Today has been a full day. The Project Reclamation art exhibition I participated in is officially over for now. I picked up my work from the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany and moved on. Efforts are underway to see if this might make a traveling exhibit that university galleries might be interested in booking. I hope so. Having organized many art exhibits over the years I understand how much work goes into the process of creating a good display. Once a show ends, I often had this feeling that lots of energies and passion were spent by the artist(s) and gallery for a relatively short amount of time and then it’s on to new art and the next exhibition. We consume exhibits like we experience so many other things in life. I think this is one reason why I enjoy this Falls project so much. It exists outside the normal gallery conventions and isn’t bound by white walls, pedestals, labels, and consignment forms. The show is ongoing in the context of life at large.
With my artworks in the back of my car…I stopped by the Falls of the Ohio State Park. The Ohio River has been up due to rain and snow in the northern part of the Ohio River Valley. Under the railroad bridge you can get a good sense for the strength of the current. New driftwood was accumulating and enlarging the wood already present. I could also see a lot of man-made junk intermixed among the natural debris.
Just beyond the distant trees in the above image is the approximate location of my outdoor studio. My “treasure trove” of river-polished polystyrene chunks that I have gathered over the past year may or may not still be there? Once the river level drops, I will be able to access my spot again. Regardless, the area will be rearranged by the river…it will be the same, just different if that makes any sense at all? I may even be able to relocate some of the Styrofoam if it hasn’t floated too far away. From experience, I know whatever I may have lost is unfortunately too easily replaced.
With my usual access points underwater, I explored the river’s edge just west of the Interpretive Center. Along the way, I found enough materials to create this Styro-Witness to help me experience and document the day. Although it was a very sunny day, it was still cool and windy. The river’s high level had me walking among the bottom land trees and walking over the logs that had been deposited here by previous floods. Every once in a while, I would walk into cold water hiding under last year’s leaves as the river creeps inland. The squeaky sound of wood rubbing over wood as logs rolled in the waves was occasionally interrupted by loud cracks as branches were separated from tree trunks.
I was anticipating seeing ducks and geese, but none were around today. The Ring-billed Gulls that were so numerous a couple of weeks a go were less prevalent on this day. Just when I thought I might strike out with the birds…I had another personally notable sighting. I observed three Eastern bluebirds engaging in “fly-catching” behavior flying from their respective perches to the ground and back. I couldn’t see any insects at all, but I did see spider silk tangled among the branches and perhaps this is what they found here? Anyway, the Eastern Bluebird is listed in the park’s checklist as being rarely found at the Falls of the Ohio State Park and in the ten years I’ve been paying attention…these are the first bluebirds I have seen here. It’s really cold up north now and heading our way. Were these birds driven here by that frigid weather? Regardless, I wouldn’t have guessed that mid January would be the time I would sight bluebirds here. Their wonderful predominantly deep blue feathers were complimented by the orange and white on their breasts.
This wooden pallet has been snagged in the branches of this tree for at least a year now. I use it as a reference for how high the river can get. In the early days of this project, I recall seeing an old refrigerator perched in the top of a tree courtesy of the Ohio River at flood stage. Seeing an appliance crowning a tree top is a surreal sight not easily forgotten. I kept walking westward with my latest creation and eventually reached the limit of my walk.
The Woodland Loop Trail eventually turns at a small creek that feeds into the river. Here I found about ten fishermen casting their lines into the high water. I decided to sit for a spell and watch while making small adjustments to my newest figure.
These fishermen were casting small, bright green and yellow, soft-bodied, tailed jigs into the creek and having amazing success. All of them were catching Sauger which is a member of the Perch family and smaller cousin to the Walleye.
Sauger are predatory fish and have sharp teeth. Their eyes seem to glow whenever light hits them just the right way and underscores that they normally live in deep, dark water. Sauger eyes have adapted to gather as much light as possible in the depths. Apparently, they are very fine eating and all of the fisherman I observed were filling stringers of fish. Most of the fish I saw being caught were thick-bodied and in the two to three-pound range although they are also capable of getting bigger. The fishermen were having the best time and there was obvious camaraderie among them especially since everyone was catching fish. I had a good time too, but it got to the point of my adventure when it was time to get home and intersect with the family. I stuck my Styro-figure into the soft wood of the log I was sitting on, took one last photograph, and walked away.