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Archive for January, 2011

 

Today is the first day in a week that I haven’t run a fever.  I don’t get sick very often, but when I do…I usually get my money’s worth.  I missed a week of work and probably worried the folks closest to me, but now I’m thankfully on the mend.  Now, there’s a lot of catching up to do and I look forward to reading what my blogging friends have been up to and to share a bit of my world by the river.  The following story and images were part of my last expedition to the Falls of the Ohio and made the day before the microbes laid me low.  To begin, I’ll start with the first image in this post.  There are changes afoot in the park proper.  High on the riverbank, the road and parking areas are being expanded and made more accessible.  I naturally am a bit troubled by this since I don’t think this unique place needs to be “loved” anymore than it already is.  I remember the Falls of the Ohio before its state park designation and the building of the Interpretive Center.  I can’t say that I enjoy this space anymore than I did before the building boom began.  Change, as “they” say is the only constant and at the Falls of the Ohio, the rocks bear witness to over 375 million years worth of changes.  So what’s a few more?

I spent more time scrambling up and down the fossil rocks than I usually do and came across this image.  I noticed that the fossil coral on the rock to the left of the tire bore some resemblance to the tire’s tread and created this reciprocal relationship in my pre-fevered brain.  Beyond shape and pattern, I’m struck by our dependence on ancient life to advance our own contemporary concerns.  The Ohio River buried this tire in this ice age gravel many years a go and here it stays.

I have passed by this scene for a while now, but for some reason just decided to check it out more closely.  People often ask me where the larger chunks of Styrofoam I use come from and I reply …”I think they are from floating boat docks”.  Now, I actually have proof of this instead of just relying upon conjecture and intuition.  The larger object to the right of the wooden slatted form is separate from it and actually deposited by the river prior to the dock’s arrival. 

Something unnaturally white seen past the bleaching wood caught my notice and here was my proof.  This boat dock or swimming platform was kept afloat by several monolithic sections of polystyrene.  As the wood decays and breaks apart, the entrapped Styrofoam is released into the river to continue its journey downstream.

Returning to the rocks, I was poking around when I noticed something verdant.  It’s the middle of winter and there isn’t much of anything green to be found anywhere around here.  Looking more carefully, I see that some other Falls beachcomber has found a basket of artificial flowers and propped them on this large fallen tree trunk.  Here is a different view of that basket.

Although I’m no fan of artificial flowers and ivy (my Dutch grandmother actually forbid them in her house) I find I “like” this picture.  Perhaps it’s the illusion of greener times ahead or the considered placement by the basket’s original finder, but it makes me see this place in a way I wasn’t expecting.  On site, I remember thinking that this was put here as a gift.

Walking past a recent project I discovered that the small Styrofoam figure I made was still present…but had blown over by the wind.

So, I set him right and moved on to my next project.  That will be the subject of my next post barring a relapse of my viral funk.  For now, I’m glad to be gaining my strength back and I’m looking forward to returning to work in all its forms. 

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These are all common objects photographed at the Falls of the Ohio on a single cold day in January 2011.

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Come along on this vicarious adventure to the Falls of the Ohio.  The seasons and river help make this a dynamic environment.  I stole a couple of hours during a very cold day to visit the park and was rewarded with a riverscape transformed by ice!

Right at the river’s edge was where I found the ice.  The driftwood, logs, and living willows looked as though clear glass had encased their forms.  I love being a witness to all the transformations that happen in this relatively small place.  It literally can change before your eyes.  Ice at the Falls is always a magical event and one that doesn’t last very long.

Ever wonder what it takes for ice like this to form?  The conditions need to be just right.  First it takes a river where the water is warmer than the air around it.  The river appears to steam and fog can form.  The warmer water vapors come in contact with the colder trees and rocks, condenses, and turns to ice as the temperatures fall below freezing.  You also need one other element and that’s an engineer or architect to direct the action.

If you look closely you can see the architect of this scene in the center of this low growing willow tree.  Here he is seen from a different angle.

The little fellow I was observing was a true artist and had such mastery over his materials.  All he had to do was simply point and wave his arms around and an ice fog would cover the trees and other structures within reach of the river.  In this way he painted the Falls in ice…take a look.  Here he is again doing his thing along the riverbank.

Judging from the slightly mischievous smile, he seems to be enjoying his creations.  I followed along and recorded him in action.  He never slowed down and moved from tree to tree in a methodical way.

The architect made ice that varied in appearance.  Some trees he thickly covered and others he decorated with frozen sausages and jellyfish hanging from the slenderest of branches.

I watched the architect will the ice into place according to an intention and plan known only to him.  I suppose if one were to study this…there  probably are some mathematical equations that can explain all this?

But when it’s this pretty and magical…who cares what the numbers are doing?  It’s nature exhaling and gathering itself before the next big breath restores and awakens the land.  As I left the architect to finish doing his work.  I walked alone admiring what he had left behind.  To end, here are three images my camera recorded along the river.  The last one in particular was lucky…and ducky!

Bottoms up everyone, till next time!

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Looking up at me with that reassuring smile, I thought it a good omen on my first foray of the new year.  It’s winter and so it’s cold, but the sun is bright and clear and strong shadows are everywhere.  I’m bundled up and so it’s okay as I venture forth along my spot on the Ohio River.

Today the landscape and it’s living inhabitants are asleep or away.  I see only a few seagulls and ducks along the river and that’s all.  With the leaves now fallen, the polystyrene sculptures that mark my studio area are more visible.  The very bright whiteness of the Styrofoam can be seen from a distance and it helps these pieces are vertical elements too.  This contrasts sharply with Spring and Summer where you could walk within fifteen yards of this spot and not see these figures for the trees.

The “choir” is still all here, which is what I expected.  People are fair weather animals and when it’s cold, fewer are willing to explore this landscape on foot.  I admit to liking the existential “feeling” I perceive on these winter walks.  There is a clarity that I appreciate not only in the light, but within my mind too.  Winter does a good job with its cold in prioritizing things and the relative lack of sound makes it easier to hear my own thoughts. 

My found materials are as I left them at my open air studio.  I decide to sit on the plank (a little cool on the buns!) and make my first figure or 2011.

Looking around I pick up two smallish pieces of Styrofoam and constructed this delicate figure.  Here he is before the addition of found glass ears.  The mouth is also glass and I like how the river and sand polish this material as it grinds away the sharp edges.  Once completed, I look for an interesting backdrop to create the images that represent this day.

I featured this on a late post from last year.  I’m fascinated by this frayed barge rope or cable that has been snagged by this willow tree.  I like how it is slowly unraveling and the bright orange nylon? fibers add that unnaturalistic element that seems so out-of-place in this environment. 

As I move this little figure around this orange fiber outburst I wonder if the beauty I’m perceiving from the color is somehow out-of-place and perverse?  I begin the year wondering if what I’m also doing out here is aestheticizing garbage as much as I am calling attention to our relationship with nature?  In my defense, I tell myself that I’m just an artist doing what artists have always done…which is react to materials and processes and selectively ordering things in the ways that artists do.  What do you think?

When I last saw this frayed cable, it was helping to form this interesting drift that was a combination of wind, snow, sand, and ice.  I posed a different figure around that formation.  Now all the snow is gone for the moment, but surely we will receive more before season’s end.  Oh, I forgot about the small shoe sole that I tied onto my figure.  Since it came from a child’s shoe…it is meant loosely to be an attribute of innocence.  I have done this with other figures in the past.

When I could no longer push the cold out of my mind and finger tips, I decided to leave this figure by its orange curtain.  I moved him into a position that suggests he’s taking shelter from the elements.  On my next outing to the Falls, I will stop by and see how he’s doing…that is if he’s still out here and hasn’t walked away.

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I have been to the Falls of the Ohio this year and made something from the junk I’ve found, but this is not that post.  As 2010 was winding down, I looked at the year’s images to see if there were other stories that could be created from them.  Yes, I found a few, however, what was really needed were more hours in the day.  Before I could get to them…2010 became history.  And so now, I’m doing a little backtracking and enjoying placing myself in a warmer landscape than currently occupies the view out my window.  I had the idea of showing how other people enjoy recreating in this unique place.  To begin, if the conditions are right, you can fly a kite.  I came across this guy many months a go and I don’t think there was enough wind for him to get the lift he needed.  Louisville, Kentucky can be seen across the river.

One of the Falls activities I see many people pursuing is fishing.  There are a few gem days during the course of the year when the fishing is just fun and excellent.  That primal aesthetic to catch one’s meal finds contemporary expression in angling.  It can be as sophisticated as you like using only the best gear sold in the catalogs…

…or it can be a rather simple activity not requiring a lot of fancy fishing equipment.  In fact, you don’t even need a shirt!

I can remember the look of delight on this man’s face when he had the fish in hand.  What worries me is that I’m seeing more and more people taking fish out of here to eat.  Although the river is supposedly getting cleaner, there are still toxins concentrated in the fish’s tissues.  It’s still a good idea not to eat too many too frequently.  And, the bigger the fish, the more likely more toxins will be present in the fish.  Some folks will go to some lengths to reach the fish that others can’t reach.  It certainly helps to have a boat. 

I think this guy looks like he would be more successful at fishing than he actually was.  The river bottom here is extremely rocky and the current swift.  It’s very easy to lose lures and bait netting you a major case of frustration.  Sometimes just the boat is enough!

Paddling kayaks in the rapids created from water being released under the tainter gates is gaining in popularity.  I have to admit there have been many times I’ve thought how handy it would be to have a small boat out here.  I have even thought about taking some of the larger chunks of Styrofoam that I find and making my own makeshift water craft, but then I come to my senses.  I may still do it one day…we’ll see.

Some folks don’t go much further than the Interpretive Center where they can enjoy the exhibits or listen to one of the volunteers give a talk about nature in the park.  Birdwatching is a popular activity and one I enjoy too.

I don’t mean to pick on these guys…but I’ve noticed many birdwatchers feel that they need to look the part too!  Was it the late Wally Cox who crafted the classic nerdy birdwatcher look complete with khakis and pith helmet?  I suppose it’s better than wearing a feather suit!  In 2010, I did see people doing an activity out here that I had never seen before.  First, seeing these guys gathered at this place along the rocks piqued my curiosity and I moved in closer.

What I found was a competition under way among members of a club who operate remote control cars.  Their cars were designed to roll over rugged terrain and the contest was to see who could best negotiate a course laid out at the Falls and its fossil rocks.  Here’s what the cars looked like.

These cars were amazingly powerful and rugged.  With their outsized tires, many of these cars could crawl up nearly vertical rocks and boulders.  It takes some skill on the part of the operator to navigate around the hazards in the least amount of time.  And then, there are people who see the Falls in more practical and utilitarian terms like this man.

I ran into this fellow on a couple of occasions and each time he was doing the same thing.  He was salvaging the metal wheels from these tires.  He would cut away the rubber and take the metal rims with him to the salvage yard.  He seemed thrilled that there were so many wheels out here.  I also see people collecting driftwood to decorate their gardens and to make arrangements with fake flowers that they could then sell.  One man I spoke with said he received $25.00 an arrangement.  Based on the mental image I formed of his driftwood art, it didn’t sound all that appealing to me.  But I need to not be so judgemental in such matters since as this blog is proof of…beauty and utility are in the eyes of the beholder!  Here’s to another year of river art and adventure at the Falls of the Ohio.

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