Last Saturday was a nearly 70 degree day and the sun was shining. I couldn’t wait to get to the Falls of the Ohio to do a little exploring and maybe make something. I was totally surprised to find that the Ohio River was up again despite our area not receiving much in the way of rain during the week. The warmer temperatures must be melting what snow is still on the ground in the upstream sections of the Ohio River Valley? That’s my theory and for the moment I will stick with that. As with the previous weekend, the areas in the park that I more routinely work in were all underwater. So, like the previous weekend I hiked out to the western section of the park where the riverbank is higher. Honestly, I didn’t expect to find much out here since I picked up a lot of waste plastic to make my last rainbow arrangement. Boy was I wrong. Waiting for me along the waterline was a “fresh” selection of polyvinyl chloride for the picking. Perhaps because for the moment I have been fixated artistically with this material, but to my eye it seems our “plastic problem” is getting worse.
In quick order I was able to stuff the two collecting bags I brought with me to capacity as well as fill a found plastic toboggan with even more plastic. That was just the start.
I could have kept going and going, but soon realized that I was also running out of light. I chided myself under my breath for getting a late start on this day. I had other home duties that needed my attention. If I was going to do anything with this latest batch of plastic finds it had better be soon. I had also intended to check out the project I had made the previous week, but it was further down the riverbank. Once I got going on this assemblage, I forgot all about that earlier piece. It was now a race against the quickly setting sun.
I dragged all the plastic junk I had collected to a place on the riverbank that I thought had pictorial possibilities. I then sorted this mess into various color groups. Using the two plastic milk crates I had found and a wooden plank I created a shelf-like surface that was fairly level where I could arrange my latest collection of finds.
Here’s a process photo of my piece about half way through along with my shadow. This plastic arrangement was situated in a space between the high riverbank and a large log that floated into position here last year. And now for some “finished” views.
I finished laying the last piece of plastic down just in time for the “Golden Hour” when for a brief moment the light has this incredible color. This time of day reminds me of some of Maxfield Parrish’s paintings who must have also been fond of this effect of light. Here are a few details of the junk I used for my arrangement.
In the green section you can see the Tug Boat that I found on my last trip. This time I picked it up and carried it with me and incorporated it into this piece. Other notable finds include a light orange, Winnie the Pooh, “Tigger” character head that was used for collecting candy on Halloween night. That’s a little different from the usual jack-o-lantern head. I also found a bright red plastic fish that is also a sand mold for child’s play. The majority, however, are bottles for detergents and various petroleum products.
Soon, the light begins to fade. In this shot you can get a better sense of why I selected this location. My arrangement is protected by these wonderful tree roots that add a bit of animation to the scene. What you can also see is that the tree to the left doesn’t have long to stand before the river and erosion will change this part of the riverbank and knock this tree down.
The sun was setting and I had a long walk ahead of me and after basking in a bit of color it was time to call it a day. On the walk back to my vehicle, I wondered what I was getting out of this activity? As an exercise in building an awareness of the plastic issue…well, by this point everybody who cares to know does. And the folks that would prefer this to be out of sight and out of mind, well, there is that too and you wonder what it would take to convince anyone of the urgency of this problem? I went through several rationales, but it wasn’t until I got home and downloaded my pictures to my computer that I decided there was something in the perverse beauty of man who stands in contrast to the rest of nature that I find compelling. I will muse on this for a while, but for now…so long from the Falls of the Ohio.