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Archive for the ‘fresh water’ Category

Flooded trees at the Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

Imagine my surprise to return to the same spot I had been working at last week…only to find it underwater!  Such was the case on my latest foray to the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  In the week since I was last here, we did experience one day where it pretty much rained all day long.  Still, in my experience, the intensity of that storm would not account for all the high water I was seeing during this visit.  Flooding in February is commonplace, but also usually tied to snow melt in the upper Ohio River Valley.  Perhaps what I was seeing was a combination of heavy rains upriver from Louisville and snow melt?  Regardless, this required a change in plans in the field.  I decided to go where nature would allow me to go.  In this case, high, dry land was to be found in the western section of the park.  I had to walk widely around the edge of a rising river, but this interstitial zone between wet and dry is often a very interesting place to explore.

 

Found green plastic toy Tug Boat, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

Found, green plastic tug boat toy, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

Among today’s discoveries includes this green plastic, tug boat that floated in with the high water.  This, however, was not the only transportation related toy that I found on my walk.  Here is something else that I came across.

Found plastic doll car, Falls of the Ohio,  Feb. 7, 2016

It’s missing two wheels, but this plastic toy car may have given a Barbie-sized doll a ride once upon a time.  How long had this piece of plastic been floating in the river?  I like to go down to the river’s edge because this is such a dynamic place.  You never know what might be washing ashore while you are there!  Soon I reached an area that was crisscrossed by downed trees and logs that had floated in which forced me away from the water and higher up on the riverbank.  That’s when I made another significant discovery.

The emergence of the Red-eyed Tortoise from it's burrow, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

Detail of head of the Red-eyed Tortoise, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

As I was walking, I heard the distinctive sound of leaves rustling on the ground and I knew an animal was nearby.  I followed the sound to its source and came upon a very rare creature that appeared to be exiting an abandoned groundhog’s burrow.  I took a couple of quick photos and backed off.  This proved to be a good move since my actions did not necessitate a full-scale retreat back into the hole it was emerging from.  Hiding behind a tree, I let the tortoise take its sweet time as it fully came to the surface.  I was practically holding my breath the entire time and for good reason.  It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to photograph and study one of the world’s rarest reptiles…the Red-eyed Tortoise (Gopherus helmeti).

Red-eyed Tortoise, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

The Red-eyed Tortoise was first discovered by naturalists early in the 19th century.  The Falls of the Ohio (and on the Indiana side of the Ohio River) is the southernmost point of this uncommon creature’s range.  Perhaps they were never plentiful to begin with?  Everything I was witnessing about this tortoise seemed to suggest that it is not only slow, but likes to take its time.  If this animal had a motto it would be something like, “Hey, what’s the big hurry”?

Red-eye Tortoise at the river's edge, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

I watched as the tortoise very deliberately walked to the water’s edge.  What I knew from books about this reptile was that it is omnivorous, but if it is hungry for live food than positioning itself near a rising river driving small animals up the bank would increase the chances of successfully catching a meal.  Unfortunately, I did not witness anything so dramatic.  In fact, during my time in the presence of this tortoise…I did not see it eat or drink at all.

Red-eyed Tortoise and Cottonwood tree roots, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

Red-eyed Tortoise, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

The tortoise lingered at the edge of the river for a while.  It very deliberately examined the driftwood.  Perhaps this was part of its hunting strategy?  There was something I was very curious about and it had to do with the temperature.  Most reptiles are cold-blooded and require the sun’s energy to warm them up.  Was this also true for this tortoise?  Although it was warmer today, it was still far from spring-like temperatures and so how was this reptile able to deal with the coolness?  The secret resides in its unique shell design and composition.  During the colder days, the tortoise’s carapace is made from a hard, foam-like material that not only protects it from blows, but also insulates and retains what heat this animal is able to generate.  In the warmer weather months, special vents in the carapace do the reverse and provide cooling ports that keep the tortoise from overheating.

Red-eyed Tortoise with found plastic bottles, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

I did catch one other puzzling behavior and it was in connection with a cache of river-born plastic bottles that had accumulated next to a large, downed log.  The tortoise appeared to initially be interested in them, but one sniff had our hard-shelled friend reacting adversely and it moved as quickly as it could away from that area.  I did not personally check out these plastic bottles, but I theorized that one of them was probably still carrying its toxic, noxious contents that the tortoise picked up on?  Regardless, it did beat a retreat away from the river and I followed from a respectful distance.

The Red-eyed Tortoise returning to its burrow, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 7, 2016

The last view I had of the Red-eyed Tortoise had it going head-first back down into its winter burrow.  There was a brief “flurry” of legs as dirt and leaves were used by the tortoise to seal the hole back up.  I made a mental note of the area where this burrow is located, but also realized that with the advent of warmer weather…this whole section of woods would transform in practically unrecognizable ways.  Perhaps this is for the best because even with the purest of intentions, I would not want any undo harm to come to it by drawing unnecessary attention to it.  I would be very selective about who I would tell about this tortoise’s existence and even more careful about who would see the images I made of it.  Of course, I hope I will get the chance to see it again, but I’m also prepared to have this be the one and only time I had this direct experience with it.  With the tortoise secure again, I collected my belongings and with the sun setting on my back…started on the long hike back home.  It had been a very special day and one that I would savor for some time to come.

Sun down at a flooded Falls of the Ohio State Park, Feb. 7, 2016

 

 

 

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Plastic Thumb Moth, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Beyond the Woodland Loop Trail in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio is where today’s river adventure finds me.  It has been many months since I last visited this side of the park.  I have been looking forward to walking on the driftwood that accumulates on this riverbank.  As always, I’ve got my trusty walking stick and collecting bag with me.  It’s time to find what there is to find and make something from that.  Right away, I found this plastic butterfly or moth (fireworks perhaps?) and enjoyed taking several images of it juxtaposed with the riverbank landscape.  Just a quick look around and I can see lots of plastic and polystyrene to potentially use.  I will also keep my eyes open for a good site to do one of my plastic arrangements that I have been having fun with of late.

Brown Bagging it, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

I was fairly confident that I would find as much plastic debris on this shoreline as I had found in the eastern section of the park.  That would prove to be correct and I brought an extra collecting bag along to help with the gathering process.  I have been enjoying organizing the colorful plastic bottles and containers that I find into mostly chromatic and rainbow-inspired arrangements.  The driftwood and sand out here is unified in coloring presenting a monochromatic landscape where bright, colorful plastic notes sing out among all these lost trees.  You soon realize as you sort out the plastic from the driftwood, how much of our material culture is intermixed into everything else.

Found plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan 30, 2016

Colorful, found plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

After walking the high water line for a couple of hours, I dumped all the colorful plastic I had collected onto the sand.  I thought I had picked a good location that was between the water and the riverbank.   I picked up a nice plastic milk crate along the way to assist with the gathering.  I notice that I usually pick up intact items preferring them over plastic bits and pieces…although, I will use fragments too especially if they are a hard to come by color.  Most all of the plastic bottles and containers I find have had their labels washed off by the river.  I put a lot of trust in the cleaning power of millions of gallons of water.

Sorting plastic by color, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Using the patterns and intervals of driftwood that the river had previously laid down here as a supporting structure where today’s found plastic is sorted by color and staged.  Here is where you might find out that you picked up more green bottles than yellow or that purple was that day’s hard to find color.

Found plastic on the riverbank, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Here’s a view looking eastward with a bit of the skyline of Louisville suggested through the distant trees.  From my experience, fewer people visit this section of the park and many who do often prove to be residents of Clarksville which is just over the flood wall.  Let’s show a few more images of how this piece rounded into shape.

Western Park Plastic Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Western Park Plastic Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

I like the big wooden beam lying parallel to the plastic.  Not all the driftwood out here is of the wild variety.  I find lumber cut-offs and planed planks of all kinds and have used them in my art as well.  These shots were taken on a beautiful end of the month day where we had a respite from the cold and grayness.

Western park plastic arrangement, Jan. 30, 2016

There was one large blue plastic drum that was buried in the sand and had water in it as well.  I didn’t like how it intruded into these pictures and so tried to take it away.  Well, it was much too heavy for one person to life out of the sand.  Fortunately, among the few people I did see on this day were old river rat friends who gave me a hand with this.  The blue drum nearly folded in half takes its position at the end of the line.

Variation on an image, Western Park Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30,2016

detail of Western Park Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

I hung around and admired all the bright colors as they revealed themselves in a setting sun.  I think this is the most complex plastic assemblage (as far as variety and number of individual pieces used goes) that I have made thus far.  I will go ahead and tell you that this work no longer exists except as digital images.  Over the past week, we had strong rain storms that went through the Ohio Valley resulting in a high river.  Although the rains didn’t affect us directly, all the water that was dropped into the watershed caused it to inundate many of the familiar places on the riverbank that I like to work.  The river has been unpredictable of late and I have had at least three new projects washed away.  As I walked home, I did find an interesting bottle that I walked over before.  I’m fairly sure this is Fred Flintstone based on the diamond pattern on his “garment”.  A quick inquiry over the internet yielded some results.  This find was originally part of a four plastic baby bottle set that featured Fred, Barney, and their kids Pebbles and BamBam.  This vintage baby product was more than likely manufactured between 1977 and 1984!  I wonder if its possible for my find to be that old?  Judging from the wear and tear and severe fading…that’s a distinct possibility.  Happy with my new find…I dropped it into my collecting bag.  I think it is the unusual items I come across that make this such a fun way to spend time at the river.  With the sun going down, the temperatures are getting cooler…time to go home.  Until next time from an ever-changing Falls of the Ohio.

Very faded Fred Flintstone character plastic baby bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Fred Flintstone baby bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

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Ribbon cutting ceremony, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 8, 2016

On January 8 of this new year, the exhibits at the renovated  Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center opened to the public with a grand ribbon cutting ceremony.  The interior of the Interpretive Center had been closed for 13 months.  About 6 million dollars had to be raised to upgrade the 22-year-old permanent educational displays.  After a national search, Louisville-based exhibit design company, Solid Light, Inc. won this high-profile contract and solidified their growing reputation within the exhibit design field.  Judging from the enthusiastic response of the people attending the reopening it was worth the wait.  I played a very small part with a commission to create an assemblage from objects I found in the park and I was eager to see how Solid Light used it.

From "An Ancient Sea", Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 8, 2016

video projection of the Devonian Sea, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 8, 2015

The displays are divided into four themes or sections beginning with “An Ancient Sea” that highlights early marine life during the Devonian Period.  The extensive fossil beds in the park date roughly to 400 million years ago and are the remains of an early coral reef ecosystem populated with many species of coral, brachiopods, and early fish which make their first appearance during the Devonian Period.  I was glad to see some of the older models that made up the original display were re-purposed into the new display.  The exhibit is interactive and there are hands on elements that children will enjoy.  Large, wall-sized videos help set the scene through many of the sections and in “An Ancient Sea” an animation depicting a shallow marine environment includes fish swimming through sun-dappled waters as trilobites search for food among the corals.

Reconstructed Native American house, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 8, 2016

Signage about the Shawnee language, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 8, 2016

The second theme is entitled “A Changing Land” and covers all the geologic changes from the Ice Age to the appearance of the first Americans.  For me, the highlight of this area is the inclusion of the Shawnee language which can be heard spoken inside a reconstructed shelter.  It’s wonderful that the contemporary descendants of these ancient people were involved in the design of this display and acknowledges their presence at the Falls of the Ohio.

Archaic tool display, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 8, 2016

Prehistoric tools on display, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan 8, 2016

Previously, the remains of prehistoric man’s material culture (primarily represented through flint tools) were a focal point in the old center’s displays.  For those worried that examples of the “real thing” would be replaced with virtual images and copies will be pleased that you can still explore original material through some inspired casework.  Be sure to peek inside many of the drawers in the different themed areas to see fine examples of specimens and artifacts.

From " Converging Cultures", Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 8, 2016

Frontier-themed video image, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 8, 2016

Blacksmith video image, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 8, 2016

The third theme “Converging Cultures” recounts the history of the Falls area with the arrival of the Europeans.  The Lewis and Clark Expedition is a key moment not only in the history of the United States, but of the Falls of the Ohio as well.  Many of the men that comprised the “Corps of Discovery” were originally from Kentucky and Southern Indiana.  Wall-sized videos in the Lewis and Clark Theater recount the biographies of many of the men who made this epic transcontinental journey.  The story of John James Audubon is also noted and forms a transition into the last themed area of the new displays.

Display within the "The Falls Today", Jan. 8, 2016

Virtual aquarium image from the "The Falls Today", Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 8, 2016

This last section is called “The Falls Today” and focuses upon the Falls of the Ohio as a rich contemporary ecosystem.  Some of the old taxidermy mounts have been reused to highlight some of the many species that live within the park.  Another large video display, this time a virtual aquarium, speaks to the richness of life in the river, particularly the species of game fish that are of interest to fisherman.  There is also a call to responsible and sustainable living and the need to keep pollution at bay.  This is where I come in.  I was commissioned by Solid Light to create an assemblage of found objects that is representative of what can be found in the Ohio River.  Here is the finished result that was placed within its own case with graphic elements added.

River Object Assemblage by Al Gorman, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 8, 2018

The panel within the case is 8 feet by 4 feet large.  I posted about the panel as I was creating it and showed many details of the more than 100 different objects that comprise it.  Of course, everything I’ve attached here was found within the context of the park.  The early reaction is that children in particular love looking at all the odd elements especially the found toys.  My panel is among the last things you see as you leave the exhibits area to exit the building.  I’m glad that there has been a greater emphasis in this new interpretation to include the current state of the world.  One could argue that as interesting as the past is…it is the present that is of the greatest concern. Further reinforcing this idea are the results of the minor flooding we experienced the previous week.  As the river has subsided, another massive new inventory of junk has washed into the park.  As I was leaving the ribbon cutting ceremony and walking to my vehicle, I could clearly see how much more work needs to be done.  Until next time…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Detritus on the riverbank, Falls of the Ohio State Park, Jan. 8, 2016

 

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After the last high waters, late July, 2015

Eventually, the water does go back down and reveals after the fact, all the newest changes that the river has made in the park.  You saw part of that in my last post with the way one favorite willow tree has been shaped by this latest event.  In many places in the park, you can find logs that floated here from some potentially far away places.

Stranded logs on the wier dam wall, with the City of Louisville in the background, late July 2015. Falls of the Ohio

Just a few weeks earlier, I posted images of Asian carp jumping over this very same spot.  The walls of the dam were no obstacle then.  Now the dam has been “graced” with many logs that were stranded along the top.  They will stay here until the next flooding event or until something else shifts the balance.

My green bottle piece after the latest flood, late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Because this is summer and we have experienced so much rain, all the vegetation is really lush.  Familiar paths are overgrown and the heat and humidity seem trapped at ground level.  I am completely sweaty in no time at all.  I went and checked out the green bottle piece I had made many weeks a go and it is still relatively in place.  I assembled it on top of a large driftwood mound that this latest bout of high water was unable to fully reach.  I can tell that the mound has shifted some and all of the bottles have settled within the upturned boat dock.  Now, the entire mound is covered in vines.  This makes it especially tricky to walk over.  I snapped a few pictures and moved to the safety of the riverbank.  There are lots of areas to explore and who knows what we shall find?

River coconut, Late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Slogging through the mud and wetness along the river’s edge, I make this amazing discovery.  It’s a River coconut!  I wonder what the tree that produced this hairy fruit looks like?  Since much of the water that reaches us here flows from the north downward, I imagine that this is one hardy tree.  I guess the coconut’s shagginess is a coping mechanism for cold winters?  As we walk, there are more discoveries to be made.

Giant toy watch or ?, late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Further down the riverbank I encounter this object.  I am holding it as I am because initially, I thought this was an extra-large toy wristwatch minus the hands and numbers.  Since I have been able to examine it more closely from the leisure of my home…I am now thinking that this is a child’s pro wrestling inspired championship belt?  All the glued on rhinestones must have fallen off while the river carried it away from wherever it originated from.

Broken, blue plastic dolphin riding toy, late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Walking further west…I discover the remains of a riding toy.  This is a blue plastic dolphin that came to rest in the Willow Habitat.  There are more plastic items to find.  Next was perhaps my favorite find of the day.

River patinated, plastic doll shoe, late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

This is so small, that I’m surprised I spotted it among all the other small items both natural and artificial.  It’s of course a plastic doll shoe, but this one has a nice patina acquired from being in the river for a while.  I still find many dolls and doll parts, but this little doll accessory is a rare find.  Unfortunately, there is also plenty of other plastic in the park that isn’t so hard to find.  Here’s one such example as I found it in place.

Plastic jugs in a mud puddle, Late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Three plastic bottles and containers rest in a pretty disgusting looking puddle.  The orange color is actually something I find occurring here naturally and may be due to some red oxide that exists below the many levels of clay and sand.  Of late, I have been collecting various plastic bottles and creating other site specific pieces with them.  On this particular day, I made a relatively small one due to time constraints.  I have often found that it is good to have some limits with this river art.  Simply, there are so many things one can work with and I have added to my vocabulary of forms and materials slowly over the years.

Plastic bottle composition, heavy with the black, Falls of the Ohio, late July 2015

detail of colorful bottle piece, Falls of the Ohio, late July 2015

Like some of my previous efforts, I chose a particularly promising area that seemed to have a “wealth” of plastic bottles and containers.  I then set out to find colorful examples to make an assemblage with.  I like contrasting the high artificiality of these bright objects with the more subdued organic efforts of Mother Nature.  The high-keyed colors are often cheery.  I think that even on a subconscious level, we recognize the former products that were in these bottles even without their original labels which have washed away.  From our own household experiences and uses, we are reassured by the soap that will clean our clothes or the oil that keeps our engines humming and in good condition.  That’s where the tension lies in these simple assemblages…we know that this is far from the case.   Since we now know that these containers and the products they once held were extracted from nature at great cost.  In the aftermath of use…that cost continues as the packaging is disposed of irresponsibly.  This particular artwork is heavy on the black which influences things as well.  I simply found more black containers on this day and used them.  After a few photographs, I picked up my collecting bags and headed home exhausted from slogging through the mud, heat, and humidity.  I’ll leave this post with one more view from the Indiana side of the Ohio River.  On the way home, I noticed a small flock of Canada Geese gliding past the skyline of Louisville and the river seemed at peace for the moment.  Catch you later from the Falls of the Ohio.

Skyline of Louisville with Canada Geese swimming, Late July 2015

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End of the Woodland Loop Trail, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

Balancing on the spine of a water-soaked log, I crossed over to the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  A gorgeous day with the river high from torrential hurricane remnant thunder storms the valley experienced a couple of days a go.  It has been a few weeks since I was last in this section of the park.  Everything is green and growing and pressing upon the life around it.  This was another productive excursion to the river and I made several site specific works with the plastic I found.  I’ve decided to break those posts up into several stories because many of the pictures came out well.

The days found plastic, mid  June 2015, Falls of the Ohio

For this piece, I selected an area that I knew would have lots of plastic washed ashore.  With the river currently high, the searchable area is constricted by the encroaching water and high-walled riverbank and by dense vegetation.  When I unloaded my collecting bags and the contents of a milk crate I pressed into service…this is what I picked up.  Interestingly, this collection also includes plastic palettes from rival cola companies.  The rest of the best includes plastic containers for petroleum and laundry products.  As you can see, most of the labels have come off of the bottles due to river immersion.  I picked a place with lots of growing grape vines and set up my latest bottle piece.  Here is a quick sequence showing the progress…starting with building a three-tiered structure using local wood and logs I found in place.

Wood structure for Triple-tiered Petroleum RainbowTriple-tiered Petroleum Rainbow in progress, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015Completed

There are always surprises in what colors are available in a given area.  In this section of the park, black, green, and purple colored plastic was harder to come by.  I used five boards, three small logs, and a large log (hidden in the grape vines) to build this three layer structure to hold my found bottles.  I worked on this piece and another one I will show later moving back and forth between the hot sunlight of this assemblage and the piece I was making in the cooling shade.  Here are a couple more bottle details which I like to show off the color.

Detail of Triple-tiered Petroleum Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

Plastic bottle detail from

Everything about these containers is so highly artificial that they contrast with all the greenery around it.  So much thought and effort went into the design of these bottles to make their intended contents as desirable as possible.  That part worked because these plastic bottles were consumed in large numbers and many of them found their way carelessly into the Ohio River.

Triple-tiered Petroleum Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

The reality that this was made from discards is balanced by the good cheer I feel from the rainbow-inspired colors arranged on the weathered wood.  If I had not put them into this form, they would be nearly invisible plastic units scattered over the land.  These bottles are ubiquitous in our lives and even without the labels…we recognize what many of the products were.

Triple-tiered Petroleum Rainbow at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

This is where I left the latest of the Petroleum Rainbow series…pressed by verdant grapevines and an ever encroaching river.  Since I made this piece last week…our area has been buffeted by torrential rains and high winds.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see that water now laps at this assemblage’s “feet”.  It has been a remarkable week in other ways with the upholding of the Affordable Heath Care Act and making marriage a right for all throughout the land.  I hope that these great quality of life decisions we make will keep the state of the environment a high priority too.  One last picture before leaving…also taken in the western section of the park….so long from the Falls of the Ohio.

downed tree with log resting against it, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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Driftwood and debris in flood aftermath, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

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.

Junk under the bridge at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Plastic and polystyrene debris, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

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.

Three Stooges ball found at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

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.

old plastic toy, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

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.

dead Asian carp, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

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.

My "Unidentified Floating Platform" and former studio area, March 2015

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.

Large, Styrofoam head in progress, March 2015

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.

March Madness at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Head of "March Madness", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

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.

"March Madness", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Back of "March Madness" facing the City of Louisville, March 2015

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!

Willow tree, formerly underwater, with debris stuck in its branches, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

 

 

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City of Louisville, KY as seen across flooded Ohio River, March 2015

The Ohio River remained higher than expected and was bolstered by a few days of rain.  I visited the Falls of the Ohio last weekend during a moment when the water level had dropped just enough to reveal a muddy shoreline with its accompanying line of stranded debris.  The places in the park I like to work and visit were still underwater.

Louisville as seen from the muddy Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

I put on my “Falls shoes” which were already muddy and that I keep outside on the front porch of my house and headed for the river.  As usual, I brought a collecting bag and camera with me and ventured forth to see what there was to see.  In places, you could tell that the river with its water-born logs had acted as a battering ram and pretty much leveled the vegetation nearest to the water.

"river shivers", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

The silt and clay are both very fine and sticky when wet.  I gingerly step on wood and other debris to keep from sinking ankle-deep in this quagmire.  I enjoy looking at the rippling wave patterns that the water creates.  I call this “river shivers” and imagine if the riverbank could display “goose-flesh” that it would look something like this.  And speaking of geese…

tracks made by geese, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

domestic goose at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

…the flock of Canada geese I photographed the previous week, left their footprints everywhere in the mud.  Their friend, the ex-patriot domestic goose, was still hanging out with them.

High water trash at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Of course, nearly every place you looked, you could see man-made trash and driftwood.  Much of this material has originated far from here.  When things finally dry out enough for a more thorough exploration, I’m expecting to find all kinds of examples of our material culture washed into the park.

flood born trash at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Interspersed with the bottles are lots of other plastic items and various foam-based garbage including Styrofoam…my primary sculptural material.  This is just a detail of one small area.  Already I’m seeing hundreds of plastic drinking bottles.  I’ve been asked on more than one occasion if I’m ever afraid that I might poison myself or get an infection from something that I’ve found out here by the river.  My short answer is yes.  One needs to be concerned, however, I don’t press my luck with anything that looks at all questionable.  I guess I do place a lot of trust that the billions of gallons that constitutes the Ohio River does in effect “wash” the stuff that I use.  So far, knock on wood, I’ve never had an adverse reaction after working out here for more than a decade.  The Falls of the Ohio State Park is a public space and what I encounter is also what the public encounters.

trunk load of river junk, March 2015

Here’s the trunk of my car after this brief foray to the river.  This may be hard for some of you to believe, but I’m actually very selective now. These days, I only carry back to my home work space, the “cream of the crop”.  I prefer to make my artworks at the river, but will also take materials home to “hedge my bets” and for workshop purposes.  The larder I had created at my “UFO” (Unknown Floating Object) outdoor studio is now long gone and I wonder if that circular metal platform is still around…or has it finally floated away too?

Galerie Hertz exhibition announcement, March 2015

While temporally stymied by water and mud, I have the opportunity to interact with the local art world in a more usual way.  Galerie Hertz which represents my art in Louisville opened a collage and assemblage group show.  Billy and his partner Tom have been important players in our city’s cultural life.  They have been rightly credited for creating an arts district on Market Street through the activities of their renovated galleries.  Each new space the pair opened was an upgrade of a building that needed some help.  This gentrification has attracted other galleries and dealers, bars, restaurants, and several home décor stores along Market Street.  In typical Galerie Hertz fashion, Billy and Tom have moved on to a different location and their current gallery where I’m showing my works is now on South Preston Street.  How often is it the case that creative folks move into formerly neglected areas and bring them to back to life?

"Moon Star", found objects from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Among the works I have in this group show is this piece entitled “Moon Star”.  I made this piece at the river, but felt is could use a bit more embellishment.  I added many found bicycle tire reflectors and some river-polished glass around the head.  When the light hits it just right, the reflectors just glow.

"Polar Beaver", found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

"Polar Beaver", facing left, found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Through the miracle of “Styro-dermy”, I saved the Polar Beaver I encountered recently.  To get this piece to sit the way I want it to…I have embedded three, large, lead fishing weights into the tail to counterbalance the body.

"The Harbinger of Spring", found materials, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

This diminutive figure is called “The Harbinger of Spring” and I created him last year at this time.  I also wrote an accompanying story that helped explain how winter transitions to spring.  Although I like to think that many of my Styrofoam-bodied sculptures can hold their own as freestanding objects…they are also relics and artifacts of a site specific performance that happens out at the river and is additionally documented through photographs and stories.  At the moment, the sun is shining, but it is also cold at the river.  Tomorrow is another day, another day for the river to recede and the mud to dry.  I think I will get up early and give it a go.  I will let you know what I discover at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Railroad bridge at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

 

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