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Archive for May, 2015

Driftwood pile, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

May has turned into a productive month for me.  If April was defined by rain and flooding…May has been on the dry side.  This break in the weather (along with the nice coolness of Spring) has me out at the river at every available chance.  Friends of mine already think that I live out here, but that’s far from the case.  I wish I could physically be out here more because I don’t tire of the park and I find enough stuff to keep me busy.  The reality is I’m lucky to make it out here on the weekends and holidays.  Over the years, I’ve established routines and I know the place so well that as I walk along, I’m strategizing on what can be done with the materials that I find at various locations.  The digital part is done from home.

Sand Rose, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

In the aftermath of our most recent flooding, a great amount of wood and manmade debris has settled into the park.  I find something interesting to me most everywhere I look.  Here’s another Sand Rose that I encountered, blooming among the driftwood.  This blossom has fabric-like petals and lacks the wonderful perfume that more conventional roses possess.

Plush Parrot Toy, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Covered in burrs and various plant seeds is this plush parrot that I found intertwined in the driftwood.  Lost toys are evocative and in this case, I’m also reminded that 2016 will mark the centennial of the extinction of the Carolina Parakeet which was this country’s only native member of the parrot family.  Both the Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet passed from existence within a couple of years of one another in the same small aviary that now stands as a memorial to them at the Cincinnati Zoo.

White-tail deer skull, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Walking through the driftwood I found this intact and antlered deer skull which is a first for me. I have found other white-tail deer skulls before, but they all were from does.  Over the years , I have found deer remains out here in the wake of flooding.  Perhaps the most memorable experience happened about twenty years a go.  While hiking with a friend, we came to an area where we could smell the sickly sweet odor from something decomposing, but searching the grounds we weren’t able to locate the unfortunate creature.  By chance, I happened to look up where the smell seemed the strongest and discovered a deer carcass that was lodged in a tree about 12 feet or so off the ground.  Of course, it found its way there when the river was high and became stranded when the river receded.  At the Falls of the Ohio State Park you are likely to find unexpected things snagged in the willows.

Red Compostion, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

"Red Composition" on site, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Over the last few weeks, I have been “playing around” more with the brightly colored plastic elements that wash into the park.  I find these site specific compositions rather fun and provoking to do.  Usually, all the plastic elements that the river delivers become somewhat unified and integrated within the matrix of mud, wood, and other detritus.  I believe this thorough mixing keeps people from seeing the true extent these artificial materials and objects are present in the free world.  By choosing to concentrate on a color, like red in this case, I hope to call attention to these materials in a novel way.  This piece started with the nailed together wood frame I found on the driftwood pile.  There are also lots of milled and used lumber elements in the mix too.  Building on previous pieces I did with other colors, I decided to see how much red was in this given area.   “Red Composition” was the result.  With red being such a popular color…I thought I would come across more red than I actually did.  What I did find seemed subject to bleaching in the sun and made me wonder if red plastic was in general use less because of the fugitive nature of the pigments?  Next time I’m at the grocery store I will test this theory more.  Among my red finds of the day include an old flashlight body that had filled with dirt and had a small willow tree growing out of it.  Here’s another example of a plastic composition I did on this particular day.

From the "Petroleum Rainbow Series", Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

From the Series "Petroleum Rainbows", Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

From the series, "Petroleum Rainbows", seen from behind, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This is another in a series I have been calling “Petroleum Rainbows”.  I started with the wooden bench I found in the immediate area and set it up near the riverbank in the willow habitat.  I gathered all the brightly colored items I could find tangled in the driftwood and sitting on the sandy beach and of course most of them are made from plastic.  Testing my fugitive color theory, I did notice a prevalence for the colors green, black, blue, yellow, and white.  Red, orange, and purple were a little harder to come by.  I filled the top of the bench with my river finds and loosely organized it to resemble a color spectrum.  As one Facebook observer noted with a little ire, my colors don’t follow the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet scheme of a true rainbow.  I have done this intentionally as a further provoking element.  Beyond the surface attraction of this party-colored plastic, the brain does register that something is not quite right here which is the feeling I want to leave the observer with…hence, disquieting rainbow.  I made this piece a couple of weeks a go and it has remained relatively intact.  I have been busy at the Falls and have more to show, but will wait a bit before posting those projects. I hope everyone out there is having a nice Memorial Day holiday. See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Detail of objects, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

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Ginger Lifevest, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

We have had a stretch of gorgeous days along the Ohio River!  Lately, it has been more fun to be outdoors than indoors and consequently, documenting and posting about those adventures has taken a back seat to exploring.  With rain in today’s forecast, it seems a good day to play catch up.  Allow me, “Insert Name Here”, to be your host on what was a very productive day spent along the western shoreline at the Falls of the Ohio State Park a couple weekends a go.  This was the first time I had ventured on this side of the park since our seasonal bout of flooding.  In the past, this has also been a good place to find driftwood and plastic bottles.  For today, I decided to walk along the riverbank utilizing the materials I came across and see how far that would carry me.  Here’s today’s results in order of completion.

Shelf with Colorful Objects, found objects, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015Bottle/Shelf in situ, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This year, I have a new series that I have enjoyed exploring in this driftwood and petrochemical playground.  In part, it is a response due to the abundance of plastic bottle’s in this year’s flotsam and jetsam. It’s a challenge to try to use these materials in ways that will cause others to notice them afresh.  We have become accustomed to having so much plastic around us and despite the often brilliant color of these objects, are relegated to the background like so many other things we have used or don’t care to acknowledge or know what to do about because so many other things are competing for our attention.  To try to regain some element of focus, I have been clustering and combining mostly plastic containers in site specific areas along the trail.  It’s an all organic study.  Some of them present as shrines and are a reminder that we are all pilgrims on the river’s journey.

Arrangement in Blue Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Arrangement in Blue Plastic at the Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This piece which I’m calling “Arrangement in Blue Plastic” was assembled not too far away from the previous work.  All the blue plastic elements were found in the surrounding area and deposited by high water.  Among the found blue oddities includes a plastic boom-a-rang, the spade from a broken plastic shovel, and a beat up, formerly plush, blue plastic puppy.  The arrangement is backed up by found, joined lumber.

Bemoaning Figure, detail of the head, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This is a detail of the head from “Bemoaning Figure”.  He’s a large Styrofoam sculpture about 6 feet tall.  The area where I left him was very muddy…which in this case also aided in standing him up.

Bemoaning Figure, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

The polystyrene floated into the park along with the plastic bottles.  I try to respect the shapes the river gives me with this foam. I thought the head was a particularly nice form.  I was additionally lucky because both the head and body were found near one another and I didn’t need to carry so much stuff back and forth.

Bemoaning Figure, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

I left “Bemoaning Man” mired in the mud which was more than five inches or so of thick sticky fudge.  I stepped right out of one of my shoes setting this figure up in the landscape!  I had to find and pull my shoe out of the mud while balancing on one leg.

Black and White Plastic Arrangement, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

arrangement in Black and White Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

On the way from my trip…I stopped and reused a shelf I had set up earlier.  I have become so much better at strategizing and planning as I go along.  This is resulting in more pieces being photographed at the river.

Family Circle, found flip-flops, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Family Circle, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

As I walked along, I was picking up lost flip-flops and putting them into my collecting bag.  At the end of day, I try to make an image with whatever I happened to find.  So far, I’m calling this piece “Family Circle”.  I left the wayward footwear right in this spot and moved on.  All that’s left to look at before calling it a productive day are a couple of pictures of me (for scale) taken earlier in the morning.

Tall Figure, "Ginger Lifevest", Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Here I am posed next to one of my favorite trees in the park.  It’s a large cottonwood tree that has been featured on this blog many times before.  I have taken refuge underneath its roots during thunder storms and people like to camp out around it.  It is one of the best features in the western section of the park.  The day has been a long, but productive one with several river art projects realized.  Thanks for tagging along…here’s one last look back at the full height of that cottonwood tree.

Large cottonwood tree, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

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debris field, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

April’s tale was of a high Ohio River and rain fall for the record books. Twice the river rose to flood stage before subsiding back into its muddy banks.  Left in its now drying wake are trash mounds and islands of wood and debris that were pushed and floated upon the water’s surface by wind and current.  In this mish mash of culture and nature I carefully pick my way over and through the debris fields at the Falls of the Ohio.  All along the riverbank, the dull and muddy colored wood contrasts with the reflected light from hundreds of plastic bottles and chunks of bright white Styrofoam.

Large blue plastic egg among other river debris, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I picked a great day to visit the river.  As soon as I arrived in the park, I could hear several newly arrived male Northern Orioles calling back and forth through the tall cottonwood trees.  I even found several eggs.  Here is a large blue plastic egg nestled in shredded tree bark and plastic bottles.  I also found a muddy, but real Canada goose egg now too cool to incubate. There was an adult goose hanging out near me and I suspect some early nesters had their clutch washed away by the second flood.  I decided with so much brightly colored plastic scattered all over this woody mound…I wondered if I could put any of it to use?

detail, yellow plastic trash, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

As you can see in this detail image…I decided to concentrate on the color yellow.  I stayed within a certain area and collected all the yellow objects on this driftwood mound.  It was tricky work because the footing was not good.  Several times I sank to my hip as my leg would go through the loosely tangled branches, dirt, and logs.

I call this piece “Yellow Concentrate”.  It consists of mostly plastic, quart-sized oil containers along with a few larger laundry detergent jugs.  There are a few odd items as well.  I found three rubber ducks on today’s adventure and used two of them here.  I used a bowl-like depression in the driftwood as my setting to assemble and sort through the junk.  I was glad to have the wooden platform in the foreground because it was also easy on the feet.

Landscape view with "Yellow Concentrate" facing railroad bridge, April 2015

 This site gave me potential for a few good views.  Here is “Yellow Concentrate” with the railroad bridge in the background.

"Yellow Concentrate" with the City of Louisville across the river. April 2015

Now here’s the same piece with the skyline of the City of Louisville on the southern shore.  All that massed yellow really pops you in the eye.  Individually, all these yellow plastic containers barely registered scattered across the debris field, but it’s a different story when you bring them together.  Feeling pretty good about yellow…I decided to next try a different color.

"Blue Extract", Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

As I was collecting all the yellow containers…I was also sorting out the blue ones and throwing them in the driftwood bowl.  On a nearby fallen, diagonally leaning tree trunk…I arranged my collection.  The big blue Easter egg is near the center.  As I worked on “Blue Extract”, the hole I was standing in kept getting wider and deeper.

"Blue Extract", Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Most of these containers are plastic oil and liquid detergent bottles, but I mixed a few aerosol cans in as well.  In this line are seven plastic and rubber balls.  One last project before calling it a day.  I stayed in the same area and pulled aside all the lost flip-flops I encountered.  I laid them all out on the white surface of a metal refrigerator that had floated in here with the last flood.  It looked like the Shoe Shaman had been this way too.

lost flip-flops on the side of a refridgerator, April 2015

Sandal Arc, found objects from the Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

The stark whiteness of the fallen refrigerator reminded me of the white pedestals that you would find in an official gallery.  I organized the lost foot wear from smallest to largest, left to right.  I soon left for home with a hefty collecting bag full of “river treasure” and a camera loaded with images.  Every thing else was left in place.  I will come back when the river level drops a little bit more and the fudge-like mud has had the chance to harden in the sun.  There is still so much more to explore in the park and can see myself keeping busy for the rest of the year.  Here’s one last look over the shoulder at today’s location at the Falls of the Ohio.  I realized after the fact, that the found milk crate I used to move materials around was so bright red that it holds its place among the yellow and blue.  Until next time!

Site of this day's activity, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

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Plastic Pegasus/Unicorn toy, Falls of the Ohio, 2015

It’s the last week of April, which means the first Saturday in May is a few days away.  In Louisville, that signals the world’s most famous horse race, the Kentucky Derby, will be run. This edition is the 141st Kentucky Derby, which culminates in two weeks worth of Derby Festival parties and celebrations.  Over the years, I have had occasion to find, photograph, and sometimes keep the horse related toys that I come across in the aftermath of flooding at the Falls of the Ohio.  Following is a small album of river rejects.  I start with this image and though it is not a Pegasus (The Pegasus Parade is the oldest Derby Festival event) it is somewhat horse-like.  It appears to be a flying unicorn and has a mane and tail you could probably comb at one time.

Blue plastic fragment of a horse riding toy, Falls of the Ohio

I found this fragment in the western section of the park partially buried in the sand.  At one time this was a riding toy that had a wooden handle going through the head and was kid powered.

Pink Plastic  Horse with flowing tail and mane, Falls of the Ohio

I found this pink beauty tangled in the driftwood.  These ponies that have hair that can be brushed must be popular…

Pale Pink horse toy with brushable hair, Falls of the Ohio

…or not,…because here’s another one pulled out of the debris field!  I believe this unfortunate pony also had cockle burrs tangled up in its mane.

Small yellow plastic horse with chewed off leg, Falls of the Ohio

This small yellow plastic horse was probably put out to “pasture” because it can’t run anymore.  It looks like either some one or some thing chewed off its right hind leg.

Small, white plastic horse, Falls of the Ohio

This tiny horse was found upside down.  It’s missing the green plastic base it once stood on.  Fine droplets of rain begin to wet the sand on the day I came across this find.  My friend, Bernie from Vermont, gave me the idea for this post.  He needed a horse image for a story he had written and asked if I had any in my river archive.  This was one of the ones I sent him.  I have one last horse to show and it is a piece I photographed in place last weekend.  I hope everyone out there has a great Kentucky Derby and may your horse win, place, or show…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Brown plastic horse, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

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