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Archive for April, 2013

vertical and horizontal wood at the Falls, April 2013

When words fail me, my pictures often bail me out.  I’m certainly not much of a  philosopher or poet who can consistently turn just the right phrase.  I suppose this is one reason I gravitated towards the visual arts.  I do, however, try through words and images to create some kind of synthesis that touches upon how human nature intersects with nature at large.  The Falls of the Ohio State Park continues to provide that stage for me and the river offers up many examples where the natural and artificial routinely bump into or meld with one another.  This happens most commonly when we carelessly set free our man-made detritus into the environment.  Following are a few examples I encountered on this outing.

foam deer head archery target, April 2013

Looks like a rock or a piece of wood, but on closer inspection, it’s what’s left of a synthetic deer head used for archery practice.  This head probably once attached to a life-size foam body.  The river has eroded the neck and muzzle away but you can still see an eye spot, ear stub, and a location where artificial antlers could attach.  Once upon a time, this archery target was convincingly realistic.  It’s what’s left of a fake deer where real deer exist.  In the mud very close to this find were actual deer tracks.  Deer have moved into Louisville and it is becoming more common to encounter roadkill within the city’s limits.

toy fantasy horse, April 2013

It’s Kentucky Derby time in the Bluegrass so it is fitting that I find a horse image by the river and what a horse it is!  Shockingly pink with a long flowing mane that cockle burrs and other wayward seeds have become entangled.  How long will it be before our Wizard of Oz science creates real horses of different colors?  I’ve seen that we can already do this with some fresh water aquarium fishes.  Although this toy’s inspiration is the horse…this isn’t a very naturalistic example and was designed to appeal to children.  I bet I could take this horse and plant it in the ground and have some of the attached seeds germinate.

found plastic ice cream cone, April 2013

Because this is tiny, it would be easy to walk over this “prize”. This plastic ice cream cone compliments the small plastic toaster pastry I came across a couple of weeks a go.  I think this might emulate chocolate covered mint ice cream in a wafer cone? I’m still finding plastic fruits and veggies, but I’m also encountering more plastic fake “processed” items including fast food standards like cheese burgers and the occasional petrochemical french fry.

Swept-wing Dove, April 2013

Flying by at great speed and requiring a camera with an extremely fast exposure is the Swept-wing Dove.  This is my latest avian creation.  It’s another fake bird that came together in the context of where Audubon left his footprints.  I casually put this together using found materials which includes plastic, Styrofoam, insulating foam, and I’m not sure what the brown body is made of but it’s some kind of foam as well.  The bill is a pen cap found along the trail.  The forms were shaped by the Ohio River and I used them as is.

Swept-wing dove flying over bottom land, April 2013

Coursing over the bottom land near the river’s edge is my fake bird which is also the habitat of many real birds as well.  The spring migration of neotropical birds heading northward is one of my favorite times of year.  It’s a chance to see species passing through that normally don’t hang out for very long.

Swept-wing dove in flight, April 2013

The insulating foam that forms the right-wing is practically the same value as the river in the distance and causes it to nearly disappear.

April 14, 2013 077_1_1

For thousands of years the river has been a baseline supporting life in the way nature intended.  Now I see a more complicated scene where dislocated images, objects, and substances blur along the shoreline of the conventional. It’s also an odd feeling realizing that much of this trash can also possess a natural beauty of its own.

Two local boys with Swept-winged dove, April 2013

Along this stretch of the river I had these two guys tagging along and asking me questions such as “What are you doing?” and “Mr. did you make the bird and what are you going to do with it?  I asked them if they were artists too and one said yes and the other didn’t believe he was.  I later observed them swinging from a stout vine growing along a sycamore tree and playing in their fantasy world.  Their fathers were nearby fishing at the water’s edge.  I will leave now with a fuller look at the tree I often use to gauge how high the river is.

tree with snagged wooden palette, April 2013

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at the Louisville Zoo, April 20, 2013

One of the benefits of being a long-time member of a local art community is that on occasion you get asked to help judge art contests.  I began my morning on Earth Day at an awards ceremony held at the Louisville Zoo.  Last week I was one of six judges looking at children’s artwork (from preschool to high school) made from recycled elements.  Originality, material diversity, and creativity were the criteria.  The art exhibit is entitled “Trashformation” and this is the inaugural event hosted by the zoo.  Although most of the entries were from Louisville, art projects also came in from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The winners from each of the various school group categories were recognized on an absolutely beautiful Spring morning.

Mayor Greg Fischer at the Louisville Zoo, April 20, 2013

Graciously presenting the prizes to the students was Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer.  The kids and their families were excited to have the Mayor on hand and he was very cordial and approachable.  Mayor Fischer reinforced the idea of how critical it is to preserve and protect the environment.  The Mayor highlighted a few of the green initiatives his administration has championed including appointing a Metro Director of Sustainability, increasing curbside recycling, and surveying the health of Metro Louisville’s tree canopy.  Making the status of the urban environment a priority is vital to the city’s quality of life and is good for business as well.

Trashformation winners in the group category, April 20, 2013

Kids need little persuasion on the importance of reducing, recycling, and reusing.  They seem to get it and now it’s up to the rest of us to get on board!  Here is the winning team from the group category.  Their winning entry featured a recycled globe, plastic bottles, aluminum foil, plastic, and cardboard.

Winning entries in the Trashformation contest, April 20, 2013

On the table are a few more of the winning entries across various categories.  The homemade orange recycling bin made of cardboard and aluminum cans is a witty submission from a middle school duo.  Other notable projects included a shoe box diorama of the zoo and a bird with nest and eggs made from a recycled art book.

Recycled robot winner at the Trashformation contest, April 20, 2013

This creative “Recycle Man”  was a popular choice among all the entries.  The girl standing next to the Mayor is the artist who made it.  A large crowd was on hand thanks to a “Two Dollar Day” promotion sponsored by Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities.

Young lady accepts her prize from the Mayor, April 20, 2013

This young lady accepted her award for her artwork and couldn’t wait to share it with her family.  I’m sure there were several fond memories created on this morning.  After the awards ceremony I decided to check out some of the animals at the zoo.  The Louisville Zoo is Metro Louisville’s most popular attraction.  In addition to being a fun destination, the zoo is also well-known for its many conservation successes.  I always enjoy watching the Lowland Gorillas and they were having breakfast outdoors on this fine morning in the Derby City.

Lowland Gorillas at the Louisville Zoo, April 20, 2013

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pollinating tree, April 2013

It’s Thunder Over Louisville weekend which means the largest fireworks extravaganza in North America will happen tonight.  This is the kickoff event for the Kentucky Derby Festival which culminates in the horse race itself on the first Saturday in May.  The festival is a two-week event and while fun for residents and visitors…can also be an obstacle course if you are trying to get around town.  I like using the bridge on 2nd Street to get to the Falls of the Ohio State Park, but it is shut down and being used for the fireworks display.  At its height, Thunder Over Louisville (which also includes an air show) has drawn 800,000 people to the banks of the Ohio River on a single day.  I’m hoping to access the river and the park tomorrow.  For the moment, I have images to post from my last visit.  Looking through the pictures, it occurred to me that I had captured moments in the lives of individual trees that I would like to share.  The area continues to green up and many trees are producing their pollen.  For allergy sufferers, this is an especially difficult time.  If I was affected by seasonal allergies…I doubt I could do this project.  There is something about being in the bottom of the Ohio Valley that seems to bring out the worst for those allergic to various molds and pollen.

driftwood at the creek, April 2013

driftwood at the creek, April 2013

driftwood lining the banks of the creek, April 2013

I started this adventure on the Woodland Loop Trial near the Interpretive Center.  The path eventually leads to a small creek that at the moment has a tremendous amount of driftwood lining the contours of its banks.  All this wood was deposited here by the Ohio River swollen from winter rain and snow melt all along the length and breath of the river valley.  More high water could eventually carry all this wood back out into the river for parts unknown.  Still, this represents a lot of trees.  I have this idea in my head that as a result of climate change, we have all this extra water and energy in our weather systems?  Where does the water from retreating glaciers and Arctic melting go?  I’m guessing that some of it is evaporated out of the oceans and into a warming atmosphere where it influences the global weather patterns?  This excess water eventually precipitates out causing more severe weather events including flooding.  This increases riverbank erosion and tree loss.  Is there a limit on how much water the atmosphere can absorb?    Of course development along the rivers takes its share of trees too.  The cumulative effect of many actions continues to shape the environment.

tree too close to the river, April 2013

tree roots and river mud, April 2013

These exposed tree roots are something that I’m noticing more of at the Falls of the Ohio.  I’m assuming that frequent high water causes this?  This isn’t necessarily fatal and these trees can survive as long as the riverbank stays in place.  In addition to more water…an increase in storm related wind velocity has also been noticeable over the years.  We have had a lot of trees simply blow over and be lost in this manner.  Continuing to walk westward in the park, I can see that my favorite cottonwood tree continues to be developed as a party hang-out.

cottonwood tree party hangout, Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

fire pit outside the tree fort, April 2013

distant view of downtown Louisville from inside tree fort, April 2013

I posted on this wonderful cottonwood tree not too long a go and remarked on how it was once again becoming a focal point for parties.  The fire pits are larger and there are more beer bottles and cans around this tree than before.  I’ll bet this place is especially magical illuminated by camp fires.  Plus, more found wood has been used to hide a large silvery sheet of corrugated plastic to impart a more naturalistic appearance.  From inside and under the tree, you can see in the distance part of the downtown skyline of Louisville which will be filled with fireworks tonight.  Over the years, this tree has been discovered by different generations of folks and continues to hang in there.  I hope this will always be the case.  The next big flood will eventually wash all the additions away as it has done before.

tree with snagged wooden pallet, April 2013

Here’s an image that demonstrates how high the river can rise.  This snagged pallet has been hanging out on this tree branch for a couple of years now.  Trees can demonstrate some resilience in the face of adversity.  I know of a couple of trees at the Falls that have made use of improvised “planters”.

Willow growing within a tire, April 2013

Cast off tires are a ubiquitous element of river-born trash.  Somehow this willow tree has found a sheltering toehold in this wheel.  I’m curious to learn whether this tree can continue to grow and survive in what is ultimately a restrictive space?  On this walk, I also came across this unusual juxtaposition and thought it might fit in this post too.

willow roots, plastic laundry basket, and clothing item, April 2013

This may be as near as I come to having a tree suggest that it could do laundry too!  The surface root of an old willow tree has caught this old jacket.  The last high water floated this plastic laundry basket into this area and it settled next to the root.  This is not your average still life.  The gravel in the photo was deposited here by the last of the retreating ice age glaciers.

Sauger Man, April 2013

 

To conclude this post…as I was walking along the loop side of the trail, I spotted  a piece of Styrofoam in a ditch.  Retrieving it I discovered one of my previous sculptures from several months a go.  I originally included him in a story that featured sauger fishermen.  Except for a missing nose, the sculpture was complete.  I was surprised that it survived intact going on several months now.  Looking through my collecting bag…I replaced the lost nose with another piece of found plastic and set him up to greet visitors along the trail.  Here’s a final picture showing him next to a tree that the wind blew down last year.  Thanks for hanging out with me for the past thousand words.  Have a great weekend!

Sauger Man, under a tree trunk, Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

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wildflowers, April 2013

Spring has definitely arrived and the land is turning green.  I love watching this verdant transformation as the Falls of the Ohio becomes a garden again.  We had a weary winter and so seeing the sun more regularly warms the heart and imagination.  These are images from my last visit to the park.  I believe I downloaded about seventy or eighty pictures which is about normal for one of my excursions.  I can find personal interest in most everything I come across which makes editing and creating some sort of post a fun challenge.  I spend hours on site and then a good amount of time at home looking at the pictures and wondering how to put order to any of it?  Usually, I try to give some representative sense of what the day was like.  I believe I could create all sorts of permutations and stories from just a single trip…but, that would cut into my time to be outdoors and fill my lungs with fresh air.

female mallard resting on one leg, April 2013

I began the morning in the western section of the park.  Driftwood and junk have been driven against the Indiana bank of the Ohio River.  Prevailing currents and high water have formed this log raft against the shoreline.  Future high water will eventually send this material over the dam and under the railroad bridge and then throughout the park.  Moving to the river’s edge I surprised more than one sleeping duck and see my first Great Egret of the year.  I tried sneaking over the driftwood to take a picture of the egret which was feeding at the water’s edge.  I must be losing my touch because the wary egret spotted me and took off.  This duck standing on one leg, however,  was more obliging.

view from the western section at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

Here’s a view from the western section of the park.  Walking along the water’s edge I came across all manner of bric-a-brac some of which made it into the collecting bag.  Upon returning to my outdoor studio, I photographed a few of my newest “treasures” on the sand which included many toys.  I have a compulsion to pick this stuff up and order it into various collections…but other than that I’m not sure what I will eventually do with much of this plastic.  I am a believer, however, that someday I will have an idea or inspiration and I will follow that.  I still feel there is something here to explore between the poles of what these items are intended to represent and what they are in reality.

a selection of found toys and novelties from the Falls, April 2013

I keep finding toy wheels of all different sizes and slowly an idea for a wall installation is taking place in my mind.  I have an offer to show work in a show during the 2014 season and so I set a goal to realize this “wheel piece”.  Here are two views of one of my more interesting finds of this day.

deceased blue crayfish found at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

dead blue crayfish found at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

Unfortunately, I didn’t find this blue crayfish while it was alive.  By far, most of the crayfish I have seen have been brown in color.  I wonder if it was crushed by the logs rolling in the high water?  I don’t know which species of crayfish this is, but apparently blue crayfish are a genetic color morph.  There is one species that is now bred to be blue for the aquarium pet trade.  The way the grains of sand fit around the exoskeleton gives a sense of how a fossil might be formed if given the right conditions and deep time.  I picked it up and held it in my hand and just appreciated such a small, but spectacular animal.  I was curious to see how the Flood Brothers from my previous post were holding up and soon I had my answer upon reaching my site.

my outdoor studio spot at the Falls, April 2013

The Flood Brothers were gone as were several other pieces of Styrofoam!  My small studio area had been rummaged through, but this is not unusual and I kind of expect this to happen.  The stuff I gravitate towards is not the junk other folks look for, however, anybody is welcomed to whatever I’ve cached here.  I have nothing of value here.  There is more.  Apparently, the discoverers of my studio were carrying bits of frayed barge cable when they stumbled over my spot.  In order to take the Flood Brothers with them, they had to drop the cables.  After straightening up my studio…I wrapped the three cables into loose coils and photographed them where the brothers once stood.

three coils of frayed barge cable, April 2013

From experience, if folks are out to destroy something…they usually just get on with it.  I was hoping that whomever took the Flood Brothers had just moved them to a different location to create a vignette of their own.  I decided to scout around to see if I could find my wayward figures and I was partly successful.  Here’s how I found the larger of the Flood Brothers.

Flood Brother #2 as I found him, April 2013

detail, head of Flood Brother #2, April 2013

About a hundred meters or so from my spot, I came across Flood Brother #2 leaning against this tree.  He was missing many of his features including his eyes and arms.  After hunting around I was able to find a few of his parts.  As for his shorter brother…there was no trace of him.  I kept moving east in my search and discovered evidence that other creatives were in the area recently.  Perhaps the people who made the following statements also played with my figures?

message in the sand, April 2013

I found this and other sand drawings in the area.  Most of the sand designs were statements of a libertarian frame of mind.  I also found this large spiral made from driftwood that was in the immediate vicinity.

large, anonymous driftwood spiral, April 2013

Further west from the spiral was this installation where driftwood was stood on end teepee-style and incorporated with two larger logs that had recently floated into the area.  People seem to like arranging wood in this manner and I have also seen bonfires begun in this way.

site specific wood installation at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

I thoroughly checked the area for signs of my missing figure and imagined him riding home in the back seat of someone’s car.  I picked up my remaining Flood Brother and headed back to my studio.  I fixed him back up again.  He’s repaired, but also slightly different now.

repaired Flood Brother #2, April 2013

spruced up studio site with repaired Flood Brother, April 2013

This is how I left things on my way back home.  I’ll return in a week and we shall see what if anything happens?  Returning to my car, there was still one more surprise left for the day.  Emerging into the light of a new season, I came across this small Eastern Garter Snake warming itself (much as I had) among the driftwood at the Falls of the Ohio.  See you next time!

Eastern Garter Snake, Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

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Fog at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

Fog is actually common on the Ohio River, but looking through my images, I’m surprised by how few fog pictures I have taken here.  On my last foray to the Falls, the day began extremely foggy like moving within a cloud.  Visibility was limited.  The railroad bridge was completely obscured, but as the sun rose and the temperature became warmer the fog dissipated quickly.  It was another magical moment of transformation as the receding water-cloud revealed the driftwood bones of the park.

Electric Motors Only sign at the Falls, April 2013

Walking to my outdoor atelier, I passed by this unusual sight.  At first, I thought the large tree stump was a part of this sign, but upon inspection, saw that a single rusty nail attached this sign to the wood.  There is no way this sign could survive the river secured so loosely.  Someone before me found this sign and stuck it on the stump up for grabs in true river junk fashion.  Since I collect signs from the river…this was perfect and I welcomed the new addition to my collection!  After removing the sign from the stump I understood why its original discoverer left it behind.  The sign was on a heavy, thick board that had been routed and painted green with yellow letters.  I stashed the sign under some debris and picked it back up on my way home.  As you can imagine, my wife was thrilled to see it like she is with all the other junk I haul out of here.  I liked the sign’s message which is ecological in its own way.  I wonder where it came from and what kind of electric motors is it referring to…perhaps electric golf carts?  Navigating through the dense driftwood, I made my way to the river’s edge.  Waves were lapping the shoreline and there were other surprises to come.

Blue-lipped figure with life preserver on, April 2013

Blue-lipped figure with flotation device, April 2013

This is the moment I met the first of the Flood Brothers.  I had heard of them before and I was pleased to finally get to meet one.  They are called the Flood Brothers because in their own “Chicken Little” way instead of the sky falling…they are rumored to believe the world is in imminent danger of being inundated.  For this reason they wear life jackets and flotation devices everywhere they venture particularly along the river.  They are living legends in this part of the world.

Portrait of F.B. 1, April 2013

This is a close-up portrait of Flood Brother #1…henceforth identified as F.B.1.  He has blue lips like he has been out in the cold too long.  His eyes have this jaundiced quality to them and they are slightly asymmetrical as well.  The ears stick out some and he has spiked hair.  Aside from looking goofy…he is a friendly enough guy and hailed me upon sighting me.  I told him it was a pleasure to meet him and was his brother around too?  As it turns out…Flood Brother #2 was not far away and after walking a short distance along the shoreline, we ran into him as well.

Flood Brother # 2, April 2013

Portrait of Flood Brother #2, April 2013

Flood Brother #2 or F.B.2 is the larger and older of the two.  Like his smaller brother he wears a flotation device every where he travels along the river.  You can tell they are brothers because they share some physical characteristics such as large ears and mismatched eyes which are more pronounced in the older brother.  As it turns out, he is also the more nervous of the pair.

The Flood Brothers at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

The Flood Brothers, April 2013

I asked them if it was true that they believe the world would be destroyed in a great cataclysmic flood?  For argument’s sake F.B.2 qualified things by saying that more unusual events had happened during the Earth’s long history.  As it turned out, they were more concerned about the quality and quantity of fresh water.  Climate change is rewriting things and there is just so much more “free” water in the system that formerly was locked up as ice.  That energy is changing the weather patterns and redistributing water across the globe.  Some places were now getting too much and other places not enough.  And yes the potential to redraw the world’s coastlines also existed.  Whether all this would happen overnight or over the course of many years seemed irrelevant to the pair.  The life jackets were just a necessary precaution to them because they were conducting their research along the river in all its many moods and it just seemed a logical safety thing to do.  The pair was visiting the Falls of the Ohio and inspecting the park for water-born plastic of which there was plenty to see. As the brothers told me…this plastic has a very good chance of making it into the oceans where it has effects of its own.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them that they were already preaching to the converted.  Instead, I invited them to my studio under the willow trees to rest and talk further and they accepted my invitation.  My site was just a short distance away.

The Flood Brothers at my outdoor studio, April 2013

The Flood Brothers at my outdoor studio, April 2013

Looking around the Flood Brothers could see that I was interested in many of the same concerns that they had and wasn’t it all so absurd after all?  I told them my story and that all the stuff they saw in my little area came from the immediate river.  I mentioned that I try to find creative ways to use this junk and to tell the story about a place I find to be very special.  They asked me if I happened to see along the way a nice sign they had attached to a stump?  I confessed that I had and wanted to repurpose it as part of my sign collection.  The Flood Brothers just smiled and said I could have it.  After visiting for a while, it was time for me to go home.  I told the brothers they were welcome to hang out in my site and perhaps I will see them here again?  I liked them as characters.  With one last look back I saw F.B. 1 waving good-bye to me.  I always have an interesting day at the Falls of the Ohio.

F.B.1 at my studio, April 2013

This story marks my four-year anniversary on WordPress .  Hard to believe the time has flown by so quickly.  Thanks for tagging along!!

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