dog. This piece is made from Styrofoam pinned together with little wooden pegs. It also incorporates plastic, driftwood, and nuts in its fabrication. The yellow ball is the core from a contemporary softball which gives you a hint for scale. I think the working title I had for this piece was “A Game of Fetch”. I enjoy the challenge of creating some sense of motion using such static materials.
Despite looking large in this image…this dog is actually very small. You can tell by the walnut I’ve added for scale. It’s “playing” in the shed, dried leaves of a willow tree. I think in this one, the eyes are bits of found coal. I used this same figure for an image that became one of my Christmas cards.
The dog is on the trail of a very large bird. In this case, the tracks were made by a Great Blue Heron and partially frozen in the sand. Well, there you have my tribute to dogs and the Falls of the Ohio. I dedicate this post to our beloved dog Cory. On a daily basis she teaches us that we are more fully human when we give our hearts to members of another species. See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio.