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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.