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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.