Happy 2015 to all from the Falls of the Ohio State Park! This is my first post of the new year which has started auspiciously for me. I am happy to report that I found a new day job! I am the new Coordinator of Public Programs and Engagement at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, Indiana. About this time last year I was showing my own river art at this organization. It’s funny how things worked out…I had a feeling that my opportunities were leading me to the north bank of the Ohio River and that’s what happened. I found this plastic heart in the mud of the Indiana riverbank about a week before I was offered the job. I wonder if it has significance?
My relationship with the Carnegie Center for Art and History goes back to the early 1990’s when as a staff member at the Louisville Visual Art Association I helped to install the Indiana version of the Children’s Free Art Classes on the Carnegie Center’s gallery walls. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have exhibited my own work here with the latest being the Potential in Everything show with Michael Wimmer that was up this time last year! There has to be a lot of serendipity in play here for all the stars to line up as they did and so I am feeling it was meant to be. I will be creating new workshop opportunities and other programming to help the center with its community-minded mission. It’s a new challenge for a new year!
With the new job and a recent cold spell I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the river until this three-day weekend. I heard that 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded across the globe. Today our temps are in the low 50’s which is quite a change from the teens we just experienced. I grabbed my walking stick and collecting bag and made a day at the river. I have been doing various bottle projects and here is a new one. I found a plastic liquor bottle that still had its cap on it. It’s interesting to note that most bottles I find with screw-top bottle caps are discarded with their caps on. By a deposit of Ice Age gravel, I was able to fill the bottle with river-tumbled white and pale yellow quartz pebbles. Not sure how I will use this, but will probably factor into a new artwork soon. Being outside on such a fine day is something else I wish I could bottle for future use when the cold, damp, and gray returns. For now I place the bottle in my collecting bag and move on. There are other things to find and discover.
Next to the flattened top of an aluminum can I found this small, partial jaw bone. I think it’s from a skunk or some other small carnivore, but will need to check the dentition more carefully. After taking this picture, I picked the mandible up and placed it into my bag. This find will factor into something else I put together before day’s end.
The mud and melting ice made checking out the river’s edge problematical and so I headed up the riverbank and into the willow trees. I visited my outdoor atelier and decided to do a little “house cleaning”. I swept the leaves and dirt off of the circular metal platform that has been here for several years. If I could have figured out how to get this object home, I probably would have done so by now. As it is, I like using it as a work surface and place to sit. My other stashed materials are nearby. To me, the platform is still a “U.F.O.”…which stands for “Unknown Floating Object”. I think it has something to do with mooring barges, but could be wrong about that. I also like that it adds a stage-like presence and helps define one small area at the Falls.
Standing on the platform and facing the river, if I look to my left I see the old railroad bridge. There were several trains that went back and forth while I was occupied. The railroad is part of the atmosphere of the place. A large and partially burned log occupies the space between the platform and the bridge. I straightened out my stick and root collection and sorted them on the platform. I then rediscovered my Styrofoam collection. Every time I walk the river, I find new river-polished pieces and add them to this assemblage. There is simply more here than I can use at a time and so anyone is welcome to try making something from what has been gathered.
I grab a few rounded pieces from the collection and decide to construct a figure from what I have here and in the bag. I decide which shapes and forms would make good heads and bodies and set them aside. Once in a great while, some other creative souls find my larder and make something of their own from this junk. I like it when people see the opportunity here.
I usually like starting with the head first. It’s where the most information is focused and my Styro-figures share this with archaic works and folk art. In the case of this figure, I decided on another shape for the head. Collected bits of plastic and potential facial elements are placed into a found plastic bowl. I will decide the features of today’s figure from what I’ve gathered today. Here’s a sequence showing the progression of how the head evolved including what already looks like a found face in the bowl.
The found mandible has a new home on this piece. I split the bottom from an aluminum can to make the ears which does give this figure a monkey-like quality to it. The eyes are a white, plastic bottle cap and the green, plastic bead from a child’s toy. I found two expressive sticks for arms and set the figure up as though it were sitting down with crossed legs. Here are images of this piece finished on site.
I had the best time today. There is still lots of winter before us, but this weekend’s respite helped connect me to the river for the first time this year. I will be curious to see if we even have one decent snow fall this season? Whatever happens during 2015, I will take it all in stride. The year is already off to a positive start! I think I will leave it at that and sign off until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.