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Posts Tagged ‘absurdity’

Ruined toy shopping cart, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Here’s a tale from my last visit to the river which happened to be a wondrous and warm Thanksgiving morning at the Falls of the Ohio.  Before the family gatherings and the feasts that  followed, I jumped out of bed to put in a few hours of personal time.  As I recall, on this day last year it was 17 degrees and we had already experienced a snow fall.  Despite Turkey Day’s  balmy 70 degrees, I didn’t see many other folks out here with the exception of a few early rising fisherman who were casting for Sauger near the dam.  Nobody seemed to be having much luck catching fish. I decided that I needed to start off my holiday season by doing a little holiday shopping Falls style.  Meaning, no money is required…just come out here and sooner or later you will find something interesting that drifted in with the driftwood.  After all, everything out here has a story connected to it.  It’s finder’s keepers on the riverbank and you can cross off your gift list those particularly “hard to shop for” loved ones in practically no time at all!  First, you need a shopping cart and after searching around I found this…see above picture.  Despite its small size…I decided to pass on this find because the missing wheels would just get in the way.  I decided that one of my many collecting bags would have to suffice.  So, what kinds of things stood out on this day?

Osage orange, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

I came across many fruits from the Osage-orange tree (Maclura pomifera).  I love their glowing color and weird surfaces that remind me of brains.  A squirrel  was eating one when I approached.  I have heard of people who put these fruits in their closets and trunks to keep insect pests away from their out of season clothes.  People do collect and sell these soft ball size fruits for this purpose.  Osage-orange trees have quite a few other nicknames including:  hedge apple, monkey ball, horse apple, mock orange, and yellow-wood.  Potentially this orb could be a stocking stuffer for an organically inclined friend or two?  Our next item was found waiting for me on the wet and slimy fossil beds.  The rocks were so slick, I had trouble remaining upright as I approached the mystery object.

Soggy fabric "Hulk" hand, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Here’s something else sporting an unusual shade of green.  As gentle river waves lapped the exposed limestone fossil beds…something that looked like a large fist presented itself lying next to driftwood logs.  As I suspected when I first spotted this item…it was a toy “Hulk” hand.  Essentially, this is an over-sized, comic book character, soft boxing glove that a child could insert their own hand within when their inner Bruce Bannon gets overwhelmed by their raging Hulk persona!  Smashing could then ensue.  I considered dropping this into the collecting bag, but it was so heavily saturated with river water.  Still, definitely a pop culture item that would be appreciated once the darned thing dried out.  I’ll come back to this later, unless someone who wants it more takes it home first!

Two large chunks of found Styrofoam, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

After I did my rounds around the Willow Habitat, I headed for my outdoor studio under the trees.  I had stashed two large chunks of found Styrofoam at my site that had floated into the park earlier in the spring with this year’s flooding.  I had to wait months for the largest piece to thoroughly dry out before I could even attempt to lift it.  These larger chunks may originally have been parts of boat docks which do absorb water while retaining buoyancy.  As I was imagining what I could make with this material, a stranger approached me.  I was so rapt upon my polystyrene pair that I had let my usual guard down.

Giant Styro-Snow Shovel Man, Nov. 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Face of Giant Styro Snow Shovel Man, Nov. 2015, Falls of the Ohio

“Excuse me…I don’t mean to disturb or startle you, but do you mind if I ask you a question?”  I’m sure I must have had that slack-jawed look of amazement on my face!  The absurd looking persona in front of me was much taller than myself.  I estimated he was at least 6 feet 5 inches or even slightly taller than that.  Dressed all in white, he had a large nose and two eyes that were different colors on an otherwise huge head.  Over one of his shoulders he was carrying a snow shovel that was missing half its snow blade.  I did my best to gather my wits and replied in a slightly cracked voice…”Sure, what’s your question?”  It’s not that unusual for people (especially children) who see me out here to wonder about what I’m doing?

Large absurd figure at the Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Giant absurd figure, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

“Can you hear that?” asked the giant.  I’m sure I looked puzzled and so he repeated the question.  I then stood still and listened and replied that all I heard were the local birds moving through the trees.  I had noticed earlier that the chickadees, kinglets, and woodpeckers and other seasonable birds had been especially active on this beautiful day.  My large “friend”, however, said that it wasn’t the birds he was hearing but rather something more abstract than that.  My response was to ask him what he was hearing that seemed beyond the threshold of my own hearing (which is no mean feat these days)?  The big guy gave a one word response to me and it was…”Winter”.

detail of the head from the Giant Styro Snow Shovel Man, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

The big guy had this wistful look upon his strange visage and he said, “Winter is coming my friend and that is what I hear.”  He then continued, “This year is nearly history now and all it’s good, bad, and indifferent moments will be covered up by a cold, white blanket of forgetfulness.”  I’m sure he was right about that, but it did seem odd considering it was 70 degrees outside today!

Large, absurd figure with half a snow shovel, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

I asked my new acquaintance if he thought this was going to be a particularly tough winter since he seemed to be presenting himself as something of an authority on the subject?

He replied, “That’s difficult to say considering all the weather patterns and all the factors that generate the weather are in a state of flux.”  He continued, “It’s been many, many years since I’ve seen the planet be this confused.  I have been wandering the land gathering clues and I’m afraid, that I can’t give you an accurate forecast.  The only thing I’m sure of is that at some point winter will arrive and I will be out here to meet it.”

My own thoughts turned to an episode of Falls of the Ohio history.  This whole river valley was originally sculpted by one of the last glaciers at the close of the last Ice Age.  You can even find deposits of gravel here that date from that period thousands of years a go.

Styro Snow Shovel Man facing the railroad bridge, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Styro Snow Shovel Man waiting for winter to arrive, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

I had to ask this Styro-Snow Shovel Man if he believed the changes in the weather had something to do with our species’ activities?  “Well”, he said…”there are a lot of you on the planet now and as a group, you don’t seem very concerned about what’s happening in the big scheme of things.”  I reluctantly had to agree with him.  I have my own anecdotal information gleaned from this park to back up my own thoughts on the subject.  At the time of this writing, many of the world’s leaders are meeting in Paris to try to decide if any changes could be made that might help reduce the impact of our overall activities.  I remain open and hope a positive consensus can be reached.  Like the approach of winter…we shall see.  With Thanksgiving waiting for me…I said my good byes and left my new friend standing in the park.  Perhaps I will see him again…after the first snowflake falls?

Last photo of the standing Styro Snow Shovel Man, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

 

 

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In the Willow Habitat, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

The Falls of the Ohio State Park has experienced its first light frost.  With the colder temperatures arriving, a maturing autumn anticipates the winter to come.  Although there are still some leaves left on the black willows and cottonwood trees…they won’t last much longer.  Already the curled up, shed leaves of the willows are gathering and forming brown islands around the parent trees and defining the spaces the willows occupy in this sandy area near the river.  As I walk through this habitat, cocklebur and various other seeds attach themselves to my jeans and shoe laces.  Picking and rubbing off the various prickly and sticky hitchhikers, it’s amuses me to think of myself as an agent of seed dispersal!

Found bird nest, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

A circular grass ball lying on the ground catches my eye.  Picking up the object I discover an intact bird nest.  Did it dislodge from some fork of a tree branch or is this from a ground nesting species?  I marvel at its construction and note its exterior is made from dried, interwoven grasses which contrasts with the well-defined interior composed of tiny twigs and rootlets that give structural strength to the bowl.  I wonder which species created it and were they successful in raising offspring?  The nest is now spent like the willow leaves and I place it on the ground to be reclaimed by nature.

mushrooms growing on driftwood, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

Along my walk, I find various mushrooms and fungi growing on the decomposing driftwood.  I admire the variety of forms present.  Although the notion of decay hardly sounds optimistic…in this instance it is.  The fungi are great recyclers and return needed nutrients back into the environment.  These mushrooms are not lesser than, but rather co-equal to the many other interesting life forms that make this place their home.  I come across other signs of life along my hike.

Comma butterfly with wings folded, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

There are still a few butterflies around like this Comma.  Although nectar from flowers is absent, there are still what I call “butterfly licks” on a few of the willow trees.  These licks are sweet spots along the trunk or branches where the tree exudes a sticky sap that attracts insects.  With its wings folded upright, this Comma looks much like a dried leaf itself.  There is a good chance this butterfly will hibernate and overwinter here before “passing the torch” to the next generation of Comma butterflies in the spring.

beaver chewed willow wood, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

Along the riverbank, I find lots of evidence that beaver have been in the area.  They have been feeding off the willow trees growing nearest to the water.  Beaver are very wary and are probably active at night or very early in the morning.  In all my years walking throughout the park, I have only seen them on a couple of occasions.  The photo above shows a willow branch that has been gnawed away from the tree and its bark has been nibbled off for food.  Their teeth leave “tool marks” on the creamy, ivory-colored wood.  By the end of today’s hike, I have collected a nice bundle of beaver chewed sticks to use in my art.  And speaking of art…I walked by a couple of projects I worked on in my previous post.  The rock ring in the water is still holding up, however, the “Silver Star” made from overlaying driftwood lengths in the sand is a shadow of its former self.  Here are a few before and after images.

Detail of silver driftwood star, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

remains of the "Silver Star" driftwood piece, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

It’s a big difference and doesn’t appear to be the result of natural wear and tear…unless we accept that there is a naturally destructive side to man’s nature?  Of course, this is just a pile of sticks arranged in the sand, but on a much larger, planetary level can we say that the wholesale changes we are making to the environment are natural and inevitable?  I’m in the “no” camp because another aspect of our complex natures is the ability to discern right from wrong.  Still I wonder when our instincts for self-preservation will start kicking in?  I was beginning to mull this over more when I heard what sounded like someone playing strange music from an unfamiliar instrument.  I was pretty sure my ears weren’t hearing things and so I walked around until I found its source.  You can imagine my deep surprise when I came upon this interesting character in the willow habitat.

The Giggle Master, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

He introduced himself as the “Giggle Master” and he said he heard me talking to myself about serious things and grew concerned.  His method of revealing himself was to play a tune of his own composition from this combination oboe/recorder that grew from the middle of his face!  By breathing in and out and working the finger holes on his instrument he could produce a variety of sounds some of which were quite unique and appealing.  When I had adjusted to the idea that a strange being about a foot or 20 or so centimeters tall was talking to me…I relaxed my guard and decided to see what would happen next?  The Giggle Master told me to follow him and that he had something to show me that he believed would lighten my mood up considerably.

The Giggle Master and his collection, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

I followed my new friend to his shelter under a willow tree and he introduced me to his “collection”.  Like me, the Giggle Master is a finder and collector of odd river-deposited items.  He said it gave him great joy to assemble various odd collections where the sum of the collection is greater and more interesting than the parts.  I understood this perfectly because I have many unusual collections of my own river junk.  Some of which have been presented in this blog like my Squirt Gun Collection or Collection of Fake Foods.  You can see other collections I’ve formed and appear in my Pages section..  I have to say that the collection my friend was presenting to me was indeed unusual.  I asked what he called it and would it be possible to photograph it and present it to the wider world?  He said that he had no objections and so without further ado…here is what my friend called “The Giggle Bowl”.

The Giggle Bowl, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

We moved to the fossil beds for our impromptu photo shoot.  The Giggle Master told me that he had been collecting these “smiley faces” for a few years and now had enough to fill a found plastic bowl.  He went on to say that although he recognized that this was mostly waste plastic with all the accompanying bad baggage…it was also important to be able to step back and just appreciate the absurdity of it all.  The Giggle Master told me that taking oneself too seriously has potential consequences of its own.  He also told me that maintaining a healthy sense of humor would balance out the dark moods and I began to see the wisdom in this.  The Giggle Master said that he was appearing to me now because through some sixth sense all his own he could tell my own thoughts and feelings were beginning to sink below the horizon line.  He believed every person’s well-being would benefit from having a good laugh.  I have to admit it worked on me!  Okay, let’s spill the bowl and take a closer look at this goofy collection.

Two Smiley Face balls, purpose unknown, found at the Falls of the Ohio State Park

Okay, I confess that I have no idea what or how these smiley faces were used?  In their mouths, they have what look to be squeakers, however, these balls are too hard to squeeze.  The one with the red cap has a small stone lodged in its mouth and was made in China.

Three smiley face antenna balls, found at the Falls of the Ohio State Park

I frequently am grateful when something I come across says what it is.  In this case, these are three lightweight foam “antenna balls”.  Yes, for a while, there was a fad where people decorated the ends of their cars’ radio antennas with these novelties.  I like the one sporting a jester’s cap.

Three hard plastic face balls found at the Falls of the Ohio.

I’m calling these simply “face balls” because they are obviously not the more traditional “smiley faces”.  They floated into the park via the Ohio River from parts unknown.

Two smiling face fishing floats from the Falls of the Ohio

The Giggle Master was slightly alarmed because he realized he is missing the third smiling face from this series of objects.  I recognized that these are fishing floats and the missing float is larger still.  It will turn up somewhere.

A trio of plastic smiley faces found at the Falls of the Ohio

Here’s a trio of smiling faces.  The yellow one in the center is a simple ball, but the top and bottom pieces belong to something else I don’t recognize…do you?  The top piece looks to be a tiny container and maybe once held candy or soap-bubble solution, but there is no other information about it including its country of origin.

The Giggle Master with his Giggle Bowl collection, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

After the photo session was over, we returned to the willow tree where I first met the Giggle Master.  He stored his collection in a hollow formed in the tree’s trunk.  Before departing from my new friend, I thanked him for the much-needed laugh and wished him happy hunting as he expanded his silly collection.  No doubt the river will continue to supply new items.  He replied with a few notes from his…”nose instrument’.  As I turned for home, I looked back one last time and could discern a slight smile on his tiny face.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

fallen black willow leaves, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2014

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Map detail of the Falls of the Ohio State Park

Most of the work that I have created at the Falls of the Ohio State Park was made between the two “P’s” on the above map detail.  I lifted this image from a recent brochure about the Ohio River Greenway.  I’m just noticing that the word “park” has an “e” at the end…what’s with that?  Is this a variation of Ye Old Park(e) or a simple misspelling?  Anyway, the green line that separates the dark blue river from the blonde fossil beds is the area I walk.  Most of my river finds and the pieces I make from them occur in this area.  The thicker black line is the old iron railroad bridge that I have  featured so often throughout this blog.  It’s been a while since I posted anything new here.  In fact, since I started the old riverblog, this is the longest I have gone without posting something.  I have had a series of misfortunes that have dented my mojo with the biggest being losing my day job.  I’m not one that easily compartmentalizes my life and occasionally things spill over and affect other areas.  Among the other changes included having to purchase a new computer.  It’s taken a while to get used to doing things in a different way.  I’m still in the process of transferring images and data from the old machine to the new one.  I have too many images that need parking in a “cloud” somewhere.  I debate with myself whether or not I absolutely need all of these pictures?  I do harbor the ambition to produce a book or two about my stories and collections, but I’m sure I have enough material already.  This blog after all, has over 3,ooo images that I have already published.  What it doesn’t have are the first five years or so of this project that are recorded on 4″ x 6″ color prints that were developed at the local drugstore.

At the water's edge, Falls of the Ohio, 2014

Although I haven’t posted much recently, I am still going to the river.  It’s been an unusual year out here and for much of this spring the river has been high.  Summer is now upon us and with that comes the high heat and humidity.  This adventure happened in early June after the willow trees had fully leafed out.  I believe this is also my first post using just images recorded with my cell phone.  I now have a new Nikon my brother gave me as a birthday present.  He is an avid nature photographer living in Florida and had a spare digital SLR he could part with.  I can’t wait to try out the new camera at the river and I hope to do this soon.

Old willow tree at the Falls of the Ohio, 2014

willow tree detail, 2014

I have really fallen in love with this old willow tree.  Last year, I photographed my “La Belle Riviere” piece using this tree as my model.  This tree is a survivor.  It’s managed to go through many floods and while it is severely bent over and its roots are exposed…it keeps on living and adding character to this landscape.  I have noticed that the center of its trunk is starting to hollow out a bit.  I wonder how long this willow has held this ground?  I was musing about these things when I noticed movement in a nearby stand of mixed maple and willow trees.  I picked up my collecting bag and walking stick and quietly moved over to investigate.  I was quite unprepared for what I was about to discover!  Here are a few of the first images I made of my new find.

Great Wolf Spider, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

Great Wolf Spider, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

It was another giant spider!  I recalled that it was about this time last year that I encountered the Giant Driftwood Spider which is a completely different animal from the spider I was looking at now.  It’s body was a bit over two feet long and a mottled white in color.  This seems to be another example of what I have come to coin as the “Falls of the Ohio Godzilla Effect”.  Over the years, this particular park has regularly produced freaks of nature.  The most striking of which are the giant insects (and now spiders) that pop up on occasion.  My theory as to why this happens here has everything to do with contemporary pollution and a degraded environment.  For some reason, arthropods in particular are sensitive to these ecological changes which can result in gigantism in these organisms.

Great Wolf Spider, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

Great Wolf Spider on a stump, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

I decided to call this the Great Wolf Spider, (Lycosa styreni).  Looking around, I could find no trace of a web and decided that this was a ground hunting species like other members of the family of wolf spiders, Lycosidae.  I imagined that this impressive spider subsisted upon the small mammals that it could capture within the confines of this park.  That would include many rodents including squirrels, rats, groundhogs, and perhaps the occasional beaver.  I also imagine that stray cats and dogs would be on the menu too.  This spider has large pink-colored fangs that gave it a somewhat bucktoothed appearance.  As long I kept my distance and did not make any threatening moves…the spider tolerated me.  I also noticed that this amazing creature also has unusual eyes.

Detail of Great Wolf Spider eyes, June 2014

From what I could discern…this spider sported four eyes total and all in a row.  It had two large and rather mismatched eyes.  One eye possessed a large red iris that leant a diabolical aspect to it.  On either side of these “great eyes” were two smaller, black vestigial eyes.  I wonder if the smaller eyes are used to detect peripheral motion?  It was disconcerting in the least to be the object of attention from these unblinking eyes.  I approached this spider with caution.  Although I was fearful once the spider moved…I, however, was never in any actual danger since the spider never took any aggressive actions toward me.  I was of course satisfied to keep my distance just in case!

Great Wolf Spider waiting in ambush, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

The Great Wolf Spider seen from behind, June 2014

My last images of this impressive arachnid show it blending into its surrounding environment.  The sun light filtering through the tree canopy produced a dappled light and dark pattern that helped camouflage the spider as it lay in wait of its next meal.  The only bit of movement that could betray it was the slight, subtle twitching produced by its driftwood-like legs.  It was at this moment that I decided to back off and head home.  I don’t know if this spider is a one of a kind creature or whether there are other examples of this species that could populate this park?  I’m inclined to believe that I was observing a single individual.  The question is…how long will it be before our continued abuse of the environment produces monsters we may regret?  Until the next adventure…

At the river's edge, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

 

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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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wildflowers, April 2013

Spring has definitely arrived and the land is turning green.  I love watching this verdant transformation as the Falls of the Ohio becomes a garden again.  We had a weary winter and so seeing the sun more regularly warms the heart and imagination.  These are images from my last visit to the park.  I believe I downloaded about seventy or eighty pictures which is about normal for one of my excursions.  I can find personal interest in most everything I come across which makes editing and creating some sort of post a fun challenge.  I spend hours on site and then a good amount of time at home looking at the pictures and wondering how to put order to any of it?  Usually, I try to give some representative sense of what the day was like.  I believe I could create all sorts of permutations and stories from just a single trip…but, that would cut into my time to be outdoors and fill my lungs with fresh air.

female mallard resting on one leg, April 2013

I began the morning in the western section of the park.  Driftwood and junk have been driven against the Indiana bank of the Ohio River.  Prevailing currents and high water have formed this log raft against the shoreline.  Future high water will eventually send this material over the dam and under the railroad bridge and then throughout the park.  Moving to the river’s edge I surprised more than one sleeping duck and see my first Great Egret of the year.  I tried sneaking over the driftwood to take a picture of the egret which was feeding at the water’s edge.  I must be losing my touch because the wary egret spotted me and took off.  This duck standing on one leg, however,  was more obliging.

view from the western section at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

Here’s a view from the western section of the park.  Walking along the water’s edge I came across all manner of bric-a-brac some of which made it into the collecting bag.  Upon returning to my outdoor studio, I photographed a few of my newest “treasures” on the sand which included many toys.  I have a compulsion to pick this stuff up and order it into various collections…but other than that I’m not sure what I will eventually do with much of this plastic.  I am a believer, however, that someday I will have an idea or inspiration and I will follow that.  I still feel there is something here to explore between the poles of what these items are intended to represent and what they are in reality.

a selection of found toys and novelties from the Falls, April 2013

I keep finding toy wheels of all different sizes and slowly an idea for a wall installation is taking place in my mind.  I have an offer to show work in a show during the 2014 season and so I set a goal to realize this “wheel piece”.  Here are two views of one of my more interesting finds of this day.

deceased blue crayfish found at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

dead blue crayfish found at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

Unfortunately, I didn’t find this blue crayfish while it was alive.  By far, most of the crayfish I have seen have been brown in color.  I wonder if it was crushed by the logs rolling in the high water?  I don’t know which species of crayfish this is, but apparently blue crayfish are a genetic color morph.  There is one species that is now bred to be blue for the aquarium pet trade.  The way the grains of sand fit around the exoskeleton gives a sense of how a fossil might be formed if given the right conditions and deep time.  I picked it up and held it in my hand and just appreciated such a small, but spectacular animal.  I was curious to see how the Flood Brothers from my previous post were holding up and soon I had my answer upon reaching my site.

my outdoor studio spot at the Falls, April 2013

The Flood Brothers were gone as were several other pieces of Styrofoam!  My small studio area had been rummaged through, but this is not unusual and I kind of expect this to happen.  The stuff I gravitate towards is not the junk other folks look for, however, anybody is welcomed to whatever I’ve cached here.  I have nothing of value here.  There is more.  Apparently, the discoverers of my studio were carrying bits of frayed barge cable when they stumbled over my spot.  In order to take the Flood Brothers with them, they had to drop the cables.  After straightening up my studio…I wrapped the three cables into loose coils and photographed them where the brothers once stood.

three coils of frayed barge cable, April 2013

From experience, if folks are out to destroy something…they usually just get on with it.  I was hoping that whomever took the Flood Brothers had just moved them to a different location to create a vignette of their own.  I decided to scout around to see if I could find my wayward figures and I was partly successful.  Here’s how I found the larger of the Flood Brothers.

Flood Brother #2 as I found him, April 2013

detail, head of Flood Brother #2, April 2013

About a hundred meters or so from my spot, I came across Flood Brother #2 leaning against this tree.  He was missing many of his features including his eyes and arms.  After hunting around I was able to find a few of his parts.  As for his shorter brother…there was no trace of him.  I kept moving east in my search and discovered evidence that other creatives were in the area recently.  Perhaps the people who made the following statements also played with my figures?

message in the sand, April 2013

I found this and other sand drawings in the area.  Most of the sand designs were statements of a libertarian frame of mind.  I also found this large spiral made from driftwood that was in the immediate vicinity.

large, anonymous driftwood spiral, April 2013

Further west from the spiral was this installation where driftwood was stood on end teepee-style and incorporated with two larger logs that had recently floated into the area.  People seem to like arranging wood in this manner and I have also seen bonfires begun in this way.

site specific wood installation at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

I thoroughly checked the area for signs of my missing figure and imagined him riding home in the back seat of someone’s car.  I picked up my remaining Flood Brother and headed back to my studio.  I fixed him back up again.  He’s repaired, but also slightly different now.

repaired Flood Brother #2, April 2013

spruced up studio site with repaired Flood Brother, April 2013

This is how I left things on my way back home.  I’ll return in a week and we shall see what if anything happens?  Returning to my car, there was still one more surprise left for the day.  Emerging into the light of a new season, I came across this small Eastern Garter Snake warming itself (much as I had) among the driftwood at the Falls of the Ohio.  See you next time!

Eastern Garter Snake, Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

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Fog at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

Fog is actually common on the Ohio River, but looking through my images, I’m surprised by how few fog pictures I have taken here.  On my last foray to the Falls, the day began extremely foggy like moving within a cloud.  Visibility was limited.  The railroad bridge was completely obscured, but as the sun rose and the temperature became warmer the fog dissipated quickly.  It was another magical moment of transformation as the receding water-cloud revealed the driftwood bones of the park.

Electric Motors Only sign at the Falls, April 2013

Walking to my outdoor atelier, I passed by this unusual sight.  At first, I thought the large tree stump was a part of this sign, but upon inspection, saw that a single rusty nail attached this sign to the wood.  There is no way this sign could survive the river secured so loosely.  Someone before me found this sign and stuck it on the stump up for grabs in true river junk fashion.  Since I collect signs from the river…this was perfect and I welcomed the new addition to my collection!  After removing the sign from the stump I understood why its original discoverer left it behind.  The sign was on a heavy, thick board that had been routed and painted green with yellow letters.  I stashed the sign under some debris and picked it back up on my way home.  As you can imagine, my wife was thrilled to see it like she is with all the other junk I haul out of here.  I liked the sign’s message which is ecological in its own way.  I wonder where it came from and what kind of electric motors is it referring to…perhaps electric golf carts?  Navigating through the dense driftwood, I made my way to the river’s edge.  Waves were lapping the shoreline and there were other surprises to come.

Blue-lipped figure with life preserver on, April 2013

Blue-lipped figure with flotation device, April 2013

This is the moment I met the first of the Flood Brothers.  I had heard of them before and I was pleased to finally get to meet one.  They are called the Flood Brothers because in their own “Chicken Little” way instead of the sky falling…they are rumored to believe the world is in imminent danger of being inundated.  For this reason they wear life jackets and flotation devices everywhere they venture particularly along the river.  They are living legends in this part of the world.

Portrait of F.B. 1, April 2013

This is a close-up portrait of Flood Brother #1…henceforth identified as F.B.1.  He has blue lips like he has been out in the cold too long.  His eyes have this jaundiced quality to them and they are slightly asymmetrical as well.  The ears stick out some and he has spiked hair.  Aside from looking goofy…he is a friendly enough guy and hailed me upon sighting me.  I told him it was a pleasure to meet him and was his brother around too?  As it turns out…Flood Brother #2 was not far away and after walking a short distance along the shoreline, we ran into him as well.

Flood Brother # 2, April 2013

Portrait of Flood Brother #2, April 2013

Flood Brother #2 or F.B.2 is the larger and older of the two.  Like his smaller brother he wears a flotation device every where he travels along the river.  You can tell they are brothers because they share some physical characteristics such as large ears and mismatched eyes which are more pronounced in the older brother.  As it turns out, he is also the more nervous of the pair.

The Flood Brothers at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

The Flood Brothers, April 2013

I asked them if it was true that they believe the world would be destroyed in a great cataclysmic flood?  For argument’s sake F.B.2 qualified things by saying that more unusual events had happened during the Earth’s long history.  As it turned out, they were more concerned about the quality and quantity of fresh water.  Climate change is rewriting things and there is just so much more “free” water in the system that formerly was locked up as ice.  That energy is changing the weather patterns and redistributing water across the globe.  Some places were now getting too much and other places not enough.  And yes the potential to redraw the world’s coastlines also existed.  Whether all this would happen overnight or over the course of many years seemed irrelevant to the pair.  The life jackets were just a necessary precaution to them because they were conducting their research along the river in all its many moods and it just seemed a logical safety thing to do.  The pair was visiting the Falls of the Ohio and inspecting the park for water-born plastic of which there was plenty to see. As the brothers told me…this plastic has a very good chance of making it into the oceans where it has effects of its own.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them that they were already preaching to the converted.  Instead, I invited them to my studio under the willow trees to rest and talk further and they accepted my invitation.  My site was just a short distance away.

The Flood Brothers at my outdoor studio, April 2013

The Flood Brothers at my outdoor studio, April 2013

Looking around the Flood Brothers could see that I was interested in many of the same concerns that they had and wasn’t it all so absurd after all?  I told them my story and that all the stuff they saw in my little area came from the immediate river.  I mentioned that I try to find creative ways to use this junk and to tell the story about a place I find to be very special.  They asked me if I happened to see along the way a nice sign they had attached to a stump?  I confessed that I had and wanted to repurpose it as part of my sign collection.  The Flood Brothers just smiled and said I could have it.  After visiting for a while, it was time for me to go home.  I told the brothers they were welcome to hang out in my site and perhaps I will see them here again?  I liked them as characters.  With one last look back I saw F.B. 1 waving good-bye to me.  I always have an interesting day at the Falls of the Ohio.

F.B.1 at my studio, April 2013

This story marks my four-year anniversary on WordPress .  Hard to believe the time has flown by so quickly.  Thanks for tagging along!!

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The record warm spring we experienced in the Kentuckiana area is being followed by the extreme record heat of this summer.  Twice I have ventured out to the Falls when the thermometer had passed 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 on the Celsius scale.  My youngest son told me (without prompting) that he  thought this heat was evidence of global warming.  The idea that we could alter the climate in some way has reached our children’s consciousness and changed their awareness of what kind of world they will inherit.  Kids get it…why don’t politicians and business leaders do the same?  This should be a global priority because the quality of our environment makes everything else possible.  I’m at the river today to continue this role I’ve created for myself as witness/participant in this historic place.  Here’s a brief record of what I found and made on a particularly brutal day.  I’ll start with more coal flakes that I made at the water’s edge.

Walking around the park at its eastern edge, I collected the river-polished coal I came across and with these black rocks created two designs.  Because of the heat, it doesn’t take long for my clothes to start sticking to my skin.  For relief, I splash water over my face and arms. At first, I left the interior of one of the flakes open, but later decided to change it.  I did scout around for the other coal projects I had left here previously, but they were either missing or deliberately destroyed.

Here is the second design with the interior filled on the first coal flake. Why some people find my “art” to be more offensive than the trash that is ordinarily found here is puzzling to me?  Why more people don’t find all the random trash to be an eyesore and do something about that is another mystery.  My best answer is that “art” has a way of focusing and concentrating energy that stands above the ordinary.  To be noticed is not always a good survival strategy.  My work gets hammered because it sticks out and there is something in the human condition that would rather break things than fix them.

It’s still morning and I see the resident Black vulture colony is also at the river’s edge looking for dead fish or fishing bait.  There’s nothing like coming across a partially opened pack of chicken livers that some fisherman brought for catfish bait.  The flies and the vultures say thank you.  I’ve come to think of these vultures as familiars and part of me likes to believe that they even recognize me and allow me to approach a little closer than usual.

A couple of hours later and the vultures have done what I’m about to do…namely seeking shade and relief under the willow trees.  I find a few vultures standing on the ground with their wings outspread trying to catch the slimmest of breezes, but there is none today.  Reaching my stash of Styrofoam I look around and everything appears as I left it.  It’s just been too hot for most folks to want to be out here.  Rummaging around the polystyrene, I chose a few pieces and construct a new figure.  This piece has remained nameless, but if you out there in the wide world want to name it…that’s fine with me.  It’s also been too hot to think of titles and names.  He is another in a long line of absurd figures I’ve created with the collaboration of nature.  Here’s the head made from Styrofoam, coal eyes, fishing float nose, some kind of plastic piece for the mouth, and wooden ears.

As you can see from the last image…I have lots more Styrofoam to use up before our next big flood.  I began my latest figure with the body.  I came across a piece that suggested a sitting pose and so that is what I made.  Upon completion, I moved my new “friend” to various locations and tried him out in various contexts.

In the end, I decided to pose my figure in the remains of a private  outdoor party that was held out here since my last visit.  This must have been no ordinary “celebration” based on all the spray painted graffiti now on the logs and stumps surrounding their camp fire.  Take a look.

I’m more accustomed to seeing graffiti in an urban setting where tagging trash dumpsters and buildings is common place.  I’m still sorting out how I feel about coming across a scene like this?  Has anything actually been harmed…it doesn’t appear so.  When lovers cut their initials into the bark of a living tree, those cuts are there for the life of the tree.  All this spray painted wood is dead.  Still, this hardly seems like a nature loving act especially since the “artists” left their large beer bottles behind.  I think they did it because they could.  Their handiwork to my eye also lacks an aesthetic dimension, but now I’m sounding like an old-fashioned art critic.  I guess here is as good a place to say that I’m taking a hiatus from visiting the park to recover from my impending knee surgery.  I’ve been stomping about out here with a bad left knee for over a year and it hasn’t gotten better on its own.  An MRI showed two tears in my lateral and medial meniscus.  With hope, I won’t be down long and I will continue the riverblog with other stuff probably from my various collections. I’ll end this post with a small piece of plastic I found on this hot, hot day.  Since I started this post with some perceptions from a child about the environment…perhaps it is even appropriate?  It may take something akin to divine intervention to improve the condition of the world.

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