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Archive for November, 2013

Fake Food Collection, Nov. 2013

I have so much to be thankful for that I don’t need one particular day set aside to remind me of this.  Nevertheless, I happily will take the next two days off from my day job, hang out with my family, eat, and of course… fiddle with my art projects!  I have an exhibition coming up soon (late January 2014 at the Carnegie Museum of Art and History in New Albany, Indiana) and I have been going through my Falls of the Ohio river junk and thinking about what this show might feature of my work?  It’s going to be a two-person show and so there will be a great space to fill.

I recently went through my various river collections including my Fake Food Collection which is ongoing and I have added many new pieces over the past year.  The Ohio River has been bountiful in fact over a ten-year period, it has been a regular liquid cornucopia.  Although I haven’t counted each item, I’ll wager my Fake Food Collection has about a couple hundred pieces now… all of it collected one piece at a time, off of the riverbank.  It’s interesting to think of this stuff as being a part of the fake food tradition.  I’ve seen examples of fake Japanese sushi that look amazingly like the real thing…but not at the Falls.

After all these years, I’m still blown away…perplexed…morbidly fascinated and repulsed…insert other adjectives here…that so much of this stuff exits and that most of it is made from plastic.  I’m just one person living near a river in the interior of a big country and this is what I’ve found at this single location.  Do other American rivers flow with plastic produce and is it all floating towards the oceans?  It’s so curious that we use a natural resource like petroleum to produce artificial food even if it is intended to be playthings.  It personally strikes me as an affront to nature especially once it materially starts breaking down and merging with the substrates we depend on.  Perhaps some of you wordsmiths out there will put your finger on exactly why this stuff is so provoking?

Okay…enough of that, now where’s the beef?  Where’s the plastic meat the title of this post promised?  I was curious about that myself and so I went through my collection and this is what shook out.  Bon appetite!

Plastic poultry from the Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Since Thanksgiving here traditionally means roast fowl of some sort…I thought I would start with a couple of roasted birds and drumsticks.  Of course these items are miniature and I realize that a coin for scale would help.  Okay, I’ve found my ruler and if you must know…the biggest object in the above photo is 3.5 inches or 9 centimeters long.  The middle drumstick on the bottom row has a dark patina acquired from spending much time in the river.

plastic turkey or chicken, Nov. 2013

chewed up, plastic roast fowl, Nov. 2013

This last image of roast fowl looks like something (probably the family dog) tried to eat!  Notice the teeth marks on the carcass.  Now that we are done with the appetizer… let’s move on to the fake hamburgers and cheeseburgers.  I know the old salivary glands are probably kicking in now!

plastic hamburgers and cheeseburgers with one plastic crinkle cut french fry, Nov. 2013

plastic hamburgers and cheeseburgers, Nov. 2013

Here’s a couple of shots of the items in question.  In ten years time, the river has washed up and I have found seven cheeseburgers and hamburgers, three loose bun tops, and yes…two crinkle cut french fries (only one is shown) all are made of various plastic recipes.  Several of the burger toys I’m pretty sure were intended as dog toys.  Some of the them still have the little squeaker in the bottom bun.  The others probably came from children’s play sets.  As you can see…they are variously dressed with condiments and the buns go from plain to featuring sesame seeds in white, brown, and black colors.  I have some individual burger portraits too.  Here’s several examples of how you can have it your way.  The larger burgers are roughly life-size to slightly smaller than the real deals.

hamburger with black poppy seeds_1_1

Ahhh…a black poppy-seed bun heavy on the lettuce and tomatoes.

hamburger, plain bun, tomato and lettuce_1_1

Here’s a plain bun, segregate the tomato on one side and the lettuce on the other option.  The meat here is more of a textural suggestion.

plastic hamburger two tomatoes_1_1

This is a gaudy burger with hints of mustard and two layers of tomatoes!

plastic hamburger with seeds, lettuce and tomato_1_1

Not sure if that’s melted yellow cheese or more mustard squeezing over the edge?  Looks de-lish nevertheless!  If you are wondering what artificial food looks like in a natural environment…here are a two images of plastic meat as I found them in place.

Gross cheeseburger with white poppy seeds and river patina

This one has white poppy seeds on the bun, frilly lettuce, and a nice grimy river patina.  Let’s leave the burgers and head into new territory.  First an image of our next plastic meat subset.

conjoined plastic hot dogs from the Falls of the Ohio

I can remember the joyful moment of finding this rare double score.  Two conjoined, Siamese twin plastic hot dogs resting on a bed of Styrofoam and river sticks.  Of course, I had to take a picture!  Now, for a snapshot of my hot dog collection.

Hot dog collection from the Falls with Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile

As you can see…these tube steaks and buns vary in size.  The largest example at the very top has all of its paint gone, but you can see where a fake mustard squiggle would be.  Perhaps some of them are actually intended to be Vienna sausages, but who knows?  One particularly prized find is the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile whistle in the bottom right hand corner.  I’ve propped it up on a plastic french fry to get a better side view.  There are plastic meats that I know are out there (like fake steaks or even slices of plastic pizza with f aux pepperoni), but I have yet to find examples by the river.  I do have a code I go by…unless I find it at the Falls of the Ohio…I won’t compromise my collection with non-Falls items.  It’s a part of the quest and fun of what scrumptious simulacra will turn up next.  Is Rack of Lamb or Pot Roast on the menu…only time will tell?  For now, I will content myself with this Double Decker Dog…Happy Thanksgiving from the Falls of the Ohio.

World famous Double Decker Dog, Nov. 2013

Postscript:  Less than a month after publishing this post…I found plastic hamburger combination #8 in the late December driftwood.  Here’s a couple of images made in the field.

found plastic hamburger, #8, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2013

Plastic hamburger #8 as found, Dec. 2013

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Stacked wood, Falls of the Ohio State Park, Nov. 2013

Moving past the Woodland Trail Loop, I’m in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  It’s been more than a month since I last visited this area.  One of my favorite trees is here and although I’ve already missed the prime leaf color moment…I’m hoping some autumn splendor remains.  Along my walk I come across a driftwood structure that has been stacked teepee-style by other park visitors.  I see this kind of expression regularly and there must be a kinship between this activity and piling and stacking rock upon rock.  It’s satisfying to do and when you step back from your work…it’s obvious you left an impermanent mark in the landscape that says you were there.  The tree I seek is just a short walk away and in no time at all I arrive on the scene.

Cottonwood tree, late autumn, Nov. 2013

Under the Cottonwood tree, Nov. 2013

This old Cottonwood tree with its raised roots looms large in my imagination and is my personal favorite tree out here.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way because there is usually plenty of evidence laying around in the form of empty beer bottles, spent camp fires, and yes…the odd bits of furniture people drag to furnish the room that exists underneath the tree.  I’ll wager for some…this is known as the party tree.  I was elated to see that most of the junk (old tarps and a red couch) have been removed by some other purists.  The Cottonwood tree had already dropped most of its leaves, but there were still a few hanging on.  After resting a moment under the tree and admiring the distant view of Louisville across the Ohio River…I decide to turn for home.  I was in the process of walking away when I noticed something moving along the fossil rocks.  I froze to see if I could get a better look at the creature that was walking towards me.  Naturally, my camera is at the ready!

Golden Hour Ground Beetle, detail of head, Nov. 2013

detail of head from Golden Hour Ground Beetle, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Regular visitors to the Riverblog know that the Falls of the Ohio State Park is home to several out-sized insect species that have uniquely evolved here.  All the different species are critically endangered and not to be harmed in any way.  I was quick to identify this as the Golden Hour Ground Beetle.  It was so named because it usually makes it first appearance of the day when the sun is about to set.  Otherwise, it is nocturnal in its habits.

Golden Hour Ground Beetle, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Golden Hour Ground Beetle, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

The Golden Hour Ground Beetle does not fly.  It relies upon stealth and six strong legs to scramble across any surface.  In form, it is not unlike the much smaller tiger beetles that also make the park their home.  Unlike the smaller beetles, the Golden Hour Ground Beetle is a scavenger and not a hunter.  I suspect this specimen was at the Cottonwood tree because it has learned to find scraps of discarded camping food here.  This beetle has fairly large eyes that can gather the most meager light in the darkest of settings.  It’s abdomen is banded with a coarse hair that insulates this insect during cold nights.  As long as I didn’t make any rash movements, this giant bug was tolerating my presence.

Golden Hour Ground Beetle drinking water?, Nov. 2013

I observed my new “friend” moving to the water’s edge to obtain a drink.  I wondered if it had the ability to swim in its survival tool kit?  I watched the insect as it searched all around the fossil rock shelves that were created by the river dissolving the old limestone away.

Golden Hour Ground Beetle exploring a hollow log, Nov. 2013

View of the beetle through the hollow log, Nov. 2013

I came across a second giant beetle almost immediately after crossing the small creek that separates the western and eastern sections of the park.  Male and females are virtually identical.  There are gaps in our knowledge about their life cycle.  This specimen was in the process of checking out a short, hollow log.  I’m presuming that it was either seeking food or shelter?  I think poking my camera through the end of the log spooked this one a little.  It ran away, but didn’t go far.  I kept my movements to a minimum and after a while it seemed to relax again.

Golden Hour Ground Beetle relaxing on Sycamore tree roots, Nov. 2013

Beetle laying flat on a sycamore root, Nov. 2013

I observed this 14 inch or 35.5 centimeter beetle relaxing on the exposed roots of a Sycamore tree.  As the golden hour approached, the beetle stopped seemingly acknowledging this magic moment when everything is bathed in a warm golden light.  I did the same watching the sun set before finding my vehicle in the parking lot of the Interpretive Center.  To everybody in the wider world…have a great week.

The Golden Hour at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, Nov. 2013

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fallen willow leaves, Nov. 2013

A gorgeous fall day with light that was almost impossibly bright.  It’s autumn at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Small groups of migrating birds including various warblers, titmice, and kinglets are moving through the willow tops.  Around each stand of willow trees, the ground is covered by yellowing leaves that have been recently dropped.  There is a fresh, spicy, vegetative fragrance in the air as the more recently shed leaves give up their essence before curling up and turning brown.  Although I have been to the Falls numerous times lately… it’s been a few months since I last visited my old outdoor atelier in the woods.  Today seems as good a time to check out how my site has fared in my absence.

Styrofoam on site, Falls, Nov. 2013

The wooden structure that once surrounded my cached materials remains collapsed.  Some of the larger pieces of Styrofoam I had gathered from the river have been moved nearby.  Stuff has been scattered around, but that is also part of the ongoing history and fate of this material.  I may refer to this junk as “mine”, but I don’t feel a true sense of ownership.  While this material remains out here…it belongs to all of us.  We created, used, and then disposed of it, often carelessly.  I don’t have a lot of time to spend out here on this particular day and so I got busy making “something” from this largess.  I select a few chunks of polystyrene that will become my latest figure and before long I attract an audience of one.

Gray squirrel watching me, Nov. 2013

Gray squirrel watching, Nov. 2013

This Gray Squirrel seemed very intent upon my activities.  Perhaps he thought there might be food involved?  I have to say that I was really amused by this little animal checking me out.  He watched me for a minute or two and then headed deeper into the trees.

Styro-figure with large foam sections, Nov. 2013

The figure I created was not very complex.  It’s head was rather skull-like and so I added a found black and white swimming noodle and a pink nose that was the plastic handle to something to give it more “levity”.  One of the first places I posed my latest was by the larger remains of former projects that were moved away from the other Styrofoam pieces I had assembled.  It doesn’t appear that whomever moved this stuff…did anything else with it.

Fall mushroom, Falls of the Ohio, early November 2013

Coming across a late season mushroom, its whiteness and material consistency reminds me of the polystyrene I salvage to make art with.  Both the mushroom and Styrofoam are made from extracted, spent life.  The difference is the mushroom is alive and one day will also return to the earth to nourish other life.  The Styrofoam on the other hand, is a dead material and probably won’t decompose easily for quite a long period of time.  To move away from thoughts about decay and such…I move into the light and to be near the water.

Styro-figure with black and white swim noodle, early Nov. 2013

Head of Styro-figure, Nov. 2013

It doesn’t take long before I find just the right location that will represent this figure and day to me in photographs.  I rediscover an especially picturesque willow tree whose trunk and roots have been sculpted by time and the river to form a portal or window.  This is where I decided to photograph and leave this figure.

Figure seen through the willow portal, Nov. 2013

Through the willow portal, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Because the ground was muddy and soft…it was also easy to stand my figure upright.  My attention wandered back and forth between the possibilities this novel view afforded.  I imagined the figure looking back at me through the portal and other shifting points of view.  Here’s how the figure looked set up on the other side where I once originally stood.

On the other side of the willow portal, Nov. 2013

On the opposite side of the willow portal, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

The day was getting late and it was time for me to move on.  On the walk back I came across a recently deceased mouse in the willow leaves.  Something about this season brings out the melancholy in me.  All life, no matter how small, strikes me as being worthy of note.  Using my fingers, I raked the willow leaves away from the mouse’s body and created this parting image.  See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Mouse/willow wreath, 2013

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