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Archive for March, 2015

City of Louisville, KY as seen across flooded Ohio River, March 2015

The Ohio River remained higher than expected and was bolstered by a few days of rain.  I visited the Falls of the Ohio last weekend during a moment when the water level had dropped just enough to reveal a muddy shoreline with its accompanying line of stranded debris.  The places in the park I like to work and visit were still underwater.

Louisville as seen from the muddy Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

I put on my “Falls shoes” which were already muddy and that I keep outside on the front porch of my house and headed for the river.  As usual, I brought a collecting bag and camera with me and ventured forth to see what there was to see.  In places, you could tell that the river with its water-born logs had acted as a battering ram and pretty much leveled the vegetation nearest to the water.

"river shivers", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

The silt and clay are both very fine and sticky when wet.  I gingerly step on wood and other debris to keep from sinking ankle-deep in this quagmire.  I enjoy looking at the rippling wave patterns that the water creates.  I call this “river shivers” and imagine if the riverbank could display “goose-flesh” that it would look something like this.  And speaking of geese…

tracks made by geese, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

domestic goose at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

…the flock of Canada geese I photographed the previous week, left their footprints everywhere in the mud.  Their friend, the ex-patriot domestic goose, was still hanging out with them.

High water trash at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Of course, nearly every place you looked, you could see man-made trash and driftwood.  Much of this material has originated far from here.  When things finally dry out enough for a more thorough exploration, I’m expecting to find all kinds of examples of our material culture washed into the park.

flood born trash at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Interspersed with the bottles are lots of other plastic items and various foam-based garbage including Styrofoam…my primary sculptural material.  This is just a detail of one small area.  Already I’m seeing hundreds of plastic drinking bottles.  I’ve been asked on more than one occasion if I’m ever afraid that I might poison myself or get an infection from something that I’ve found out here by the river.  My short answer is yes.  One needs to be concerned, however, I don’t press my luck with anything that looks at all questionable.  I guess I do place a lot of trust that the billions of gallons that constitutes the Ohio River does in effect “wash” the stuff that I use.  So far, knock on wood, I’ve never had an adverse reaction after working out here for more than a decade.  The Falls of the Ohio State Park is a public space and what I encounter is also what the public encounters.

trunk load of river junk, March 2015

Here’s the trunk of my car after this brief foray to the river.  This may be hard for some of you to believe, but I’m actually very selective now. These days, I only carry back to my home work space, the “cream of the crop”.  I prefer to make my artworks at the river, but will also take materials home to “hedge my bets” and for workshop purposes.  The larder I had created at my “UFO” (Unknown Floating Object) outdoor studio is now long gone and I wonder if that circular metal platform is still around…or has it finally floated away too?

Galerie Hertz exhibition announcement, March 2015

While temporally stymied by water and mud, I have the opportunity to interact with the local art world in a more usual way.  Galerie Hertz which represents my art in Louisville opened a collage and assemblage group show.  Billy and his partner Tom have been important players in our city’s cultural life.  They have been rightly credited for creating an arts district on Market Street through the activities of their renovated galleries.  Each new space the pair opened was an upgrade of a building that needed some help.  This gentrification has attracted other galleries and dealers, bars, restaurants, and several home décor stores along Market Street.  In typical Galerie Hertz fashion, Billy and Tom have moved on to a different location and their current gallery where I’m showing my works is now on South Preston Street.  How often is it the case that creative folks move into formerly neglected areas and bring them to back to life?

"Moon Star", found objects from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Among the works I have in this group show is this piece entitled “Moon Star”.  I made this piece at the river, but felt is could use a bit more embellishment.  I added many found bicycle tire reflectors and some river-polished glass around the head.  When the light hits it just right, the reflectors just glow.

"Polar Beaver", found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

"Polar Beaver", facing left, found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Through the miracle of “Styro-dermy”, I saved the Polar Beaver I encountered recently.  To get this piece to sit the way I want it to…I have embedded three, large, lead fishing weights into the tail to counterbalance the body.

"The Harbinger of Spring", found materials, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

This diminutive figure is called “The Harbinger of Spring” and I created him last year at this time.  I also wrote an accompanying story that helped explain how winter transitions to spring.  Although I like to think that many of my Styrofoam-bodied sculptures can hold their own as freestanding objects…they are also relics and artifacts of a site specific performance that happens out at the river and is additionally documented through photographs and stories.  At the moment, the sun is shining, but it is also cold at the river.  Tomorrow is another day, another day for the river to recede and the mud to dry.  I think I will get up early and give it a go.  I will let you know what I discover at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Railroad bridge at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

 

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City of Louisville skyline as seen from flooded bank of Ohio River in Clarksville, IN, March 9, 2015

Following is a portfolio of images I made the first week of March during a bout of minor flooding that at the time of this writing has not yet subsided.  After a late season rain and record-breaking snow storm, the Ohio River predictably has swelled its banks.  During the past week, we received several more days of rain that kept the water level high.  This is seasonal and normal flooding that we usually experience almost every year.  I heard the other day that the river hasn’t been at this level since 2011.  I published some images of this series on my newly minted Facebook page and will try to avoid duplicating those images here.

Skyline of Louisville as seen from the flooded Falls of the Ohio, March 9, 2015

Many of these images are of the skyline of Louisville as seen from a soggy Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Currently, in Louisville, low-lying sections of our roadways are underwater and a major downtown exit has been closed.  River Road is truly in the river.  The city is expecting an influx of visitors to arrive by Thursday for the start of the NCAA basketball tournament.  Louisville is one of the host sites and our basketball arena is right on the river.  As long as there isn’t anymore significant precipitation along the Ohio River Valley, the river should drop fairly quickly.

Dark tower with Louisville in the background, March 9, 2015

Light levels were dropping fast near day’s end and I used my camera phone to record these images.  There was no wind and the only motion was created by a fast flowing river.  I like the way the inundated trees along with their reflections create this frieze that was fun to use in framing a composition.

Train crossing over the railroad bridge during flooding at the Falls of the Ohio, March 9, 2015

The Army Corps of Engineer Tainter Gates are under water.  Usually, they hold the muddy Ohio River at bay exposing the world-famous fossil beds for exploration.  This image captures a long train crossing over the old iron bridge.  My outdoor studio where I stash my materials has long since floated away.  I will need to start from scratch again, but I have done this many times before.  Once the river subsides, I will be able to find new art materials to work with.  Frankly, I like it when the park floods a bit.  The Ohio River is so dynamic and along with the changing of the seasons provides a novel landscape every time I visit.

Garbage in a flooded river, Falls of the Ohio, March 9, 2015

Now there is also a downside to all this activity.  All the pent-up junk along both banks of the river is free once more to continue its journey to the Gulf of Mexico.  In this image, there’s lots of plastic bottles for drinking and oil products plus the usual Styrofoam and driftwood all mixed together.  The brightly colored plastic contrasts with the natural tones of the river.

Danger sign at the flooded Falls of the Ohio, March 9, 2015

This sign is up all year round, but frankly it makes the most sense to me during moments like this.  Floating junk forms a line about where the dam’s wall would be.

Flock of geese at the Falls of the Ohio, March 9, 2015

Even though the river was high…there was also lots of signs of life.  Soon it will be time for the Spring migration of birds moving north which is one of my favorite times of the year in the park.  I took several images of this flock of geese.  Most are Canada Geese, but the one guarding the rear is a domestic escapee.  I have watched this bird with this particular flock of geese for several years now.  Usually, the Canada Geese are very territorial especially towards others of their own kind.  Perhaps that is the key to the domestic goose’s acceptance…he really isn’t one of them and so he’s tolerated.

Geese by the old railroad bridge, March 9, 2015

Except for some selective cropping of a few images…I have done nothing else to them.  In this image, I have made the geese more prominent by eliminating the water in the foreground that makes up most of the photograph.  The other nice bird sighting of the day was seeing a juvenile Bald Eagle doing a fly over.  Eagles are becoming more common sights along the Ohio River and several pairs have built nests fairly close to the city.

Flooded trees at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, March 9, 2015

You can get a better sense for this “gentle flood” by showing a few inundated trees.  Here larger pieces of driftwood have been blown or directed by currents to the Indiana side of the Ohio River.  You can also see plastic junk interspersed among the wood.

View of Louisville as seen from under the railroad bridge at the Falls of the Ohio, March 9, 2015

The City of Louisville’s downtown section as seen from under the railroad bridge at the Falls of the Ohio.  The pink rectangular building with the bluish-green highlights (second tallest building on the right) is the Humana Building.  It’s architect, Michael Graves, passed away a few days a go.  The Humana Building is considered one of Graves’ Post Modern masterpieces and one of the nicest buildings in our city.  I remember when Humana’s founder, Wendell Cherry kept some of his art collection on view in the building that the public could tour on occasion.  You might come across Roman statuary in one room and a tall Giacometti bronze in another.  The art holdings were amazing.  Cherry was mostly secretive about his purchases and once paid the world record for a painting at auction when he bought an early Blue period Picasso self-portrait entitled “Yo Picasso”.  I believe the disclosed purchase price was just under 7 million dollars which seems like a bargain now that the record has been pushed recently to over 300 million dollars for a Gauguin painting.  I could go on about that, but that is a topic for another time.

Man by the railroad bridge, flooded Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Like this guy in the foreground, I’m waiting for the river to recede before seeing what changes have been made.  Many of my favorite willow trees are completely underwater.  I know they get buffeted and damaged by the currents which carry lots of debris in their wake.  Perhaps by this weekend it will be all right to venture out among the muddy driftwood piles?  I will bring an empty collecting bag because I’m sure to find “stuff” to use for my creations.  On March 22, I will be participating in a group assemblage and collage show at Galerie Hertz.  I will have six different sculptures on view.  I will give you a sneak peek in my next post.  For now, keep your feet dry…Spring is on the way!

Flooded trees below the Interpretive Center, Falls of the Ohio, March 9, 2015

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