A recent comment from another river scavenger gave me the idea for this post. He called this activity of collecting and observing the flotsam and jetsam of the world “beachcombing”. I understand what he meant, but I previously had associated this preoccupation with long walks on the oceans’ fringes. The Ohio River is not that place. What we do have, however, is a fair amount of debris (both natural and artificial) carried by fresh water along a watershed that over time…reaches the ocean.
The debris in rivers is more concentrated because of the smaller volume of water and of course, people with their living proximity to fresh water. If only folks were more considerate of what made it into this precious resource. At the Falls of the Ohio, I have been bearing witness to the material culture that makes it into the river. At first I collected this stuff to use as art materials, but over time, have become interested in assembling various collections (both physical and digital) of what washes up at the Falls the Ohio State Park.
Here, I’m presenting two collections on the theme of “beach combing”. The first is just images of found combs. I bet I find one of these just about every time I visit the river. At first, I paid little attention to them, but their persistence and variety of forms in shape and color eventually caught my eye and lens of my camera. My comb collection is just pictures taken in less than a year’s time.
The second collection is of plastic hair barrettes and I have been picking these up for years and using them on my Styrofoam sculptures. They are smaller and take up no room in the old collecting bag. Once I started cleaning out my bags regularly, I realized that I had gathered enough of these objects to form a collection. If this is what I found, how many more have traveled by in the currents?
I can recall reading Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and studying his drawings. There’s one study he did that is preserved at Windsor, in the Royal Library, it’s entitled ” Studies of an Old Man Seated and of Swirling Water” that is especially interesting. On this 600 year old piece of paper, Leonardo recorded his observations on how water and hair flow similarly. It is part of a series of drawings the master made while observing and trying to understand visual phenomena. My project is much less grand, but through these collections I have made another connection between hair and water!
Here’s my hair barrette collection and all of them are small plastic clasps that washed up at the Falls of the Ohio. As I mentioned before, I have been using these as elements in my figurative sculptures for many years now. I especially like the tied ribbon or bow tie examples. First, here are the hair clasps themselves. I wish I had put a coin or something else recognizably small in for scale…but they are all small and if they weren’t colorful, I doubt I would have spotted them against the natural elements of the river.
A final picture of how one of these hair barrettes was used recently. It’s the blue bow tie on this figure that was part of a story I did last year based on my Opa.