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Archive for the ‘Green’ Category

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Well, the season for grand political theatre is almost over.  I’m feeling like most of the country who are so tired of the divisiveness that has defined this overly long election. Certainly, a major disappointment is the lack of any real environmental dialogue or engagement from either of the parties.  Three national debates…and hardly a mention of climate change at all.  We were much more preoccupied by Hillary’s emails than we are the fact that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed a historic and negative 400 parts per million this year for the very first time ever!  We have no idea what this will ultimately mean.  We believe that this can’t be a good thing, but we are willing to take the chance?  Do facts matter and are we close to a point where it won’t make much of a difference what we think and feel?  Nature has her own schedule and we have been consistently wrong in guessing what time it is.

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I find going out into Nature breathing deeply and keeping my eyes open helps a great deal. This is my restorative.   Walking parallel to the Ohio River and atop the Devonian limestone, my eyes register the circling Osprey looking for a good fish in the shallows.  The nearby purple loosestrife flowers are alive with insects of many species doing what is important right now which is attending to life.  Cooling its feet in a shallow spring, I come across one of the park’s box turtles.  I give it my full attention and love.  It’s life amazes me.  Once it was a leathery egg laid in a dirt hole.  When it hatched, a tiny, nearly exact replica of its parents emerged from the shell debris and soil.  Instinct led it to seek shelter and to react to that gnawing sensation in the pit of its stomach by eating something.  It’s alive and has its own reality deeply rooted in the history of life.

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Living with the seasons, the turtle puts on a new growth ring for another year of life.  I have caught up to this one…decades after it left the egg.  I feel at peace and a feeling of well-being when I see Nature going about its daily and routine ways of life.  This is the way it has been before there was an us to proclaim ourselves to be the height and purpose of it all. One needs to go out into nature more to fully appreciate creation beyond the strictly abstract and intellectual.

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Plastic flower blossom in the sand at the Falls of the Ohio, October 2016

Our ability to transform our world is so complete that we can use a material like crude oil to create plastic flowers!  But should we and why would we want to in the first place?  It is specifically the effects of using fossil, hydrocarbon-based energy sources that have led us to the situation we now find ourselves.  Collectively, we have let oil and coal become more important than clean air and water.  Here in Kentucky, the political campaigns are fueled by the so-called “war on coal”.  What most people miss, is that this has less to do with environmental regulations and more with market forces.  Coal is a dirty form of energy that has been supplanted by the use of natural gas which is much cheaper.  Ordinary citizens are not taking down the old coal-burning plants and replacing them with natural gas burning utilities…big business is.  Coal jobs started to really disappear when it was discovered that you could reach a lot of coal quicker and employ fewer miners with mountaintop removal. The fracking techniques used to obtain today’s boon in natural gas are also fraught with huge issues which are now coming to light.

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We have the current and not fully resolved situation involving the Standing Rock Sioux people and an ill-advised and designed pipeline that the big corporate world have decided needs to go under the Missouri River.  Despite all our vaunted technologies, we lack the ability to make a pipeline that won’t eventually break releasing its poison into the waters.  What is so hard to understand about that?  I stand with the people who know that clean water is life. For awhile, it looked like the Ohio River was making progress, but in a way, the changes we are seeing in the climate have affected us here.  Currently, we have several large basin projects under construction in Louisville to deal with the reality that it rains more and a lot harder now which now overwhelms our sewers sending untreated waste directly into the river.  It will take billions of dollars and a lot of resolve to fix this, but I suspect, we will limp along trying to convince the people who make money the measure of everything to act sooner than later.

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So, here I stand on the wrack line between land and liquid.  I will continue to come out here and record with my camera and pen, the anecdotal changes I see happening in the park.  I come out here to challenge my creativity, see what there is to see, and restore my spirit.  Ultimately, the quality of our water and the environment at large is a referendum on our collective spirit.  We certainly have been found wanting and another election cycle is going by without so much as an acknowledgement that there are big challenges to the very substrate that sustains us all.  I will try to curb my disappointment, by immersing myself in the moment.  So long for now…until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.img_3366

 

 

 

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Eric and his contraption, Nov. 2015, Falls of the Ohio

When I received the call from my friend Eric, I was already heading to the Falls of the Ohio.  A simply gorgeous autumn day was upon us and the smell of freshly dropped leaves perfumed the air near the river.  Soon we would experience our first full frost that would truly signal an end to the warm days and the coming cold, grayness ahead of us.  For now, everything seemed perfect and both man and animals reveled in being outside.  Like so many of my friends, Eric is a bit of an eccentric.  He’s highly creative, full of surprises, but has difficulty at times channeling his enthusiasms into something positive and useful.  I can somewhat relate to that and perhaps this forms the basis of our friendship?  The plan was to meet at my outdoor atelier under the willow trees so he could show me his latest invention and sure enough…I found Eric standing next to what looked like some kind of unusual machine.  Eric was fiddling with the various gizmos, dials, and buttons when I greeted him.

Eric preps his machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

My friend was excited to see me and rushed to shake my hand.  He spoke to me in out of breath fashion until I told him to relax and slow down.  Of course, I was curious to learn what he was up to.  Eric told me that he thought he had the answer to all the world’s energy problems and it took the form of this contraption that clearly looked like it was cobbled together from secondhand junk.  Eric called me because he wanted a witness to observe a demonstration of his device’s capabilities.  If all went well, Eric intended to send the plans for his latest invention  to the patent office and from there who knew?  Filled with curiosity, I asked Eric what was the function of his machine and how exactly did it work?

Eric "feeds" the hopper, Nov. 2015, Falls of the Ohio

To back track a bit, here is a fuller description of the look of this device.  The main body of the machine was boxy and covered with a white insulating material.  All sides of the box were embellished with tubes, light bulbs, vials of mysterious fluids, gears, pulleys, dials, levers, and what appeared to be radiator panels for keeping the machine cool while it operated.  A large yellow hose protruded from the back of the machine.  In the front where the operator did his “thing” was a “hopper” where material could be fed into the machine.  A large, clear, horizontally mounted bottle introduced water into the process.  The whole contraption was mounted on four wheels which made it a mobile power plant that could be moved to any location that was required.  Now, I’m not a scientist and so a lot of what Eric told me I frankly did not understand, but in short, here is what the machine did along with its practical applications.  The purpose of the machine as Eric explained it to me was to produce “UBF” or Universal Bio Fuel which my friend believed would not only make us energy self-sufficient, but would also solve the world’s hunger problems as well!  Anything organic could be fed into the “hopper” and as a way of demonstration…Eric picked up a large arm load of dried leaves and stuck them into the cup and fired up his machine.  One of the beautiful things about his invention was that it operated on the fuel that it produced. The next stage occurred within the bowels of this odd mechanism.  I could hear sounds of the leaves being broken down, ground up and masticated into mush.  Water, various enzymes, acids, and yes…bacterial cultures were introduced into this leaf mash.  As this bolus moved through various internal chambers, the mash would ferment and in quick order convert into “UBF”.  The desired product has a waxy consistency when cool.  Eric’s machine not only could produce “UBF” to be utilized for industrial needs, but also had a soft-serve function where it could be doled out like some nutritious, but hardly tasty ice cream.  Flavoring could come later.  According to Eric, apart from a cheese-like odor,  very little waste would result…so complete were the reactions that created the “UBF”.

Eric's machine overflows, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

"UBF" overflowing the bowl, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

As I watch, I’m thinking the machine is working as intended, but soon notice that Eric is frantically operating the buttons and dials and a small puff of white smoke emanates from his machine.  He quickly runs to the yellow hose where a small bowl for receiving the “UBF” has turned over on its side.  Too much of the precious bio fuel is being produced and is spilling forth and coagulating on the ground.  I ask is there anything I can do, but Eric doesn’t hear me and for some unknown reason takes the following rash action.

Eric sucks the hose, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Eric grabs the end of the hose and sticks it into his mouth!  I hear a guzzling sound as he swallows a massive amount of the surplus “UBF”.  He then runs to the front of the machine and hits the button that stops all the reactions.  Why Eric did not do this first is due to the fact that he panicked.  He told me that in his mind, he heard his inner voice saying that this fuel is precious and should not be wasted.  Eric had a dazed look upon his face and then the oddest thing happened…all the hairs on his head stood straight up and they remained that way!

Eric's hair standing on end, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Exhausted and over-wrought, Eric decides to call it a day.  He leaves his bio fuel extracting machine where it stands and with assistance from me…we head for home.  Eric is a persistent fellow and with his mission to solve the planet’s energy needs… I know this latest setback will not keep him down for long.

Eric waste deep in water, Nov. 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Eric in the water by his machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Sure enough, about a week later, I run into my mad scientist friend back at the Falls of the Ohio on another beautiful day.  As it turned out…this hair-raising experience was permanent.  The “UBF” is such a rich mixture and the full physiological effects of eating such a large dose are unknown.  Certainly, he had eaten more than a minimum, recommended serving which according to plan was to be determined later.  Just a little bio fuel goes a long way.  Luckily for Eric, there were no other scary after effects.  Undaunted, Eric is willing to try his machine again soon, but first he had to clean it out and replenish his water supply.  On this day, I find him waste deep in a stagnant pool of water.  He has adjusted his hose by placing one end into the water and the other end delivers liquid into the hopper.  This is required to flush all the enzymes and other residues out of his bio fuel plant.

Eric by his machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Eric next to his bio fuel machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

As he tinkers with his contraption we converse.  Eric told me that he has a lot more to learn about which organic materials produce the most energy.  I ask him if by organic, would that also include plastic and a lot of other waste products and detritus that our current technologies produce?  He’s intrigued by the question and thinks plastic by-products could work to create energy although he doesn’t think they would have much food value.  I nod my head in agreement.

Eric adjusts the settings on his machine, Nov. 15, Falls of the Ohio

Eric's bio diesel machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

I don’t know if Eric was ultimately successful in earning his hoped for patent.  I didn’t hear what happened the other times he tested his machine.  I know he places a lot of faith in technology and believes that it will save us in the long run.  Of course, reality is more complicated than that.  Part of me fears that if he was successful in his quest…some large corporation would just buy him out and warehouse the solution until they could profit from it.  What I appreciate about Eric is that he never talked about money or getting rich.  There simply are great problems out there in the wider world and he finds fulfillment in trying to resolve them.  Working on his machine has given Eric a renewed sense of purpose.  As I contemplate the prismatic colors on the surface of the water…I hope Eric finds an answer.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

iridescent colors on the water, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

 

 

 

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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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Christmas Bird at the Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

In the eastern section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park I came across a remarkable bird.  As far as I know, this is the first documented sighting of the so-called Christmas Bird (Xmasii noelensis) in our area.  The bird’s red crest, green collar, and azure-colored wings are diagnostic as is the bicolor beak.  I was down at the river on a rather foggy morning when I noticed the bird flashing its wings in mockingbird fashion which is a distant relative of this species.

The Christmas Bird, Louisville in the background, Dec. 2014

I was looking for interesting pieces of driftwood and odd items washed up by the Ohio River when I came across this bird.  This is a long distance migrant and one that hails from as far north as the Arctic Circle.  The Christmas Bird earns its name in a couple of ways.  Of course, its complimentary plumage is rather seasonably inspired and it does seem to migrate to the lower 48 states around the time of the holidays.  Where the bird will appear is rather unpredictable, however, it is a welcome sight in most any location.  Here I have photographed the bird “flashing” its wings against its body while perched upon a driftwood log.  The park is in Southern Indiana and the skyline of Louisville, Kentucky can be seen across the Ohio River.  After taking this shot, the bird flew off.

Display of the Christmas Bird, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

I said to myself…”Well, that’s that”.  I fully did not expect to see this rare bird again, but I received a “gift” of a rather unexpected nature.  Underneath the old iron railroad bridge, not too far away from my initial sighting, I came across this “decorated” nest and recognized its significance.  This is a display from the Christmas Bird.  Using an abandoned mud-lined nest of an American Robin, (Turdus migratorius), the Christmas Bird has created an assemblage involving red berries and the remains of a string of old Christmas lights that washed into the park with the other river-bourn detritus.  From this evidence, I suspected the bird had “claimed” this area.  If I in turn displayed patience…I might get another opportunity to photograph this unusual species.

Christmas Bird with its display, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

I waited about an hour and the Christmas Bird did appear to my great joy!  It arrived at the nest with a red berry in its beak which it added to its growing collection.  It is believed that this bird is attracted to the color red.  Usually, berries from the holly tree are used, but in this instance I recognized them as the fruit of the Nandina plant.  The bird probably discovered them growing in a private garden in nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana.  It is suspected by ornithologists that the southerly migration of the Christmas Bird, which brings it to warmer climates, may trigger this unusual nest-like and courting behavior.  The Christmas Bird is known for its ability to tolerate extreme cold and it takes a great drop in temperature to stimulate it to migrate.

Close up of the Christmas Bird with red berry, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

Christmas Bird with display, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

I was able to observe this bird making about ten trips back and forth between the nest and its berry source.  If the bird was aware of my presence…it did not appear to be overly alarmed.  Once in a while, the bird with crest erected, would cock its head back and forth trying to differentiate my form among the willow branches.  I held my breath and tried to remain still and as unthreatening as possible.

The Christmas Bird with its seanonable display, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

The weather grew damp and cold and the sun looked like it was not going to appear from beneath its blanket of clouds.  I made the decision that I had enough images and it was time to leave this bird in peace and go home.  On the ride home, I felt I had been given this great gift, the gift of nature which remains priceless and timeless!  For me, nothing packaged in a box and wrapped with a bow can equal this living blessing.  To all who have followed my adventures by the river this year…I offer my sincerest good wishes during this season of holidays!  I hope that at least once in your lifetimes, you will be visited by the Christmas Bird bringing red berries for your nest.

Christmas Bird with red berry, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

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Note on wood piece, Aug. 2014

A hot and sunny August morning and over Louisville’s rooftops I could hear the river’s siren song calling my name.  “Al”…Al…where have you been?”  The call was getting louder and more irresistible by the moment.  What’s a fella to do but heed the call?  I slurped down the last of my cold coffee, gathered my collecting bag and walking stick and twenty minutes later I transported myself to the Falls of the Ohio.  The river was receding into its summer pool and most of the riverbank was now exposed.  Here and there fishermen were trying both their luck and patience.  If birds could laugh, the numerous herons were enjoying themselves for it looked to my eye like they were having more success than the other bipedal hunters holding long rods and bait buckets.  I did a quick look around the old railroad bridge, filled a found, empty, glass liquor bottle with coal pebbles and headed for my spot under the willows.  Among my stash of Styrofoam and driftwood I came across a piece of wood I had previously picked up…and found this simple message written in ink… ” Hi Al”.

My stash of found art materials, Aug. 2014

Whoever penned this simple note at my discovered spot remains a mystery.  In my mind, I associated it with any of my many artist friends who also find inspiration among the driftwood…but it could have been the river too.  This place has been utilized by artists for many years.  Each new generation seems to discover this place for themselves and I hope it always remains this way.  I lingered under the shade for a bit and watched a mix flock of chickadees, warblers, and gnatcatchers move through the tree canopy.  With the show over and satisfied that my haul of river junk with all of its latent potential remained in place…I headed back into the bright sunlight.  Other mysteries and visual delights would await me.

plush Tasmanian Devil toy, Falls of the Ohio, 2014

Imagine coming face to face with the Tasmanian Devil!  Well, I did and lived to tell the tale.  Actually, this plush toy (which I found face down) was quite small and easy to overlook upon the driftwood.  Seems I’m always finding cartoon characters out in this landscape.  I suspended him by his arms upon the exposed roots of an overturned tree stump.  Someone may find him and give him a new home…or he might just fall apart over time eventually finding his way back into the river?  Walking through the sunlit clearings between willow stands, I came across this interesting found composition.

Upright red straw and cup lid with willow stumps, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

I must have stared at this for an indeterminate amount of time?  Perhaps it was the upright and very bright red plastic straw that caught my notice?  Or, it could have been the very careful placement and arrangement I was discerning?  I felt I was looking at a rather intimate and odd bit of public art.  I found myself thinking…why didn’t I think of this!?  In my heart and mind I saluted the anonymous person who created this scene and walked away appreciatively.  A little further down the riverbank I came across a similar example.

Plastic straw and cup lid wedged in rock crack, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

Wedged in a limestone crack was another plastic straw and disposable cup lid “sculpture”.  This time the straw was white with red stripes running down its length and the lid was an opaque white color.  Like the previous straw sculpture, this one seemed to activate the space it occupied and caused me to notice what else was happening in this micro-location.  The remains of ancient horn corals that lived in a shallow sea millions of years ago were preserved on the surface of the stone.  The straw was strategically placed in a deep silt-filled fissure which was the only place that would allow it to stand upright on this hard rock.  Finding a second upright straw and lid piece confirmed that the first one was not just a happy accident.  There was someone moving through the area with a purpose.

Upright red plastic straw with clear cup lid, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

I soon came upon a third straw and lid site specific piece and it was different from the others.  While it was also made from plastic, the lid was clear and in the strong sunlight cast the most wonderful shadow upon the sand.  It occurred to me that I was following a fresh trail because the slightest bit of wind could easily knock these ephemeral works over.  I kept walking and as luck would have it, I came upon the artist responsible for these creations.

artist with orange hand on his head, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

With a big blue smile a diminutive persona standing at the edge of a stand of willow trees greeted me with a friendly wave of his thin stick arm.  He sported an orange hand symbol on his head and had very dark eyes as I recall.  He had a blue-collar around his neck and a yellow belt around his waist.  Otherwise, he was wearing nothing at all!  I heard him say that he had watched me from a distance checking out his last piece and what did I think of it?  I told him that I loved the simplicity of his works and admired how his careful placement made me more aware of the locations where they were sited.  They were such simple gestures made with the most economical of means.  I went on to gush about how surprisingly sophisticated I thought they all were, but he just stood there smiling.  It was then my turn and I asked him how he came upon the idea?  He said it happened quite by accident.  Reflexively, he set the first one up without any thought and liked the result.  On a hot, sunny day…it reminded him of an umbrella set up on a beach which further reminded him of a family vacation he made as child the first time he saw the ocean.  The other straw and lid pieces became tops spinning in his mind and on and on, but most of all…he was doing this to have fun.

artist with straw and lid sculpture, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

I asked if it would be all right to tag along for a short while with him and he said that it would be fine.  We passed by one of his earlier projects and I snapped this quick picture. He was looking to make another piece or two and there (unfortunately) didn’t seem to be any shortages of straws and lids to work with.  The artist recognized that these elements were not supposed to end up here.  Setting them upright was also a good way to get other people to notice these things and perhaps give a thought or two about the state of the environment.  We eventually worked our way back to the water.  Sure enough, my little friend found another straw and lid along a trail frequented by fishermen.

The artist and his materials, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

Just as the artist was about to plant his new-found straw and lid into the moist ground…a nice group of people came over and greeted us.  There were two brothers and a sister and a family friend who was taking them to the river to hang out and enjoy themselves.  They had also been collecting river junk and specifically looking for small, intact, glass bottles.  They were curious about the little artist and we talked for a while about being creative.  The group expressed an appreciation for recycling and reusing the cast off stuff of the world.  They asked if it was all right if they could pose with the artist to take their own pictures.  Here are a couple of those images.

Posing for pictures with the artist, Aug. 2014

The artist posed with his new family, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

 

The youngest of the group then asked if it was okay if the little Styrofoam artist went home with them?  There seemed to be no objections.  The little man with the orange hand on his head was open to anything.   I, however, did ask for a few things in return.  The first was that a nice piece of wood be found out here that would make a good base so that the figure could stand upright.   The second request was that a little bit of craft glue be used to hold all the loose parts together.  Doing these things would make the figure last a bit longer and remind the family for years to come of this time they spent together at the river.  I thought this was the perfect ending to a most entertaining day.  So long for now from the Falls of the Ohio.

Portrait of the straw and cup lid artist, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

 

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Young groundhog, March 15, 2014

Here’s an adventure from March 15 which was a beautiful Saturday in the Kentuckiana area with temperatures in the low 70’s!  I spent so much time at the Falls of the Ohio on this day that I even managed a very slight sunburn.  Like much of the country (particularly east of the Mississippi River) we are so ready for winter to be over.  This particular day turned out to be a tease, because less than 24 hours later, temperatures plummeted and we had an accumulation of snow!  Most of the people I know are tired of their winter wardrobes, which also means triple the laundry load.  We are ready for the greening and warming of the earth.  On this particular foray to the river, I was on the look out for any signs of spring.  I came across this young groundhog basking in the sun near his hole.  He turned out not to be very social.

young groundhog at the Falls of the Ohio, March 15, 2014

He need not worry about me.  I wasn’t going to blame him for the extra long winter.  Here’s the back story.  February 2 is Groundhog’s Day and the myth goes if the “official” groundhog that resides in the small town of Punxsutawney,  Pennsylvania sees his shadow on this particular day…winter will be extended another six weeks.  Well this year, that captive groundhog which was yanked from his burrow by human hands did see his shadow and surprise…spring was predicted to be late in coming.  I did a little back checking on the Groundhog’s Day tradition and here’s what I found from the official website.  The idea is based on the Candlemas Day observance that Pennsylvania’s early German settlers brought with them in the 19th century.  This passage was quoted as the rationale for Groundhog’s Day…”For as the sun shines on Candlemas day, so far will the snow swirl in May.”  I’m not sure what the source for this quote is…but snow in May?  What is this some kind of ice age legacy handed over through deep time and what’s with the groundhog? The official Groundhog’s Day observance was established in 1887 and groundhogs and woodchucks the country over have been stigmatized by it.  This particular groundhog was having nothing to do with people and retreated down his burrow.

Cottonwood tree at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

The "Hobo Hut", March 2014

On this trip to the Falls…I visited the far western section of the park and wanted to see if I could find any signs of spring there.  I did find lots of river-carried junk, but will save some of that for another time.  I did stop by my favorite cottonwood tree that has been for many years, a popular place to hang out.  I saw a sign saying that it is now being called the “Hobo Hut”.  I came across a nice group of young people with theater and writing backgrounds who were going to party there.  This seemed to me to be as good a sign of spring as anything that can be learned from a large rodent.  After exchanging pleasantries for a few minutes I moved on.  Before long, I ran into this character and he educated me about spring.

The Harbinger, Falls of the Ohio, March 22, 2014

This is the Harbinger of Spring and I chanced to come across him on my walk.  He told me he had “heard” my thoughts and musing about spring and decided to introduce himself to me.  It was a warm day and once again I was out here without drinking water and if this were indeed a hallucination…at least it was a friendly and pleasant one.  He had a reassuring smile on his face to go along with the glowing yellow flower on his chest and shock of leaves sprouting from his head.  I decided to just go with whatever would happen next and here is that story.

The Harbinger of Spring arrives at the Falls, March 22, 2014

Contrary to popular belief, the official arrival of spring has nothing to do with groundhogs or even the vernal equinox.  Spring arrived by boat to the Falls of the Ohio and I just happened to stumble across him as he prepared to do his work.  The Harbinger allowed me to tag along to see the preparations and ground work needed for winter to transition to spring.

The Harbinger's shadow, March 2014

According to the Harbinger, the first thing that needs to happen is an increase in the intensity and duration of sun light.  While I stood quietly nearby, the Harbinger willed the sun into the correct position in the sky.  This was manifested by my magic friend’s ever lengthening shadow and the warmth I felt on the back of my neck.  Not much can occur if the sun doesn’t cooperate.

The Harbinger wills algae to life, March 2014

The Harbinger wills algae to life, March 2014

The next step is to awaken the plants and begin the “greening” process.  I watched the Harbinger sit on a dormant clump of loosestrife and open his arms.  I heard a barely audible melody that I could not identify and heard it more through my mind than my ears.  According to the Harbinger, the “greening” begins by warming up the simplest plants that are connected to the water.  In this case, mats of algae were turning bright green before my eyes.

The Harbinger with a clump of grass, March 2014

The land plants came next.  I observed the Harbinger walking over to a clump of grass and green blades began to grow out of the gravel.  This process would continue through all the flowers, shrubs, bushes, and would culminate with the appearance of the first tree leaves.  The familiar animals would then return.  My friend told me that this process took great effort and patience and could not be accomplished in a single day.  For now…he was through, but over the next week or so he promised dramatic results.  I parted with the Harbinger as he settled into a cavity formed in a living tree.  For now, the sun tiring of its efforts was setting and evening was fast approaching. The Harbinger would spend the night here and resume his work when he felt the conditions were right to do so.  I had one more surprise coming.  As I turned and walked away…a red flower appeared at the Harbinger’s hole and the sun began to sink in the west.  See you next time from a greening Falls of the Ohio.

The Harbinger waves good by, March 2014

The Harbinger by his tree, March 2014

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Carnegie Center for Art and History facade, New Albany, IN, Jan. 2014

On January 24 our long-awaited exhibition at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, Indiana opened with a big reception.  I say “our” because this is a two person show featuring work by R. Michael Wimmer and yours truly.  The exhibition in entitled “The Potential in Everything” because both Michael and I utilize a diversity of materials to make our art.  While I depend on what I find at the river, Michael goes much further afield to locate objects that project a certain “aura” and associative power for him.  Following are some images from the exhibition which will be up until April 5.

My sculptures just delivered, Jan. 2014

I brought about 25 pieces that I had saved from the river and park visitors.  I have gotten into the habit of keeping some of my better creations for events like this.  It’s such a big leap first seeing the work at the river and then in a more formal art space where everything is displayed, labelled, and illuminated with care.

opening reception for the Potential in Everything, Jan. 2014

The other extreme is having several rooms full of friends, family, and assorted art lovers coming out on a very cold night to take in this exhibition.  A wonderful jazz band provided music. At times, it was hard to see the art because of the people…which is a great situation to be in and I felt very lucky.  I know I did a lot of talking and meeting people who said that they knew my work through this blog.  This happened more than once and it made me feel good that local people were checking out my river adventures online every now and then.  I returned to the center the following day so I could get a better look at the show and to take a few more pictures.  Overnight, it snowed two to three inches while we slept.

Potential in Everything installation view, Jan. 2014

Installation view at the Carnegie Center for Art and History, Jan. 2014

Installation view with "Cycladic Oarsman", Jan. 2014

Both Michael and my sculptures are assembled.  He favors a wider variety of materials and I have over time evolved a vocabulary of forms and found materials that I prefer.  The pieces I’ve saved function for me as mostly a means to an end.  The story telling aspect of my work has been the biggest shift in what I do over the years and it has caused me to reassess my priorities when I go on location.  I was pleased that people thought the stories added something extra to the artworks.  Wall labels had excerpts from my river tales and I supplied a binder with printed stories that accompany many of the objects on display.  It takes the pieces away from being strictly artworks as usual.  I do, however, try to make compelling sculptures to help activate the spaces I work in and to assist in creating interesting images.  The tall figure in the foreground is entitled “Cycladic Oarsman” and was made specifically for this show.  I gave it this title because the face has some similarities with very early Greek marble statuary.

Three Styro-birds on a shelf, Jan. 2014

"Audubon's Habitat", R. Michael Wimmer,  at the Carnegie Center, Jan. 2014

Karen Gillenwater, the Carnegie Center’s curator did a fine job of pairing artworks together and finding what Michael and I have in common artistically.  Both of us have channeled John James Audubon and bird imagery.  The naturalist’s earliest attempts at drawing birds happened in the Kentuckiana area during the early nineteenth century.  Over the years I have made several Audubon figures and most of the birds I’ve created are creatures he never encountered in America’s pristine wildernesses.

Installation view in The Potential in Everything, Jan. 2014

"More than Skin Deep" by Michael Wimmer and my "Time Traveler" tableau, Jan. 2014

The Styro-fish I’ve made stand near a wall piece that Michael did about the deteriorating marine environment where he lived for a while in Florida.  My fish are made with some of the junk I’ve removed from the Ohio River.  Michael now makes his home and studio in New Albany.  Both of us are also fond of time references.  My stuff flirts with time on a number of levels including quantum mechanics.  Clock faces and dials appear in many of Michael’s Carnegie pieces and some of his sculptures are also working clocks.  A good friend of mine once told me that much of life is what we decide to spend time on and that seems true for both artists in this exhibition.  I appreciate that the Carnegie Center for Art and History believes it is important to generate good quality materials to help supplement an exhibition.  The staff at the center produced a wonderful gallery guide, show announcement, a banner that hangs from the building’s facade, a poster, and both Michael and I have the opportunity to give gallery talks and lead workshops.  I may never have a chance like this again where the hosting institution helps the artists out as much as the Carnegie Center for Art and History does.  I know of many regional and local artists who feel that this is what makes showing at the Carnegie such a treat.  The exhibition continues outside and both Michael and I have works positioned in front of the building.  Here is Michael’s piece and all the work’s components find similarities with details and materials on the building.

R. Michael Wimmer sculpture outdoors at the Carnegie Center for Art and History, Jan. 2014

My piece is my long, beaded necklace made from softball cores and is entitled “La Belle Riviere” which I originally displayed at the Falls of the Ohio in October of last year.  It was quite a production and required a bucket truck and a worker supplied by the city to hang the piece in the tulip poplar tree outside the center.  For now, I will close with this image and look forward to my next post as the Artist at Exit 0.  Stay warm everybody.

"La Belle Riviere" hanging from tree at the Carnegie Center for Art and History, Jan. 2014

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