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Archive for the ‘unusual collection’ Category

high water Falls of the Ohio landscape, just downriver from the railroad bridge, Dec. 2013

Today is officially the first day of winter.  At the Falls of the Ohio, the Ohio River is up due to the heavy rain producing thunderstorms that went through our region a couple of days a go.  The high water has me walking the edge of the river with anticipation for signs of anything new.  Today I find a story to share with you.  While the winter solstice has passed, it also that Christmas/Holiday Season time  again that seems to be getting longer and weirder with each passing year.  As proof, I offer this variation of the beloved Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, classic Christmas television special that so many of us have enjoyed since childhood.  This tale from a slightly different reality is set at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana and photographed on site using objects found within the park.  Our tale begins at the water’s edge.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Zombie, Dec. 2013

At this moment, Rudolph has no idea what has happened to him.  He has no recollection of his near escape from the Abominable Snowman.  He was lucky to find a piece of wood big enough to support his weight as he launched himself into the river.  It is widely known that the Abominable Snowman is deathly afraid of water.  While Rudolph was now safe from the snowman he had a river to negotiate and had no basic idea where he was going?  Sometime in the middle of the night it stormed very badly and Rudolf was tossed helplessly into the water.  Many weeks later and with the color washed out of his eyes…Rudolph was coming back to life.

Rudolph heading home, Dec. 2013

Little Rudolph stood up again and propelled by instinct and memory headed down the driftwood line in search of a way home.  Although he couldn’t explain it, there was some hard-wired, deep need to get back to where he originated like a salmon finding just the right stream.  Along the way, a little bit more of what had happened to him crept into his consciousness.  Images of cold white snow and a bearded man in a red suit began to drift across Rudolph’s mind with regularity.  Rudolph still had no idea where he was and every once in a while he would come across something he could identify as being a toy in similar circumstances and he and would investigate it.

muddy toy truck from the Falls of the Ohio

Rudolph with plastic figure, Dec. 2013

Most of the toys Rudolph encountered where too far gone to converse with and he left them behind.  Every once in a while, however, Rudolph would come across other toys like himself who had a very strong need to exist.  They used creative strategies to reinvent themselves.  The first of these hybrid toys that Rudolph encountered were named Pigskin Pete and his pal Handy.

Pigskin Pete and Handy playing catch, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2013

Rudolph talks with Pigskin Pete and Handy, Dec. 2013

They were throwing a football back and forth on the sand.  Rudolph approached them and the trio struck up a conversation.  That is how Rudolph found out that they were in the Park of Misfit Toys.  A fabled land purported to be a paradise for toys.  Pigskin Pete and Handy both had fuzzy memories of distant lives that made them wonder if they in fact belonged here now?  That’s when Rudolph made them the offer that if he could get out of this park…he would come back to get them.  The little deer with the zombie eyes continued walking east along the river’s edge.  After a journey of many hours, Rudolf met the Primate Twins for the first time.

Rudolph meets the Primate Twins, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2013

Rudolph with Primate Twins, Dec. 2013

The Primate Twins were a sight to behold!  The will to exist among shampoo bottles is strong and through millions of gallons of waters these twin caps found their nearest relatives to form this plastic simian union.  Rudolph told them of others that he has met along the journey and offered the twins the same offer he was offering everybody that if they could help him get out of the park that he would return to rescue them in return.  The twins seemed intrigued and what were the chances of this happening anyway in the first place?  Rudolph sallied forth to the limit of the park and met one last new friend.

RoboBoy and Rudolph, Dec. 2013

Rudolph and RoboBoy at the Falls, Dec. 2013

RoboBoy lived at the land’s margin and knew the river’s ways too.  He offered Rudolph a wooden plank to attempt the dangerous and potentially foolhardy journey back to the North Pole.  If the river didn’t get him there was still the specter of the Abominable Snowman lurking out in the frozen wastes.  Without hesitation and for the second time…Rudolph hurled himself into the cold river and took his chances.  This time…luck would be kinder.

Rudolph the Hex-bolt Nosed Reindeer on the snow, Dec. 2013

The trip across the waters was uneventful and gave Rudolph time to reflect.  By now, he understood that his visions of a bearded man were of Santa Claus himself and Rudolph knew were to find him.   Rudolph’s families were a part of the reindeer elite that pulled Santa’s sleigh.  Those jobs flying across the sky had long been inherited positions and Rudolph…if he wanted it…was next in the long line of Prancers and Dancers.

found plastic Santa Claus on snow, Dec. 2013

Santa didn’t seem surprised to see Rudolph with his red plastic nose again.  In fact, he said that he had been expecting him because the pull of Christmas is a mysterious force in the universe.  Santa agreed to talk to Rudolph and around a small pine tree they huddled together to talk about what constituted the holiday spirit and other philosophical matters.  While they spoke, a heavy snowfall fell upon the land.

Heavy snow covers Rudolph and Santa, Dec. 2013

By morning the snow had finished and Santa agreed to stop by the Park of Misfit toys and offer its inhabitants the chance of being gifted to different owners.  Santa also told Rudolph to be prepared that toys often change their minds and that he might not get quite the answers as he did before.

the meeting of Santa and the MisFit Toys, Dec. 2013

Snow had fallen at the Park of Misfit Toys since Rudolph’s previous visit.  A shadowy snowman figure agreed to escort Santa to the assembled Misfit Toys.

Santa talks to Rudolph about the Park of Misfit Toys, Dec. 2013

On the shores of the Park of Misfit toys Santa declared in full disclosure that he was glad to take anyone away from the park if that were their wish.  He had made Rudolph a promise to help him keep his promise if possible and Santa Claus was going to honor that.  But he also asked if anyone had considered how they had personally arrived at the Park of Misfit Toys?  The prevailing myth is that all you toys were miss manufactured and dropped off here to lead your lives in semi-useful exile ever wanting the love of the other.  The truth Santa declared…is that you were all discarded as trash…not even given the dignity of recycling…you somehow found your way into the river and then here.  You are mass produced and marketed consumer goods that have served your useful lives and more than likely there will be no new owners waiting to embrace you on the other side of this park.  He was speaking from personal experience which made his words all the more convincing.

The Misfit Toys talk over Santa's offer, Dec. 2013

Santa’s words had struck a chord with the Misfit Toys.  They hadn’t even considered that they might not be wanted by somebody across the river.    It was the Primate Twins who piped up that life wasn’t so bad here.  At least they had their own culture as a community of survivors and free thinkers.  Those that still had the desire to exist carried on until the sun finally broke the bonds of their plastic polymers and set them free.  In the end, all the Misfit Toys decided to stay at the park and lead out their existences here and leave their layer in the record of the land.

RoboBoy and Pigskin Pete in snow at the Park of Misfit Toys, Dec. 2013

Rudolph decided to return with Santa and the shadowy snowman to the North Pole.  In the years to come, Santa and Rudolph the Zombie, Red, Plastic, Hex-bolt Nosed Reindeer were involved many Christmas season adventures.  In fact, they went down in history.  Happy Holidays from the Falls of the Ohio!

rudolph, santa, and snowman in the snow, 2013_1_1

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Fake Food Collection, Nov. 2013

I have so much to be thankful for that I don’t need one particular day set aside to remind me of this.  Nevertheless, I happily will take the next two days off from my day job, hang out with my family, eat, and of course… fiddle with my art projects!  I have an exhibition coming up soon (late January 2014 at the Carnegie Museum of Art and History in New Albany, Indiana) and I have been going through my Falls of the Ohio river junk and thinking about what this show might feature of my work?  It’s going to be a two-person show and so there will be a great space to fill.

I recently went through my various river collections including my Fake Food Collection which is ongoing and I have added many new pieces over the past year.  The Ohio River has been bountiful in fact over a ten-year period, it has been a regular liquid cornucopia.  Although I haven’t counted each item, I’ll wager my Fake Food Collection has about a couple hundred pieces now… all of it collected one piece at a time, off of the riverbank.  It’s interesting to think of this stuff as being a part of the fake food tradition.  I’ve seen examples of fake Japanese sushi that look amazingly like the real thing…but not at the Falls.

After all these years, I’m still blown away…perplexed…morbidly fascinated and repulsed…insert other adjectives here…that so much of this stuff exits and that most of it is made from plastic.  I’m just one person living near a river in the interior of a big country and this is what I’ve found at this single location.  Do other American rivers flow with plastic produce and is it all floating towards the oceans?  It’s so curious that we use a natural resource like petroleum to produce artificial food even if it is intended to be playthings.  It personally strikes me as an affront to nature especially once it materially starts breaking down and merging with the substrates we depend on.  Perhaps some of you wordsmiths out there will put your finger on exactly why this stuff is so provoking?

Okay…enough of that, now where’s the beef?  Where’s the plastic meat the title of this post promised?  I was curious about that myself and so I went through my collection and this is what shook out.  Bon appetite!

Plastic poultry from the Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Since Thanksgiving here traditionally means roast fowl of some sort…I thought I would start with a couple of roasted birds and drumsticks.  Of course these items are miniature and I realize that a coin for scale would help.  Okay, I’ve found my ruler and if you must know…the biggest object in the above photo is 3.5 inches or 9 centimeters long.  The middle drumstick on the bottom row has a dark patina acquired from spending much time in the river.

plastic turkey or chicken, Nov. 2013

chewed up, plastic roast fowl, Nov. 2013

This last image of roast fowl looks like something (probably the family dog) tried to eat!  Notice the teeth marks on the carcass.  Now that we are done with the appetizer… let’s move on to the fake hamburgers and cheeseburgers.  I know the old salivary glands are probably kicking in now!

plastic hamburgers and cheeseburgers with one plastic crinkle cut french fry, Nov. 2013

plastic hamburgers and cheeseburgers, Nov. 2013

Here’s a couple of shots of the items in question.  In ten years time, the river has washed up and I have found seven cheeseburgers and hamburgers, three loose bun tops, and yes…two crinkle cut french fries (only one is shown) all are made of various plastic recipes.  Several of the burger toys I’m pretty sure were intended as dog toys.  Some of the them still have the little squeaker in the bottom bun.  The others probably came from children’s play sets.  As you can see…they are variously dressed with condiments and the buns go from plain to featuring sesame seeds in white, brown, and black colors.  I have some individual burger portraits too.  Here’s several examples of how you can have it your way.  The larger burgers are roughly life-size to slightly smaller than the real deals.

hamburger with black poppy seeds_1_1

Ahhh…a black poppy-seed bun heavy on the lettuce and tomatoes.

hamburger, plain bun, tomato and lettuce_1_1

Here’s a plain bun, segregate the tomato on one side and the lettuce on the other option.  The meat here is more of a textural suggestion.

plastic hamburger two tomatoes_1_1

This is a gaudy burger with hints of mustard and two layers of tomatoes!

plastic hamburger with seeds, lettuce and tomato_1_1

Not sure if that’s melted yellow cheese or more mustard squeezing over the edge?  Looks de-lish nevertheless!  If you are wondering what artificial food looks like in a natural environment…here are a two images of plastic meat as I found them in place.

Gross cheeseburger with white poppy seeds and river patina

This one has white poppy seeds on the bun, frilly lettuce, and a nice grimy river patina.  Let’s leave the burgers and head into new territory.  First an image of our next plastic meat subset.

conjoined plastic hot dogs from the Falls of the Ohio

I can remember the joyful moment of finding this rare double score.  Two conjoined, Siamese twin plastic hot dogs resting on a bed of Styrofoam and river sticks.  Of course, I had to take a picture!  Now, for a snapshot of my hot dog collection.

Hot dog collection from the Falls with Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile

As you can see…these tube steaks and buns vary in size.  The largest example at the very top has all of its paint gone, but you can see where a fake mustard squiggle would be.  Perhaps some of them are actually intended to be Vienna sausages, but who knows?  One particularly prized find is the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile whistle in the bottom right hand corner.  I’ve propped it up on a plastic french fry to get a better side view.  There are plastic meats that I know are out there (like fake steaks or even slices of plastic pizza with f aux pepperoni), but I have yet to find examples by the river.  I do have a code I go by…unless I find it at the Falls of the Ohio…I won’t compromise my collection with non-Falls items.  It’s a part of the quest and fun of what scrumptious simulacra will turn up next.  Is Rack of Lamb or Pot Roast on the menu…only time will tell?  For now, I will content myself with this Double Decker Dog…Happy Thanksgiving from the Falls of the Ohio.

World famous Double Decker Dog, Nov. 2013

Postscript:  Less than a month after publishing this post…I found plastic hamburger combination #8 in the late December driftwood.  Here’s a couple of images made in the field.

found plastic hamburger, #8, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2013

Plastic hamburger #8 as found, Dec. 2013

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Landscape at the Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

This post is the last of this year’s summer posts and documents a walk I made at the Falls of the Ohio State Park one week before autumn officially began.  As you can see by the pictures…it was a very beautiful day filled with all kinds of discoveries.  There was a profusion of yellow-flowering plants of various species including goldenrod and sunflowers.  Here is a detail, I think from the Woodland Sunflower?  I wish I was as confident about plants as I am in identifying animals.  When I break out my flower books, I realize it would aid identification greatly to have an example on hand.  Collecting plants is not allowed within the park limits…so I try to take photos that might be of use in discerning the various closely related species.  Besides, I don’t think pressing these plants flat would even work?  I ask myself, what leaf shape does it have?  Are the leaves serrated, smooth, or hairy and how many rays do the flower heads have and other such questions of concern to the botanist.

Sunflowers at the Falls, Sept. 2013

I suppose I’m more of an imaginative botanist at heart who also appreciates the beauty and variety the many flowers add to the temporal landscape.  I do, however, stumble upon plants that I wonder if anyone else is noticing?  I’ve posted about these anomalies before and as the seasons change, the parade of these “unnatural plants” and “faux flowers” continues.  Consider these fresh blooms.

The Surprising Poinsettia, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

I call this one the “Surprising Poinsettia” because it comes shockingly red and completely unexpected.  Its sepals are rather fabric-like and its stem is grafted upon this sunflower by some unknown means.  The next plant is more subtle.

Orangey-tickseed, Sept. 2013

This is “Orangey-tickseed” and at first blush, one might be tempted to pass over it.  I had to do a double-take on this one, however, my instincts told me something was not quite right here.  Indeed the orange-colored flowers are not at all like the yellow plant it is cohabiting with.  Again, the texture is very much like plastic.  One final plant before moving on to other interesting discoveries.

Pink Sand Lily, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

I found this beautiful flower growing near the river in the sand and I have designated it the “Pink Sand Lily” because I’m not sure what else to call it?  It is for the most part, a low growing plant and the “flower” appears at the terminal end of a wiry green stalk about four inches tall or so.  The flower petals are composed of a string-like fiber while the stamens are hard and have pseudo-pollen on them.  These unusual plants were not my only discoveries on this fine day.  I nearly always find some doll or doll part that the river has washed into here and today was no exception.  I spotted a form in the wood chips and bark bits and went in for a closer look.  Dusting off the form revealed this doll body.

"rubberized" foam doll body, Sept. 2013

This was quite unlike any other doll “body” I’ve found before at the river.  The material was obviously made from a foam-like material, but it had the flexibility of rubber.  Nearby, I also discovered  an unusual serpent.

red, plush toy snake, Sept. 2013

Approximately a foot long, this red plush snake had large black eyes and had just a bit of its tongue sticking out.  This is the first of one of these objects that I have come across .  The river was flowing nearby and I walked over to the edge of the riverbank.  The water level has finally leveled off to more of its seasonal pool and the fossil banks on the Kentucky side were exposed for the first time this year.  Looking along the water’s edge, I came across this Freshwater Drum that an angler caught and released.  Unfortunately, for the fish…it did not survive being captured.  Here is its final portrait.

Freshwater Drum, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens) is a widespread fish and common in the Ohio River.  It has several molar-like teeth in its mouth that it uses to crush and eat snails and small clams.  The drum is not considered a desirable food species around here.  Here’s another fish I found on this walk that is also inedible.

red plastic fish bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The second “fish” I came across was this plastic bottle.  I’m guessing that the bottle may have contained shampoo for children?  Regardless, I was struck by the level of abstraction occurring here.  The tail is minimally represented and the gills are indicated by two lines near the eyes, but there is enough here to suggest a fish.  My next find is mid way between the drum and the plastic bottle being closer to the latter than the former.  Here are two views of it.

The Silvergill, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

Silvergill, Sept. 2013, Falls of the Ohio

This is a Silvergill which is closely related to the Iron Gill (which I have posted about previously).  Differences between the two species include size (this fish is smaller) and some of the fins are not the same shape or in the same position.  The Silvergill is much more rarely encountered than its larger cousin.  It is found in water of average to poor quality and often associated with coal and coal dust. It is omnivorous and eats aquatic insect larvae and algae which it grazes off of rocks.  I’m assuming that it washed up here a victim (like the Freshwater Drum) of an angler looking to catch something more worthwhile.  I took a few photos and then moved on.  The fossil beds were beckoning and I could see the resident flock of Black Vultures congregating on the rocks.  No doubt they had discovered a fish or two on their own.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Fossil beds and Black Vultures at the Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

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Soap Bubble Wand Collection, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

Consolidating some of my river finds revealed this fun collection of soap-bubble wands all found within the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  This is many years worth of walking the riverbank and sampling choice bits of plastic and other displaced objects.  All the bubble wands I’ve found thus far are made of plastic.  Most of these wands were sold inside plastic bottles filled with prepared soap-bubble solution.

Detail, Soap Bubble Wand Collection, Sept. 2013

Simply dip the wand into the soap bottle. Remove the wand allowing a film to form over the loop.  Then gently blow air through the soap film and bubbles should result. With this found wand lot however, the bubbles probably wouldn’t be very big or long-lasting.  The soap-bubble wands you can fashion at home with common materials (along with creating your own bubble mix) can produce spectacular results.  These wands were more than likely lost by kids playing near the river.  I’m frequently amazed by the variety of design solutions intended for such a throw away item.  I mean who holds on to these wands to reuse once the bottle is empty?  I did find some novelty items in the mix.  Check these examples out.

Mini Wedding Novelty Soap Bubble wands , Sept. 2013

Here are two mini soap-bubble nuptial wands.  These are usually in tiny plastic bottles left on the guests’ tables.  Blowing bubbles on the newlyweds frequently substitutes for the traditional rice throwing send off.

soap bubble plastic pipes, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

I also found these two soap-bubble pipes.  Personally, I’ve never had much luck making bubbles with pipes.

Plastic Ice Cream Cone bubble wand and bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

Plastic Ice Cream Cone Soap Bubble wand and bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

This novelty didn’t look good in the frame, but it is one of the nicer soap bottle with wand items I’ve found.  This fake ice cream cone also has that black river patina suggesting it was out floating around for years before I came across it on these fable Falls shores.

Detail, Star Wand, Sept. 2013

I have a couple of wands that aren’t soap-bubble wands, but since they are wands nevertheless…I keep them in the collection.  The Star Wand is more than likely from a princess costume or magician’s outfit.  The other wand is perhaps more of a plastic scepter.  Originally, the handle lit up with a colored light.  Again, more disposable plastic items.  I’ll keep walking the riverbank a little while longer and I’ll bet I find a few more of these objects to add to the river collection.

found pink plastic bubble wand, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

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riverblog on computer monitor, The Seven Borders, KMAC, Aug. 2013 As promised, here is a post about the “The 7 Borders, Mapping Kentucky’s Regional Identity” exhibition at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville.  My “Artist at Exit 0 Riverblog” has been a part of this show which opened on June 29 and runs through September 1.  I’m honored to have been asked by KMAC and curator Joey Yates to participate especially since this is the first time my blogging activities have appeared in an art context.  My display in the museum included a few small Styrofoam artifacts, a computer monitor on a table with chairs, a box for handwritten comments, and a label on the wall.  Not quite your typical art offering.  If, however, you think of the computer as a keyhole that you can peer through to a different reality…then you get transported to the world of the Artist at Exit 0 at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  At your fingertips are over 360 posts and more than 3500 images and my own peculiar blend of fact and fiction.  Many of you who follow this blog have been nice enough to leave recent comments and I wonder if you realized that you were participating in this exhibition too?  At the end of this post, I will add the comments that visitors left for me in the little box so that they can be a part of this exhibition record as well.  For now, I would like to share some other images of the works that are (were) a part of this exhibition. The 7 Borders, installation view, Aug. 2013 Eighteen artists are participating in this exhibition.  A few of the artists either currently live in Kentucky or are originally from here.  The majority of the artists, however, live in the seven contiguous states that border the commonwealth, hence “The 7 Borders”.  In the above image, works by Rashid Johnson are on the wall, while Brian McCutcheon’s whimsically modified cooking grill entitled “Trailer Queen II” rests on the floor. The 7 Borders, gallery view, Aug. 2013 The exhibition is a survey of contemporary works produced in a geographical area that is often hard to define.  At various times, Kentucky has been considered by Americans to be the frontier west, the Midwest, or the most northern of the southern states.  The fact this region has been historically hard to place is attractive to me.  For a professional artist, one downside is that the nearest art market of any size is in Chicago.  Many of the artworks in “The 7 Borders” reference issues born of local conditions and landscapes and gain a certain power by not being made for strictly commercial reasons.  The exhibit’s curator wrote: “Each of the artists represented is witness to varying views of the region focusing on personal history and collective experience.”  In the gallery shot above are paintings by Claire Sherman, a photo series by Guy Mendes, and a unique chest of drawers that looks like a stacked firewood entitled “Facecord” by Mark Moskovitz. "The River" by Andrew Douglas Underwood, The 7 Borders, KMAC, Aug. 2013 This mixed media work is entitled “The River” and the artist is Andrew Douglas Underwood who originally is from Louisville.  Personally, I relate to Underwood’s piece because it weaves together metaphors and history relating to people’s long association with the Ohio River.  This work effectively combines photography, embroidery, and found objects. "Pre-Fab(ulous) Environments", Leticia Bajuyo, at KMAC Leticia Bajuyo’s “Pre-Fab(ulous) Environments” is an installation piece located on the museum’s second floor.  Her multimedia piece with its blue Styrofoam installation house and suburban floor map complete with Happy Meal-styled folding cardboard houses reference contemporary suburban neighborhoods. "Roan Mountain Matrix", Denise Burge, The 7 Borders, KMAC This is an image of “Roan Mountain Matrix” by Denise Burge who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Her large fabric and thread works quote traditional Appalachian quilting while alluding to changes occurring to the land and its people through contemporary processes like mountain top coal removal. "Bog Taan", Joel McDonald, at KMAC, Aug. 2013 Joel McDonald’s “Bog Taan” is a tour-de-force mixed media drawing on 26 sheets of watercolor paper.  This is a large, obsessively detailed work that touches upon the artist’s social views as told through the context of his Germantown neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky.  McDonald has a deep understanding and appreciation for 20th Century illustration.  You could look at this artwork for a long time and keep finding images within it.

To conclude this post, I would like to include the comments left by gallery visitors upon engaging my blog in the gallery.  Some of the comments are by children who participated in summer camp programs organized by the museum.

BLOG COMMENTS

“Love this – so fun!

I once saw a duck taking a nap on a submerged & upside down shopping cart on the L-ville side of the OR (Ohio River)”

“The Joe Arbor set was sweet. Poignant. – you should do stop action animation.”

“Love the triker! and the deer-Styrobuck! and the spider-and Pip and the fish-”

“It’s beautiful, I love it! – famous artist”

“Looks like garbage to me!”

“Be cooler if it was metal”

“Some really remarkable & moving works!  Really enjoyed 7 borders.”                       Lou Knowles…Forest Hills, New York

“I like it!  Keep up the good work!”

“So Playful!  What a blast.  Thank you.”

“I like it!”

“Very interesting, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Love the blue nose man”

“dirty + whimsical like crawling through a broken greenhouse in the backyard + making toys as a child”  Lilly Ettinger

“Love it!” “???” “Fabulous: fun, imaginative & thought provoking…Thank you”                                     Mary from Wisconsin

“Quirky & original.  Brought a smile to my face”  K. Woodard (art teacher UK)

“I like the very last peice.  I think personally it looks like here is a passage in between the trunk and the roots”

” I agree we did not make enough “to do” about the beginning of manned flight.  I wouldn’t be here enjoying our work without a flight by plane.  Also like your reminder to “follow your dreams”  Kay Gorman (Maryland)

“Love them!  Priddy Cool!”

“This is very suspicious and cool to see what people throw in the river”

“Ummmm!”

“Love the birds…they are alive.”  Adrian (New Zealand)

“It looks like two snowman”

“I think this was awsome”

“Love the recycling, cute and clever.  Loved to take the time to see the whole-plus the blog.- Just a passer-by, Aug. ’13”

“Fab Al – Love where you went with this – Always happy too see your dementia”  Paul and Sandy Sasso………..these folks are old college friends of mine

“They look like Big, Dirty, Marshmallows”

“You are awesome”

THIS WAS THE LAST OF THE COMMENTS LEFT AT THE EXHIBITION.  NEXT TIME…SEE YOU FROM THE RIVER!

 

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Chemical Rose, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

Following is a unique portfolio of never before published images of the latest Unnatural Flowers that have bloomed at the Falls of the Ohio.  This follows a previous article on this riverblog (see…”Unusual Flora at the Falls of the Ohio”, Jan. 13, 2013) that first exposed the bizarre flora that have adapted to this highly disturbed site on the Ohio River.  It is speculated that these new organisms are able to metabolize  decaying plastic in novel and sometimes disturbing ways.  Characteristic of these faux flowers is a lack of photosynthetic leaves.  It is believed that the energy utilized by these plants is created from breaking plastic polymer bonds and forming new compounds or by elaborate parasitism.  Examples of both will be highlighted.  Key also are the various petrochemical connections which rhyme historically to a more ancient world illustrated beautifully by the site’s Devonian Era fossils and our culture’s reliance upon oil and coal to power and pollute everything.  It is my belief that these unique forms appearing here are no coincidence.  Let us first acquaint ourselves with various members of the “Chemical Rose” family.  An example of which leads off this post.  Here are more recently found roses.

Chemical Rose variety with rootlets, 2013

This variety appears to have rootlets growing between the plastic-hard rose petals.  As with all “Chemical Roses”…there is no sweet perfume to inhale.

Chemical Rose on thorny stem, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

This “Chemical Rose” example is growing out of the mud on a leafless, thorny stem.  No telling what chemical compositions are co-mingling in this ooze?

Red Chemical Rose of the sand variety, 2013

This ” Red Chemical Rose” has adapted to growing on sand.  While the next example has synthetic, fabric-like petals.  It does add a beautiful yet bittersweet presence to the landscape.

Petrochemical Petunia, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

This “Petrochemical Petunia” is a late Spring oddity and prefers moist, iridescent sand and full sunlight.  It presents as a completely synthetic, hybrid blossom.  It is not clear at this time if some pollinating agent is necessary for its propagation.

Little White Polymer Phlox, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

Imagine my surprise upon discovering this “Little White Polymer Phlox” growing from the ruined wood on this stump.  This specimen was found very close to the water and in an area that  floods frequently.  The phlox needs just the right temperature and water content to break down this former tree’s cellulose matrix to make the nutrients it needs to grow.

Chemical Chrysanthemum, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

Also growing in poor wet soil is this florid “Chemical Chrysanthemum”.  Among its requirements are a warm, CO2 rich atmosphere and coal which washes up within the Falls of the Ohio State Park from the frequent barge traffic that moves up and down the Ohio River.

The Driftwood Tulip, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

Growing between the beached and bleaching logs is this aptly named “Driftwood Tulip”.  It can appear at any time and shows itself briefly upon its woody stem before sinking back into the riverbank from whence it came.

Epiphytic Mimic, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

For a lack of a better description…this plant had temporarily been named the “Epiphytic Mimic” because it presents like some of our true orchids.  This specimen may have flowered recently.   Its green leaves do not perform photosynthesis.  It hangs out and receives moisture and nutrients through a complex system of fine polymer rootlets.  And now…for something a little different.  The following unnatural flowers appear to be parasitic, but patient study may find them to be more complex and perhaps even symbiotic by nature?

Yellow Fabric Pansy on Primrose, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

The “Yellow Fabric Pansy” in this photo appears to be hitching a free ride on a primrose flower.  The same relationship can be found on this “Pink Blossoming Indigo Bush”.

Bling's Indigo Bush in flower, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

The pink flower with the rhinestone-like center is unlike the rest of this flowering and indigenous shrub.  Next we come to the “Augmented Moth Mullein”.

Augmented Moth Mullein, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

The prevailing thinking about how some these strange flowers acquire their petrochemicals is through ultraviolet decomposition of man-made plastics. On the microscopic if not molecular level…these tiny compounds recombine with the existing plants’ DNA.  Here’s another fine example.

Yellow-flowering Pokeweed, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

Like the previous plant, the “Yellow-flowering Pokeweed” is a recombined hybrid and favors appearing in the early summer.  Traditional pokeweed plants produce weak looking white flowers that will transform into dark, pigment intense berries in the Fall.  It is not certain how this plant will respond, but I have my eyes on it.  In closing, I would like to present one more image that illustrates the tremendous crossover potential of plastic polymers and living tissue.  Thus far, this is the only example of a “Mushroom Flower” that I have come across and the only unnatural fungus that I have discovered at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  No doubt other species are out there just waiting for a trained botanist to reveal to all.  As the environment warms and the normal weather patterns change, the natural rhythm of life will be altered, however, life may prove to be the most plastic and resilient of all.

The Mushroom Flower, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

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foot wear for the right foot, May 2013

Every now and then it’s good to purge stuff that has been building up over time.  With my river project, I do this by emptying out my collecting bag(s) to make way for new finds and by deleting images stored on my camera’s memory card.  I have gotten into the habit of using the memory card as another form of digital storage just in case something bad happens to all the other places I store data.  In this post, I will feature favorite images of plastic flotsam and jetsam I have gathered at the river’s edge the past two months.  I will start with the image with the flip-flops and Croc-like shoes.  These are tiny to small kids’ sizes.  A few weeks a go, I picked up eight of them along a favorite walk and realized once I reached my outdoor studio that they were all meant for the right foot!  I have since added a few extras, but the initial shock of realizing there were no left shoes remains.  I wonder if subconsciously I selected for right-footedness?  Anyway, here is a still life photo portfolio of other plastic river junk toys.

unknown plastic character head, May 2013

"Scully" head from "Monsters Inc", May 2013

"Ken?" doll head and walnut, May 2013

plastic character head with fabric hair, May 2013

hollow plastic rabbit head novelty, May 2013

plastic squirrel bottle?, April 2013

green plastic alligator bottle, May 2013

old plastic dressed kitten toy, April 2013

plastic animal lidded box,  April 2013

two dog toys, May 2013

plastic dart gun, May 2013

ray gun-style water pistol, May 2013

broken plastic claw hammer, May 2013

hollow plastic toy telephone handset, May 2013

One last item and while it is not made of plastic…is nevertheless memorable.

tiny aerosol can of fart spray, April 2013

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Duct tape ball in situ at the Falls of the Ohio

At first it looked like any other ball among the wood chips and I almost passed it by.  After all, balls are the most common toy that I find at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  But something told me to look more closely at this one and that’s when I noticed the network of filaments that were eroding away on the surface of this silvery sphere.  Picking it up, I then realized I was holding something different and to my mind and eye a bit more fascinating too.  Yes, it is a ball, but one made from duct tape!

handmade ball collection

Over the years I have found several other handmade balls made from different materials and they always elicit wonder in me as artifacts.  There is something in the human need to create form from formlessness that is at the root of creativity and can be seen in this eccentric collection.  I think this can happen reflexively too without deep thought being involved. The largest of these balls would fit comfortably in the palm of your hand and is slightly smaller than an American baseball.  Since most of them are made from various tapes…I’m guessing they are the waste products of work.  What began as something relatively flat gets transformed by the mind and hand into a fully satisfying three-dimensional object that you can grasp, throw, or roll.  For me, there is something appealing art-like in these objects which began life as one thing and by shifting its original purpose and function becomes something entirely different.

two found duct tape balls

Here are two duct tape balls I have found by the river.  The one on the left is pictured on the wood chips and its partner has vestiges of dried paint or primer on its surface.  The spheres are created by layering one flat piece of tape over another until a ball is formed.  It is not necessary to create a ball to dispose of this waste tape, but this is what their makers did…and then it wound up in the river which is yet again another story to ponder.

two balls made from electrical tape

These two balls are made from stretchy electrical tape and are tight and dense.  I remember that the very first handmade ball I found was also made from this smooth black tape.  When my eldest son was a small boy and needed a project to do involving recycled materials… I helped him construct this circus pull toy from materials found at the river.

recycled materials circus toy with handmade tape ball

At the heart of this toy is a handmade ball made from electrical tape.  My son thought this would make a great prop for a circus lion to stand on while it jumped through a flaming hoop!  Of course, the only fire we actually used came from our imaginations.  The yellow plastic lion was also found at the river and has a nice oily patina on it that comes from being in the river for a while.  Here’s a smaller ball made from green tape.

ball made from green plastic tape  I’m sure people are making balls from paper-based tapes too, but these don’t survive being exposed to the elements for very long.

peeling cellophane tape ball

This ball made with cellophane tape is barely holding together.  It’s surface is fragile and the adhesive is losing its bond.  As it starts to peel apart, sand caught between the layers is released.

compressed aluminum foil balls

 

The four balls pictured here are made from compressed aluminum foil.  Perhaps they were used for cooking and once their original purpose was over, the owners rolled the foil around the palms of their hands like one would do to form a ball from either clay or snow.  The funny thing about aluminum foil and the river is that the water somehow squeezes it even more and the ball becomes denser and more solid.  Anyway, I hope you enjoyed looking at this rare and somewhat tongue in cheek odd ball collection where the sum is definitely greater than the parts!  Spring will be arriving soon and the Ohio River is calling…until next time.

electrical tape balls

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Spray bottle trigger assembly, March 2013

The range of plastic refuse one encounters at the Falls of the Ohio State Park is both numbing (it’s obviously trash and shouldn’t be here) and morbidly fascinating (the design sensibility and colors ) catches one’s eye and occupies the mind.  Consider the variations in something as mundane as “spray bottle triggers” if indeed this is what you call these things?  I’m not sure when I started noticing these objects and photographing them…but here they are.  Each adventure to the river is sure to garner multiple images and story lines that I sift through at my leisure.  Consider this a personal cleansing of the spray bottle trigger palette.  Ironically, much thought went into designing each of these beauties to facilitate dispersal of their contents from plastic bottles.  I like the rotating tips that give me options such as “spray” or “stream” and so forth.  These triggers are ingenious and they do their jobs well.  Without further adieu and fanfare…here are more images from an admittedly odd collection.

red and black spray bottle trigger, March 2013

orange and white trigger, March 2013

dirty yellow and white trigger, March 2013

yellow and white trigger, March 2013

another yellow and white trigger, March 2013

white and green trigger, March 2013

yellow/green spray bottle trigger, March 2013

dark green trigger, March 2013

green and white trigger, March 2013

green and clear plastic trigger, March 2013

blue and white trigger, March 2013

another blue and white trigger, March 2013

white and purple trigger, March 2013

 

One final image in closing.  You know you have “arrived” when a cute miniature is produced.  Here’s a recent find from a sandy bank of the Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

miniature green plastic spray bottle, March 2013

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Figure with Bear Hat, Feb. 2013

As promised here is the second part of the previous post.  I did fill an empty cloth bag with river finds and here are some of today’s choice tidbits.  Once I straightened up my outdoor studio, I dumped the bag out onto the sand and started the sorting process.  I guess I also do a similar thing with my camera except it’s a memory card that gets filled and downloaded into the home computer.  Let’s begin with a few pictures of my newly discovered river treasures in situ.

blue plastic watch, Feb. 2013

I like all kinds of references to time.  I have a few other toy clocks and watches I’ve found courtesy of the river through the years.  Interestingly, I haven’t owned a watch personally in over thirty years and don’t want one now.  It seems I can find the time most anywhere I go and at the Falls of the Ohio…I pass by one of the largest clocks in the world.  Let’s see if I have a picture of that I can pull up for you.

former Colgate Clock, 2012

Although this is a bit off topic, I thought you might enjoy seeing this mechanical wonder.  This is less than a mile away from my river spot.  It was once a part of a toothpaste factory that moved away a couple of years a go.  The building is a former prison…which is another way to mark time.  My reluctance to wear a watch has more to do with not liking to wear much in the way of jewelry.  Besides who needs the constant reminder?  Meanwhile, back at the river.

white plastic astronaut, Feb. 2013

Houston…we have a problem.  I’m a plastic astronaut and it looks like the family dog has chewed one foot off!  Having some issues with my helmet too…don’t think I can last long in this alien environment.  This is an American astronaut so designated by the flag patch on his left arm.

very small plastic doll head and walnut, Feb. 2013

I believe this is the smallest doll’s head I’ve ever found.  Here having a potential brain the size of a walnut could be a good thing!  I think I have found enough doll heads over the years to make a totem pole several feet tall and they would graduate from largest to smallest with no two alike.  This guy could be the cherry on top of it all.

 

Toy wheels found today. Feb. 9, 2013

As regular readers know…I have a thing for wheels too.  These are just the toy wheels I came across today.  I’m surprised by how many of these I have found in just the past two years.  I like them as a collection, but I may use them all in a single artwork.  I watched a depressing documentary today that included such nuggets of information like the average automotive tire takes seven gallons of oil to make.  And you may be thinking that all this petroleum is needed for gasoline?    I see too many real tires in the river as well.

3 plastic toy hammers found on 2/9/13

Now how odd is this?  I found three toy hammers within a few hours of each other.  This is the most common toy tool that I find…not screwdrivers or pliers, etc…  At the river, it’s always hammer time, well the one on the far right is technically more of a mallet.  I’m not sure what the blue wheel on the far left hammer is supposed to do?

more found plastic toys, Feb. 2013

This is an interesting grouping of character toys.  It includes three dogs, two bones, a Weeble, and a Teletubby(?).  There’s a dog friend from Clifford the Big Red Dog and quick draw Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoon.  The dog sitting on the block has a nice oily river patina that takes years to develop.  The yellow character on the right is still full of mud.

four fishing lures, Feb. 2013

Not everything I find is a toy.  Here are four fishing lures.  These get tangled up in the rocks or snagged on old fishing line.  Notice only the top left lure still has its treble hooks.  In the others, the hooks rusted or dissolved away.  I found a fifth lure after taking this photo.  I need to rephotograph my fishing lure collection because it has become seriously larger over the past couple of years.  You can see an older image in my Pages section.

colorful, disposable cigarette lighters, Feb. 2013

I picked up all these disposable cigarette lighters today.  I have more at my studio at the church and intend to put them to use one day as well.  This was more of a photo opportunity.  I wanted to see some of the color range this particular make of lighter comes in.  No doubt the color is not light fast and over time would all probably come to resemble each other until the plastic broke down into ever smaller bits.  I also picked up other items such as interesting rootlets and sticks and heavier still…nice potential bases for the sculptures I decide to hang onto.  Well, this wraps up my finds from one particular adventure.  There is always stuff to pick up after the river rises and recedes again.  I wonder what I’ll come across next?

My outdoor studio, Feb. 2013

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