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Driftwood pile, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

May has turned into a productive month for me.  If April was defined by rain and flooding…May has been on the dry side.  This break in the weather (along with the nice coolness of Spring) has me out at the river at every available chance.  Friends of mine already think that I live out here, but that’s far from the case.  I wish I could physically be out here more because I don’t tire of the park and I find enough stuff to keep me busy.  The reality is I’m lucky to make it out here on the weekends and holidays.  Over the years, I’ve established routines and I know the place so well that as I walk along, I’m strategizing on what can be done with the materials that I find at various locations.  The digital part is done from home.

Sand Rose, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

In the aftermath of our most recent flooding, a great amount of wood and manmade debris has settled into the park.  I find something interesting to me most everywhere I look.  Here’s another Sand Rose that I encountered, blooming among the driftwood.  This blossom has fabric-like petals and lacks the wonderful perfume that more conventional roses possess.

Plush Parrot Toy, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Covered in burrs and various plant seeds is this plush parrot that I found intertwined in the driftwood.  Lost toys are evocative and in this case, I’m also reminded that 2016 will mark the centennial of the extinction of the Carolina Parakeet which was this country’s only native member of the parrot family.  Both the Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet passed from existence within a couple of years of one another in the same small aviary that now stands as a memorial to them at the Cincinnati Zoo.

White-tail deer skull, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Walking through the driftwood I found this intact and antlered deer skull which is a first for me. I have found other white-tail deer skulls before, but they all were from does.  Over the years , I have found deer remains out here in the wake of flooding.  Perhaps the most memorable experience happened about twenty years a go.  While hiking with a friend, we came to an area where we could smell the sickly sweet odor from something decomposing, but searching the grounds we weren’t able to locate the unfortunate creature.  By chance, I happened to look up where the smell seemed the strongest and discovered a deer carcass that was lodged in a tree about 12 feet or so off the ground.  Of course, it found its way there when the river was high and became stranded when the river receded.  At the Falls of the Ohio State Park you are likely to find unexpected things snagged in the willows.

Red Compostion, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

"Red Composition" on site, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Over the last few weeks, I have been “playing around” more with the brightly colored plastic elements that wash into the park.  I find these site specific compositions rather fun and provoking to do.  Usually, all the plastic elements that the river delivers become somewhat unified and integrated within the matrix of mud, wood, and other detritus.  I believe this thorough mixing keeps people from seeing the true extent these artificial materials and objects are present in the free world.  By choosing to concentrate on a color, like red in this case, I hope to call attention to these materials in a novel way.  This piece started with the nailed together wood frame I found on the driftwood pile.  There are also lots of milled and used lumber elements in the mix too.  Building on previous pieces I did with other colors, I decided to see how much red was in this given area.   “Red Composition” was the result.  With red being such a popular color…I thought I would come across more red than I actually did.  What I did find seemed subject to bleaching in the sun and made me wonder if red plastic was in general use less because of the fugitive nature of the pigments?  Next time I’m at the grocery store I will test this theory more.  Among my red finds of the day include an old flashlight body that had filled with dirt and had a small willow tree growing out of it.  Here’s another example of a plastic composition I did on this particular day.

From the "Petroleum Rainbow Series", Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

From the Series "Petroleum Rainbows", Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

From the series, "Petroleum Rainbows", seen from behind, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This is another in a series I have been calling “Petroleum Rainbows”.  I started with the wooden bench I found in the immediate area and set it up near the riverbank in the willow habitat.  I gathered all the brightly colored items I could find tangled in the driftwood and sitting on the sandy beach and of course most of them are made from plastic.  Testing my fugitive color theory, I did notice a prevalence for the colors green, black, blue, yellow, and white.  Red, orange, and purple were a little harder to come by.  I filled the top of the bench with my river finds and loosely organized it to resemble a color spectrum.  As one Facebook observer noted with a little ire, my colors don’t follow the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet scheme of a true rainbow.  I have done this intentionally as a further provoking element.  Beyond the surface attraction of this party-colored plastic, the brain does register that something is not quite right here which is the feeling I want to leave the observer with…hence, disquieting rainbow.  I made this piece a couple of weeks a go and it has remained relatively intact.  I have been busy at the Falls and have more to show, but will wait a bit before posting those projects. I hope everyone out there is having a nice Memorial Day holiday. See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Detail of objects, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Ginger Lifevest, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

We have had a stretch of gorgeous days along the Ohio River!  Lately, it has been more fun to be outdoors than indoors and consequently, documenting and posting about those adventures has taken a back seat to exploring.  With rain in today’s forecast, it seems a good day to play catch up.  Allow me, “Insert Name Here”, to be your host on what was a very productive day spent along the western shoreline at the Falls of the Ohio State Park a couple weekends a go.  This was the first time I had ventured on this side of the park since our seasonal bout of flooding.  In the past, this has also been a good place to find driftwood and plastic bottles.  For today, I decided to walk along the riverbank utilizing the materials I came across and see how far that would carry me.  Here’s today’s results in order of completion.

Shelf with Colorful Objects, found objects, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015Bottle/Shelf in situ, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This year, I have a new series that I have enjoyed exploring in this driftwood and petrochemical playground.  In part, it is a response due to the abundance of plastic bottle’s in this year’s flotsam and jetsam. It’s a challenge to try to use these materials in ways that will cause others to notice them afresh.  We have become accustomed to having so much plastic around us and despite the often brilliant color of these objects, are relegated to the background like so many other things we have used or don’t care to acknowledge or know what to do about because so many other things are competing for our attention.  To try to regain some element of focus, I have been clustering and combining mostly plastic containers in site specific areas along the trail.  It’s an all organic study.  Some of them present as shrines and are a reminder that we are all pilgrims on the river’s journey.

Arrangement in Blue Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Arrangement in Blue Plastic at the Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This piece which I’m calling “Arrangement in Blue Plastic” was assembled not too far away from the previous work.  All the blue plastic elements were found in the surrounding area and deposited by high water.  Among the found blue oddities includes a plastic boom-a-rang, the spade from a broken plastic shovel, and a beat up, formerly plush, blue plastic puppy.  The arrangement is backed up by found, joined lumber.

Bemoaning Figure, detail of the head, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This is a detail of the head from “Bemoaning Figure”.  He’s a large Styrofoam sculpture about 6 feet tall.  The area where I left him was very muddy…which in this case also aided in standing him up.

Bemoaning Figure, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

The polystyrene floated into the park along with the plastic bottles.  I try to respect the shapes the river gives me with this foam. I thought the head was a particularly nice form.  I was additionally lucky because both the head and body were found near one another and I didn’t need to carry so much stuff back and forth.

Bemoaning Figure, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

I left “Bemoaning Man” mired in the mud which was more than five inches or so of thick sticky fudge.  I stepped right out of one of my shoes setting this figure up in the landscape!  I had to find and pull my shoe out of the mud while balancing on one leg.

Black and White Plastic Arrangement, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

arrangement in Black and White Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

On the way from my trip…I stopped and reused a shelf I had set up earlier.  I have become so much better at strategizing and planning as I go along.  This is resulting in more pieces being photographed at the river.

Family Circle, found flip-flops, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Family Circle, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

As I walked along, I was picking up lost flip-flops and putting them into my collecting bag.  At the end of day, I try to make an image with whatever I happened to find.  So far, I’m calling this piece “Family Circle”.  I left the wayward footwear right in this spot and moved on.  All that’s left to look at before calling it a productive day are a couple of pictures of me (for scale) taken earlier in the morning.

Tall Figure, "Ginger Lifevest", Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Here I am posed next to one of my favorite trees in the park.  It’s a large cottonwood tree that has been featured on this blog many times before.  I have taken refuge underneath its roots during thunder storms and people like to camp out around it.  It is one of the best features in the western section of the park.  The day has been a long, but productive one with several river art projects realized.  Thanks for tagging along…here’s one last look back at the full height of that cottonwood tree.

Large cottonwood tree, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

debris field, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

April’s tale was of a high Ohio River and rain fall for the record books. Twice the river rose to flood stage before subsiding back into its muddy banks.  Left in its now drying wake are trash mounds and islands of wood and debris that were pushed and floated upon the water’s surface by wind and current.  In this mish mash of culture and nature I carefully pick my way over and through the debris fields at the Falls of the Ohio.  All along the riverbank, the dull and muddy colored wood contrasts with the reflected light from hundreds of plastic bottles and chunks of bright white Styrofoam.

Large blue plastic egg among other river debris, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I picked a great day to visit the river.  As soon as I arrived in the park, I could hear several newly arrived male Northern Orioles calling back and forth through the tall cottonwood trees.  I even found several eggs.  Here is a large blue plastic egg nestled in shredded tree bark and plastic bottles.  I also found a muddy, but real Canada goose egg now too cool to incubate. There was an adult goose hanging out near me and I suspect some early nesters had their clutch washed away by the second flood.  I decided with so much brightly colored plastic scattered all over this woody mound…I wondered if I could put any of it to use?

detail, yellow plastic trash, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

As you can see in this detail image…I decided to concentrate on the color yellow.  I stayed within a certain area and collected all the yellow objects on this driftwood mound.  It was tricky work because the footing was not good.  Several times I sank to my hip as my leg would go through the loosely tangled branches, dirt, and logs.

I call this piece “Yellow Concentrate”.  It consists of mostly plastic, quart-sized oil containers along with a few larger laundry detergent jugs.  There are a few odd items as well.  I found three rubber ducks on today’s adventure and used two of them here.  I used a bowl-like depression in the driftwood as my setting to assemble and sort through the junk.  I was glad to have the wooden platform in the foreground because it was also easy on the feet.

Landscape view with "Yellow Concentrate" facing railroad bridge, April 2015

 This site gave me potential for a few good views.  Here is “Yellow Concentrate” with the railroad bridge in the background.

"Yellow Concentrate" with the City of Louisville across the river. April 2015

Now here’s the same piece with the skyline of the City of Louisville on the southern shore.  All that massed yellow really pops you in the eye.  Individually, all these yellow plastic containers barely registered scattered across the debris field, but it’s a different story when you bring them together.  Feeling pretty good about yellow…I decided to next try a different color.

"Blue Extract", Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

As I was collecting all the yellow containers…I was also sorting out the blue ones and throwing them in the driftwood bowl.  On a nearby fallen, diagonally leaning tree trunk…I arranged my collection.  The big blue Easter egg is near the center.  As I worked on “Blue Extract”, the hole I was standing in kept getting wider and deeper.

"Blue Extract", Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Most of these containers are plastic oil and liquid detergent bottles, but I mixed a few aerosol cans in as well.  In this line are seven plastic and rubber balls.  One last project before calling it a day.  I stayed in the same area and pulled aside all the lost flip-flops I encountered.  I laid them all out on the white surface of a metal refrigerator that had floated in here with the last flood.  It looked like the Shoe Shaman had been this way too.

lost flip-flops on the side of a refridgerator, April 2015

Sandal Arc, found objects from the Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

The stark whiteness of the fallen refrigerator reminded me of the white pedestals that you would find in an official gallery.  I organized the lost foot wear from smallest to largest, left to right.  I soon left for home with a hefty collecting bag full of “river treasure” and a camera loaded with images.  Every thing else was left in place.  I will come back when the river level drops a little bit more and the fudge-like mud has had the chance to harden in the sun.  There is still so much more to explore in the park and can see myself keeping busy for the rest of the year.  Here’s one last look over the shoulder at today’s location at the Falls of the Ohio.  I realized after the fact, that the found milk crate I used to move materials around was so bright red that it holds its place among the yellow and blue.  Until next time!

Site of this day's activity, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Plastic Pegasus/Unicorn toy, Falls of the Ohio, 2015

It’s the last week of April, which means the first Saturday in May is a few days away.  In Louisville, that signals the world’s most famous horse race, the Kentucky Derby, will be run. This edition is the 141st Kentucky Derby, which culminates in two weeks worth of Derby Festival parties and celebrations.  Over the years, I have had occasion to find, photograph, and sometimes keep the horse related toys that I come across in the aftermath of flooding at the Falls of the Ohio.  Following is a small album of river rejects.  I start with this image and though it is not a Pegasus (The Pegasus Parade is the oldest Derby Festival event) it is somewhat horse-like.  It appears to be a flying unicorn and has a mane and tail you could probably comb at one time.

Blue plastic fragment of a horse riding toy, Falls of the Ohio

I found this fragment in the western section of the park partially buried in the sand.  At one time this was a riding toy that had a wooden handle going through the head and was kid powered.

Pink Plastic  Horse with flowing tail and mane, Falls of the Ohio

I found this pink beauty tangled in the driftwood.  These ponies that have hair that can be brushed must be popular…

Pale Pink horse toy with brushable hair, Falls of the Ohio

…or not,…because here’s another one pulled out of the debris field!  I believe this unfortunate pony also had cockle burrs tangled up in its mane.

Small yellow plastic horse with chewed off leg, Falls of the Ohio

This small yellow plastic horse was probably put out to “pasture” because it can’t run anymore.  It looks like either some one or some thing chewed off its right hind leg.

Small, white plastic horse, Falls of the Ohio

This tiny horse was found upside down.  It’s missing the green plastic base it once stood on.  Fine droplets of rain begin to wet the sand on the day I came across this find.  My friend, Bernie from Vermont, gave me the idea for this post.  He needed a horse image for a story he had written and asked if I had any in my river archive.  This was one of the ones I sent him.  I have one last horse to show and it is a piece I photographed in place last weekend.  I hope everyone out there has a great Kentucky Derby and may your horse win, place, or show…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Brown plastic horse, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Mid April High Water, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

It’s mid April and the television meteorologists have said it all.  If the Kentuckiana area receives one more drop of rain…we will set an all time local record for precipitation during any April since records have been kept.  With half a month to go and more rain in the forecast for this week…that record is a goner.  As I write this…the river is still rising.  I mentally contrast this to what is happening in California with their severe drought.  I wonder if there are any billionaires out there that would like to invest in a pipeline that would send all this extra water to where it’s needed most?  After all, isn’t water a much more precious commodity than crude oil?  We don’t send exploratory satellites and space craft into the vast distances of the universe looking for petroleum.  It’s water we seek because in a fundamental way we realize that water is the key to life.

The high Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

The following adventure happened last weekend which was warm and beautiful, but with an ever-rising river.  The large driftwood mound under the railroad bridge I documented in my last post has broken apart and floated away along with my absurd March Madness figure.  Perhaps when the river returns to its usual water levels, I may run into him once again?  For now, I am exploring a section of the Ohio River Greenway which is near the Interpretive Center’s entrance and has a nice view of Louisville’s skyline.  The riverbank does not lack for junk and before long I’ve photographed and collected a full bag of possibilities for future use.  It was while I was absorbed in my own head space that I bumped into a most unusual character that was engaged in what looked to be some type of ritual at the water’s edge.

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

What I first thought was singing turned out to be chanting and it was coming from this exotic guy.  I’m sure I must have had the strangest expression on my face!  Despite my presence, this blue-helmeted figure with some kind of mandala on his chest was practically knee-deep in muddy water and lining up found flip-flops on a beached log.  A perfectly normal activity don’t you agree?  I’m assuming he gathered these sandals from all the other flotsam and jetsam that has washed into here?  That part I can understand because I have an ongoing collection of the same footwear that I hope to make into something grand and profound some day.

Detail of the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation and altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I remained quiet, stayed observant, and took these photographs.  I saw the blue helmeted man face west and chant.  He later did the same thing looking towards all the cardinal directions.  On occasion, he would carefully pick up a sandal and whisper to it before placing it back upon the water-logged trunk of a limb-less tree.  For emphasis, he would also do this little hop dance step in the muddy water.  I waited for him to finish before interrupting him with a few questions of my own.

Head of the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Shoe Shaman with his altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Finally, I had my chance to speak and the mysterious figure looked my way.  I was surprised that I could understand what he was saying.  First, he thanked me for respecting his custom by not interrupting his ceremony.  He also said that it is very important that the flow of energy continue unabated if the ritual was to take hold.  Filled with questions, I asked his name and what was he doing?  Patiently, he explained that he was the Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, a holy man and offered as proof the ill-fitting helmet on his head which was the official crest of his high office.  I didn’t say anything, but thought the Shoe Shaman’s head-gear bore an uncanny resemblance to a Smurf’s head.  I wondered if that was in fact the Big Blue Nation he was referring to?  If that indeed was the case…well, it did make some sense in a surreal sort of way.  There are many cultures that have legends about “little people”.  I asked what he was doing with the sandals and he said that working with footwear was his specialty.  Each shoe, in this case, each lost sandal…has a direct connection to the soul of its former owner and is holy to them.  The weight of each person is impressed into the sole’s foam and is as individual as a fingerprint.  In his culture, they have a saying that you can’t fully understand someone until you stand in their shoes.  I said we have a similar saying.  The Shoe Shaman said that his goal is to affect the river’s empathy and not to further enrage it for taking the water and environment for granted. My new friend was attempting to appease the flood waters by asking the river to forgive our carelessness and to accept the sacrifice that had been prepared for it on this altar of wood.  The shaman assured me that only in this way would the river agree to return to its normal banks and not seek out our kind that had been hurtful towards it.

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation with the skyline of Louisville across the river, April 2015

At the water's edge, the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I’ll admit that the idea of a revenge seeking river stunned me some, however, history is full of epic floods.  In our arrogance, we forget how at Nature’s mercies we really are.  My curiosity sated…it was time to move on.  I left the shaman at that interstitial zone between water and land.  Slogging through the mud, I paused briefly sitting on a dry log and thought about what I had witnessed as I also picked the mud off the bottom of my shoes.  I am hoping that he was successful in intervening on our behalf and only time will tell.  For my part, I will never forget the scene and will pledge to do my part to be respectful towards creation by celebrating it and in doing so…hope to save myself and those dearest to me.  I don’t ever want one of our soles to go missing and find itself on a log floating somewhere along the Ohio River.  Until the river retreats…

The Sandal, Wood Altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Driftwood and debris in flood aftermath, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

A view from last weekend when the water level was dropping and the sun was shining and welcoming.  Curiosity overwhelmed me and I ventured forth over the driftwood piles and muddy riverbanks.  Looks like most of the driftwood at the Interpretive Center has been washed away, however, under the railroad bridge, a sizeable mound of twisted matter has accumulated.  To avoid sinking ankle-deep in mud…I gingerly walk on the backs of huge logs and pick my way through the debris field.

Junk under the bridge at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Plastic and polystyrene debris, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

This most recent bit of flooding has deposited a large number of plastic drinking bottles onto this landscape.  I am assuming that the river isn’t through rising for the moment because two days ago…we received about six inches of new rain overnight.  Statistically, that was the most rain ever recorded on an April day in Kentucky’s history and the fourth biggest rainfall total for a day during any month in our state’s experience. We had a lot of localized flooding from that storm and coupled with the immense fire at the General Electric Appliance Park, put the national spotlight on Louisville…twice in one day.  The GE fire and subsequent thick, nasty smoke with its fumes and particulate matter from incinerated plastic rose into the clouds and was a nearly apocalyptic vision.  Many people mistook the immense column of smoke for a tornado and the weather services were peppered with false alarms.  All this goes into saying that environmentally, it’s been a rough few weeks around here.  Spring while lovely with the returning sunshine and greenery, also has this dark side which it is not afraid to show from time to time.

Three Stooges ball found at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

I can be sure to find novelties among all this brown materiality.  Can’t say I have ever come across a Three Stooges ball before and there they were, Larry, Curley, and Moe looking up at me!  There were other treasures as well.  Here’s a snapshot of a toy I found that I dropped into the old collecting bag.

old plastic toy, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Discovered resting upon the wood and bark chips was this plastic fragment from a vintage toy.  It is missing it’s backside.  I have found similar old toys before and now suspect the river has cut into a landfill and liberated these older toys from the ground.

dead Asian carp, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Came across this large carp which was one of three dead animals I found.  Also located the remains of a Black Vulture and a Canvasback Duck that looked to be what was left from a bird of prey’s meal.  Every now and then, you discern a sickly sweet smell emanating from the driftwood and you know some other unfortunate life form is buried under the debris.

My "Unidentified Floating Platform" and former studio area, March 2015

This is the centerpiece of my former outdoor studio area where I had cached many of the materials I found in the park.  All the Styrofoam pieces I had salvaged for artworks have washed away, but there is a fresh batch for the picking.  This large, painted, metal disc is what I’ve been calling the “UFO” which is short for Unknown Floating Object.  It washed into the park several years a go and subsequent floods have yet to move it out.  It is now tilted and has all this driftwood around it.  Formerly, it was laying flat on the ground and made a nice surface to work on.  My time is limited today and I want to make something from all this “abundance” out here.  I select a few large chunks of Styrofoam and begin constructing a figure.

Large, Styrofoam head in progress, March 2015

Some of the large pieces of Styrofoam I want to work with are water-logged and too heavy to move.  I will wait a few weeks and see if the sun dries them out more?  I select two pieces for what will be a large, absurd figure and get to work.  I pick up junk around my feet and created this large head.  I move a really large polystyrene block into place atop the driftwood pile next to a river buoy that says “Idle Zone” on it.  For the next couple of hours, I will be anything but idle.

March Madness at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Head of "March Madness", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

While I was constructing this figure, I decided to call it “March Madness”.  According to the Walls Street Journal and ESPN, the Louisville area is the epicenter of interest in the college basketball game and its season ending national championship tournament.  Our region usually has several teams competing for top honors.  On the day I made this figure, the University of Louisville Cardinals were knocked out of contention.  I attached an old basketball to the end of a very long arm.  The slight breeze blowing at the time caused the figure’s arms and head to sway and vibrate in place.

"March Madness", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Back of "March Madness" facing the City of Louisville, March 2015

I look forward to spending a bit more time out here…weather permitting.  If everything remains in place, there is a chance to make several large figures this season.  I will be curious to see if this figure is still standing or whether park visitors or the elements have toppled it?  I just received a notification from WordPress that I have just reached my sixth anniversary of blogging with them!  For today, I will end with a picture of a tree that recently was completely underwater.  You can tell how high the water rose from the junk caught among the branches.  Happy Easter everybody!

Willow tree, formerly underwater, with debris stuck in its branches, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

 

 

City of Louisville, KY as seen across flooded Ohio River, March 2015

The Ohio River remained higher than expected and was bolstered by a few days of rain.  I visited the Falls of the Ohio last weekend during a moment when the water level had dropped just enough to reveal a muddy shoreline with its accompanying line of stranded debris.  The places in the park I like to work and visit were still underwater.

Louisville as seen from the muddy Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

I put on my “Falls shoes” which were already muddy and that I keep outside on the front porch of my house and headed for the river.  As usual, I brought a collecting bag and camera with me and ventured forth to see what there was to see.  In places, you could tell that the river with its water-born logs had acted as a battering ram and pretty much leveled the vegetation nearest to the water.

"river shivers", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

The silt and clay are both very fine and sticky when wet.  I gingerly step on wood and other debris to keep from sinking ankle-deep in this quagmire.  I enjoy looking at the rippling wave patterns that the water creates.  I call this “river shivers” and imagine if the riverbank could display “goose-flesh” that it would look something like this.  And speaking of geese…

tracks made by geese, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

domestic goose at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

…the flock of Canada geese I photographed the previous week, left their footprints everywhere in the mud.  Their friend, the ex-patriot domestic goose, was still hanging out with them.

High water trash at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Of course, nearly every place you looked, you could see man-made trash and driftwood.  Much of this material has originated far from here.  When things finally dry out enough for a more thorough exploration, I’m expecting to find all kinds of examples of our material culture washed into the park.

flood born trash at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Interspersed with the bottles are lots of other plastic items and various foam-based garbage including Styrofoam…my primary sculptural material.  This is just a detail of one small area.  Already I’m seeing hundreds of plastic drinking bottles.  I’ve been asked on more than one occasion if I’m ever afraid that I might poison myself or get an infection from something that I’ve found out here by the river.  My short answer is yes.  One needs to be concerned, however, I don’t press my luck with anything that looks at all questionable.  I guess I do place a lot of trust that the billions of gallons that constitutes the Ohio River does in effect “wash” the stuff that I use.  So far, knock on wood, I’ve never had an adverse reaction after working out here for more than a decade.  The Falls of the Ohio State Park is a public space and what I encounter is also what the public encounters.

trunk load of river junk, March 2015

Here’s the trunk of my car after this brief foray to the river.  This may be hard for some of you to believe, but I’m actually very selective now. These days, I only carry back to my home work space, the “cream of the crop”.  I prefer to make my artworks at the river, but will also take materials home to “hedge my bets” and for workshop purposes.  The larder I had created at my “UFO” (Unknown Floating Object) outdoor studio is now long gone and I wonder if that circular metal platform is still around…or has it finally floated away too?

Galerie Hertz exhibition announcement, March 2015

While temporally stymied by water and mud, I have the opportunity to interact with the local art world in a more usual way.  Galerie Hertz which represents my art in Louisville opened a collage and assemblage group show.  Billy and his partner Tom have been important players in our city’s cultural life.  They have been rightly credited for creating an arts district on Market Street through the activities of their renovated galleries.  Each new space the pair opened was an upgrade of a building that needed some help.  This gentrification has attracted other galleries and dealers, bars, restaurants, and several home décor stores along Market Street.  In typical Galerie Hertz fashion, Billy and Tom have moved on to a different location and their current gallery where I’m showing my works is now on South Preston Street.  How often is it the case that creative folks move into formerly neglected areas and bring them to back to life?

"Moon Star", found objects from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Among the works I have in this group show is this piece entitled “Moon Star”.  I made this piece at the river, but felt is could use a bit more embellishment.  I added many found bicycle tire reflectors and some river-polished glass around the head.  When the light hits it just right, the reflectors just glow.

"Polar Beaver", found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

"Polar Beaver", facing left, found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Through the miracle of “Styro-dermy”, I saved the Polar Beaver I encountered recently.  To get this piece to sit the way I want it to…I have embedded three, large, lead fishing weights into the tail to counterbalance the body.

"The Harbinger of Spring", found materials, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

This diminutive figure is called “The Harbinger of Spring” and I created him last year at this time.  I also wrote an accompanying story that helped explain how winter transitions to spring.  Although I like to think that many of my Styrofoam-bodied sculptures can hold their own as freestanding objects…they are also relics and artifacts of a site specific performance that happens out at the river and is additionally documented through photographs and stories.  At the moment, the sun is shining, but it is also cold at the river.  Tomorrow is another day, another day for the river to recede and the mud to dry.  I think I will get up early and give it a go.  I will let you know what I discover at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Railroad bridge at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

 

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