Posted in Art, driftwood, ecosytem, flip-flops, Found objects, lost sandals, nature, Ohio River flooding, photography, plastic, sense of place, Styrofoam, tagged Absurd, absurd story, art and nature, art and the environment, artistatexit0, Beach combing, flood story, recycled art materials, Smurfs on April 16, 2015|
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It’s mid April and the television meteorologists have said it all. If the Kentuckiana area receives one more drop of rain…we will set an all time local record for precipitation during any April since records have been kept. With half a month to go and more rain in the forecast for this week…that record is a goner. As I write this…the river is still rising. I mentally contrast this to what is happening in California with their severe drought. I wonder if there are any billionaires out there that would like to invest in a pipeline that would send all this extra water to where it’s needed most? After all, isn’t water a much more precious commodity than crude oil? We don’t send exploratory satellites and space craft into the vast distances of the universe looking for petroleum. It’s water we seek because in a fundamental way we realize that water is the key to life.
The following adventure happened last weekend which was warm and beautiful, but with an ever-rising river. The large driftwood mound under the railroad bridge I documented in my last post has broken apart and floated away along with my absurd March Madness figure. Perhaps when the river returns to its usual water levels, I may run into him once again? For now, I am exploring a section of the Ohio River Greenway which is near the Interpretive Center’s entrance and has a nice view of Louisville’s skyline. The riverbank does not lack for junk and before long I’ve photographed and collected a full bag of possibilities for future use. It was while I was absorbed in my own head space that I bumped into a most unusual character that was engaged in what looked to be some type of ritual at the water’s edge.
What I first thought was singing turned out to be chanting and it was coming from this exotic guy. I’m sure I must have had the strangest expression on my face! Despite my presence, this blue-helmeted figure with some kind of mandala on his chest was practically knee-deep in muddy water and lining up found flip-flops on a beached log. A perfectly normal activity don’t you agree? I’m assuming he gathered these sandals from all the other flotsam and jetsam that has washed into here? That part I can understand because I have an ongoing collection of the same footwear that I hope to make into something grand and profound some day.
I remained quiet, stayed observant, and took these photographs. I saw the blue helmeted man face west and chant. He later did the same thing looking towards all the cardinal directions. On occasion, he would carefully pick up a sandal and whisper to it before placing it back upon the water-logged trunk of a limb-less tree. For emphasis, he would also do this little hop dance step in the muddy water. I waited for him to finish before interrupting him with a few questions of my own.
Finally, I had my chance to speak and the mysterious figure looked my way. I was surprised that I could understand what he was saying. First, he thanked me for respecting his custom by not interrupting his ceremony. He also said that it is very important that the flow of energy continue unabated if the ritual was to take hold. Filled with questions, I asked his name and what was he doing? Patiently, he explained that he was the Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, a holy man and offered as proof the ill-fitting helmet on his head which was the official crest of his high office. I didn’t say anything, but thought the Shoe Shaman’s head-gear bore an uncanny resemblance to a Smurf’s head. I wondered if that was in fact the Big Blue Nation he was referring to? If that indeed was the case…well, it did make some sense in a surreal sort of way. There are many cultures that have legends about “little people”. I asked what he was doing with the sandals and he said that working with footwear was his specialty. Each shoe, in this case, each lost sandal…has a direct connection to the soul of its former owner and is holy to them. The weight of each person is impressed into the sole’s foam and is as individual as a fingerprint. In his culture, they have a saying that you can’t fully understand someone until you stand in their shoes. I said we have a similar saying. The Shoe Shaman said that his goal is to affect the river’s empathy and not to further enrage it for taking the water and environment for granted. My new friend was attempting to appease the flood waters by asking the river to forgive our carelessness and to accept the sacrifice that had been prepared for it on this altar of wood. The shaman assured me that only in this way would the river agree to return to its normal banks and not seek out our kind that had been hurtful towards it.
I’ll admit that the idea of a revenge seeking river stunned me some, however, history is full of epic floods. In our arrogance, we forget how at Nature’s mercies we really are. My curiosity sated…it was time to move on. I left the shaman at that interstitial zone between water and land. Slogging through the mud, I paused briefly sitting on a dry log and thought about what I had witnessed as I also picked the mud off the bottom of my shoes. I am hoping that he was successful in intervening on our behalf and only time will tell. For my part, I will never forget the scene and will pledge to do my part to be respectful towards creation by celebrating it and in doing so…hope to save myself and those dearest to me. I don’t ever want one of our soles to go missing and find itself on a log floating somewhere along the Ohio River. Until the river retreats…
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Posted in Absurd, Art, art and environment, art and the environment, creativity, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, fresh water, Louisville, Kentucky, Photograpy, public art, recycled art, sculpture, Styrofoam, tagged 3 Stooges Ball, Art, art and the environment, artist at exit o, assemblage, driftwood, ecological art, Falls of the Ohio, found objects, March Madness, nature, Ohio River flooding, photography, plastic, sense of place, Styrofoam on April 5, 2015|
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A view from last weekend when the water level was dropping and the sun was shining and welcoming. Curiosity overwhelmed me and I ventured forth over the driftwood piles and muddy riverbanks. Looks like most of the driftwood at the Interpretive Center has been washed away, however, under the railroad bridge, a sizeable mound of twisted matter has accumulated. To avoid sinking ankle-deep in mud…I gingerly walk on the backs of huge logs and pick my way through the debris field.
This most recent bit of flooding has deposited a large number of plastic drinking bottles onto this landscape. I am assuming that the river isn’t through rising for the moment because two days ago…we received about six inches of new rain overnight. Statistically, that was the most rain ever recorded on an April day in Kentucky’s history and the fourth biggest rainfall total for a day during any month in our state’s experience. We had a lot of localized flooding from that storm and coupled with the immense fire at the General Electric Appliance Park, put the national spotlight on Louisville…twice in one day. The GE fire and subsequent thick, nasty smoke with its fumes and particulate matter from incinerated plastic rose into the clouds and was a nearly apocalyptic vision. Many people mistook the immense column of smoke for a tornado and the weather services were peppered with false alarms. All this goes into saying that environmentally, it’s been a rough few weeks around here. Spring while lovely with the returning sunshine and greenery, also has this dark side which it is not afraid to show from time to time.
I can be sure to find novelties among all this brown materiality. Can’t say I have ever come across a Three Stooges ball before and there they were, Larry, Curley, and Moe looking up at me! There were other treasures as well. Here’s a snapshot of a toy I found that I dropped into the old collecting bag.
Discovered resting upon the wood and bark chips was this plastic fragment from a vintage toy. It is missing it’s backside. I have found similar old toys before and now suspect the river has cut into a landfill and liberated these older toys from the ground.
Came across this large carp which was one of three dead animals I found. Also located the remains of a Black Vulture and a Canvasback Duck that looked to be what was left from a bird of prey’s meal. Every now and then, you discern a sickly sweet smell emanating from the driftwood and you know some other unfortunate life form is buried under the debris.
This is the centerpiece of my former outdoor studio area where I had cached many of the materials I found in the park. All the Styrofoam pieces I had salvaged for artworks have washed away, but there is a fresh batch for the picking. This large, painted, metal disc is what I’ve been calling the “UFO” which is short for Unknown Floating Object. It washed into the park several years a go and subsequent floods have yet to move it out. It is now tilted and has all this driftwood around it. Formerly, it was laying flat on the ground and made a nice surface to work on. My time is limited today and I want to make something from all this “abundance” out here. I select a few large chunks of Styrofoam and begin constructing a figure.
Some of the large pieces of Styrofoam I want to work with are water-logged and too heavy to move. I will wait a few weeks and see if the sun dries them out more? I select two pieces for what will be a large, absurd figure and get to work. I pick up junk around my feet and created this large head. I move a really large polystyrene block into place atop the driftwood pile next to a river buoy that says “Idle Zone” on it. For the next couple of hours, I will be anything but idle.
While I was constructing this figure, I decided to call it “March Madness”. According to the Walls Street Journal and ESPN, the Louisville area is the epicenter of interest in the college basketball game and its season ending national championship tournament. Our region usually has several teams competing for top honors. On the day I made this figure, the University of Louisville Cardinals were knocked out of contention. I attached an old basketball to the end of a very long arm. The slight breeze blowing at the time caused the figure’s arms and head to sway and vibrate in place.
I look forward to spending a bit more time out here…weather permitting. If everything remains in place, there is a chance to make several large figures this season. I will be curious to see if this figure is still standing or whether park visitors or the elements have toppled it? I just received a notification from WordPress that I have just reached my sixth anniversary of blogging with them! For today, I will end with a picture of a tree that recently was completely underwater. You can tell how high the water rose from the junk caught among the branches. Happy Easter everybody!
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