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Posts Tagged ‘art and the environment’

Louisville as seen from Indiana, March 6, 2016

The river has finally given us a reprieve from the high waters of the past month.  I  got an early start from my home in Louisville and crossed the Second Street Bridge on my way to the Falls of the Ohio.  Today, I decided to do something a little different and wandered the eastern bank of the Ohio River on the Indiana side which technically is not in the Falls of the Ohio State Park proper.  I just kept walking and walking and had no trouble filling my collecting bags with potential art materials.  Overall, it would turn out to be a good day and I managed a couple of modest projects which are the subject of this post.

View of Louisville from the Indiana bank, March 6, 2016

I walked as far east as I could without feeling like I was wandering onto private property.  I figured if someone were to challenge me, they probably wouldn’t object to me picking up the plastic and river-polished Styrofoam that soon filled up my bags.  As it turned out, I didn’t encounter a person all day long.  It could be that hiking along a muddy riverbank isn’t most people’s cup of tea, but that’s just speculation on my part!  I did come to one spot that afforded a nice view of Louisville’s skyline.  To take these pictures, I stood in what was once a creek that originally fed into the river.  That must have been some time ago, however, because the view behind me is somewhat industrial.  Now it’s a spot where the water backs up when the river is high.  Everywhere I wandered I found lots of junk mixed into a driftwood and ground up tree bark matrix.  Here are a few of the items I found that were a bit more interesting.

Plastic river corn, March 6, 2016

Here is a picture of miniature plastic river corn poking out among the woody debris.  There’s something about finding plastic plants out here that still provokes me.  I picked this corny cluster up and into the collecting bag it went to ultimately join the other fake food items that I have assembled over the years.

Plastic D.J. toy, March 6, 2016

And now for a toy figure that probably represents a disk jockey character complete with over sized jewelry and a microphone.  I don’t recognize this character and it occurs to me that I’m now hopelessly out of synch with cartoon popular culture.  My sense is that programs come and go so quickly now that the plastic crap these shows spawn far exceeds the actual life of the shows themselves.

Found plastic toy lion, March 6, 2016

Moving closer to the railroad bridge that I like to work around…I found this realistic toy lion.  I think this is an example of how you can develop “a six sense” for finding stuff, because this lion was the same color as the wood chips and debris it was mixed into.  Stuff that is neon colored like many plastic items are makes them relatively hard to miss.  Let me show you what I mean.

Plastic color spectrum arrangement, Falls of the Ohio, March 6, 2016

Here’s my latest color spectrum arrangement made from found plastic.  I gathered these components up along my walk on the riverbank just east of the park.  I found a place that was relatively sheltered by the wind that had just picked up after my arrival.  Today, I found a bit more purple than I usually come across.

Plastic color spectrum, March 6, 2016

Detail of plastic color spectrum, Falls of the Ohio, March 6, 2016

Most of  the plastic items in this assemblage are bottles of various sorts.  This time, I did add a few “humorous” toy finds like the plastic frog and rubber duck wearing sun glasses.  Since I still had a few hours to devote to today’s walk…I decided to venture further west and into the park to see what changes the river had made and to make one other piece I had in mind.

Flip flop flower arrangement, Falls of the Ohio, March 6, 2016

Flower made from found flip flops, Falls of the Ohio, March 6, 2016

After filling my bag up with plastic bottles, I then switched to collecting lost flip-flops.  In a relatively short amount of time I had picked up enough of these cheap sandals of varying sizes, colors, and designs to make something with.  Since this is spring and we certainly have had our share of rain…it stands to reason that flowers would soon follow.  I began my arrangement by taking the larger flip-flops and using them as the base.  Gradually, I worked towards the center overlaying and stacking the smaller sandals that a child would wear.  The result was something that I called a “Chrysanthemum” in my plastic-addled brain.

"Chrysanthemum", found flip flops at the Falls of the Ohio, March 6, 2016

I did enjoy having a little bit more of the riverbank to explore than I have had this past month.  We still have lots of potential for rain and high water.  I think on my next trip out here I will explore what the high river has deposited in the western section of the park.  I wonder if my ball collection is still around or did that eventually get reclaimed by the river?  I guess I will need to wait until next weekend to find out.  For now, here is one last image from this trip out at the Falls of the Ohio.

Train on the bridge, Falls of the Ohio, March 6, 2016

 

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Trash intermixed into the driftwood, Jan. 14, 2016

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend I was able to make it out to the Falls of the Ohio State Park on a couple of occasions.  It helped that this was a three-day weekend.  I was curious to see what was lying around the riverbank after our first dusting of snow had blown away.  As I was expecting, I found a lot of plastic bottles and containers, Styrofoam, and plenty of driftwood.  I first inspect an area for the larger pattern left by the river.  The stuff that floats most readily often defines the high water mark on the riverbank.

Junk on the driftwood pile, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 14, 2016

This is a typical detail of stuff that builds up on a driftwood mound.  There are many automotive and boating references particularly plastic bottles that held various petroleum products.  There is also a wealth of plastic beverage bottles to illustrate the carelessness of some folks recreating on the river.  I have a mental image of this stuff eventually flowing downriver, into the Mississippi River, and out into the wider world through the Gulf of Mexico.  What I see at the Falls of the Ohio is only what I see.  I know there is a glacier of plastic and junk that by passes me and will show up somewhere downstream.  With each succeeding flood, I keep thinking that all the stuff that had been accumulating upriver has already been washed into the watershed.  That, however, doesn’t seem to be the case and the amount of “fresh trash” that shows up in the park seems not to have a limit.

Found yellow and green plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

Both days that I worked at the river were very cold ones.  The piece I made using found yellow and green plastic was the coldest with temps hovering around 10 degrees and it was colder than that with the wind.  After picking up what caught my eye, I retreated to my little studio area near the U.F.O. (Unidentified Floating Object) that is this welded and painted steel platform that washed into this area over five years ago.

Massed yellow and green plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

I saw a possibility in the space under the UFO that was formed when the river shifted the driftwood mound.  I cleared the space a little bit and found a plank and stump in which to set up what I would eventually call “Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic”.  All the bottles and other colorful plastic items were picked up in the immediate area.  The wind was really biting and so I sought shelter by the treeline.  It took a little patience to make this piece because the wind kept blowing away the lighter items.  Eventually, I fit everything together and held it in place by strategically using found bottles that still had weight to them because mud or sand had become their new contents.

"Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic", Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

My photos of this piece vary from one another because elements kept blowing off.  I was struck that I could make a colorful gradation using primarily yellow and green plastic found just in the willow habitat.  I favor doing these color pieces because they also reference the electromagnetic spectrum and without light, those ancient plants that lived and succeeded millions of years ago would not eventually become the crude substance from which these bottles were fabricated.  It’s interesting to me to think that much of the energy we derive from fossil fuels is captured starlight from an ancient time.  We owe it to the plants to be able to stabilize this energy through photosynthesis and fix it into their very tissues.

Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic by the old railroad bridge., Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

Studio view, Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

Eventually, the cold started to get to me and I was fast losing what little light was present on this day.  I might have moved the blue plastic drum out of the bottom picture, but it was frozen into the ground and full of sand and mud and would have been a challenge to lift.  After awhile, I began to like it for the additional color it lent this scene.  One thing concentrating so much color in one area does is call into attention the brown drabness that subsumes everything else.

Random, found plastic in red, purple, and blue, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 18, 2016

I returned to the river two days later.  It was still very cold, however, a big improvement over the previous day.  The sun was shining and the wind was absent.  Having completed and photographed one colorful plastic arrangement, I set about creating a new one in a different palette of colors.  Searching the area I decided to work at…I could see plenty of red and blue plastic items spread out among the driftwood.  It took me an hour or so to pull these bottles and objects together.  I wished that I might have come across a few more violet or purple items, but I guess these are colors that are used less than straight up red or blue?  I know that in terms of lightfastness, red and purple plastic fades away quicker than many other colors.

Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 18, 2016

Using a bit of the geometry I was feeling from the willow trees and the way the sunlight was hitting their trunks…I decided to site “Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic” on the sand.  There’s a distant view of the Ohio River through this informal avenue of trees.  Watching how the shadows of the tree trunks were being cast upon the sand was an important element in the overall composition of this piece.

Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 16, 2016

detail of Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic, Jan. 18, 2016

Among the items comprising this work are a blue plastic child’s putter golf club, the cap to a plastic cane that held Christmas candy and several flip-flops of the right color.  When I finished this piece, I left it in place as I did the other arrangement.  Perhaps the next time I return to this area, I may combine the two groups of plastic?  I could create another grand rainbow with the addition of finding more orange in particular.  I probably would throw in some black and white plastic items since they are here in quantity as well.  I felt relatively good about this weekend’s projects and some of the images that resulted.  When I am occupied with a project, I really don’t feel the elements in the same way.  I suppose there is a bit of mind over matter happening too.  When I do feel the cold, however, is when I decide to turn for home and come across a frozen sight like these containers locked in ice!  Stay warm and safe everybody…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Plastic containers frozen in ice, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 18, 2016

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Skyline of Louisville as seen from the Falls of the Ohio State Park, Oct. 2015

That big summer rush is over now.  The Interpretive Center panel is finished and this past Saturday, I picked up all the works I had on display at Eastern Kentucky University.  I now have no other plans for my art which feels good for a change.  I like staying busy, but don’t want to be so on the go that I don’t enjoy what I do.  Art is one of those things we eat greedily until it time to move over to the next course.  The process of creating and displaying new works has become such a consumptive activity on its own and it’s funny that I don’t hear more artists talking about the good and bad aspects of this.  With this officially being Autumn, I went looking for traces of color at the Falls of the Ohio.

found snow globe or dome, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2015

I showed up under the old railroad bridge with a mostly empty collecting bag.  At this time of year, it isn’t so much the interesting objects that just floated in here with the latest flood, but rather the interesting items that have come to the surface after all this driftwood started to break down.  As proof, I offer this recently discovered snow globe or dome.  It’s too hard to see from my image, but there is a winter holiday scene inside the dome!  It will be cold soon enough and Christmas as well.  I’m all set with this little decoration that still has bits and pieces of fake snow inside.

Green Bottles, Falls of the Ohio, October 2015

Today I have no plan other than to wander.  As luck would have it, I revisited an area that I haven’t checked out in the past 2 1/2 months.  One of my favorite pieces I made this year involves setting up green plastic bottles inside an old boat dock that was deposited on top of the driftwood pile and that happens to be in this spot.  When I was here last, the vines had pretty much ensnared and intertwined with all this wood and made walking a bit treacherous.  All the greenery from those vines is now history, but the woody stems are still a tripping hazard.  Coming across my piece from earlier in the year…I decided to reconstruct it as best I could.  All the bottles were still here and the light was looking especially good.

Green Bottle piece at the Falls of the Ohio, October 2015

Under the wooden dock are four compartments that I filled with the bottles.  They can only be seen from this side and so this piece has evaded detection for the most part because it is not visible from the path that skirts the periphery of this driftwood mound.  I just happen to like how the light gets concentrated within these green plastic bottles and activates the work in just the right conditions.  The wooden compartments add a little structure to what would be generally be thought of as a chaotic composition.

Green Bottles, Falls of the Ohio, October 2015

Although we still have plenty of “green” in the environment.  You can also see where “yellowing” is happening with the foliage.  I expect as the season wears on and transitions to another that this Green Bottle piece will subtly change over time.

found flip-flops, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2015

Walking over the mound, I came across an area that was completely obscured by vines a few weeks a go.  What I uncovered in place was a series of found flip flop sandals I had parked here until a better idea showed up.  For now, I record the lightweight shoes and move on.  It might be transformed into something different the next time I pass this way.

Green Bottles in Autumn, Falls of the Ohio, October 2015

The cottonwood trees that flank part of this driftwood mound are much “yellower” than before.  When I first came out here during the month of May, everything around me was verdant and dark green.  After setting this piece up again for the second time, I turned and walked away and cleared my head by walking to the riverbank.  I will periodically stop by here and maybe after a few months will be able to create a series of images documenting this site specific assemblage as it changes with the seasons.  For now, I will check out if the fishermen are having any luck…at the Falls of the Ohio.

Fishing at the exposed fossil beds at the Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2015

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Life in a Bucket II, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

Life in a bucket.  I’ve seen this before and written about it in an older blog post.  Regardless, whenever I encounter something like this I remain amazed at life’s ability to thrive in less than optimum circumstances.  A little river mud in an old broken plastic bucket gets colonized by a few windblown grass seeds, add a little rainfall and sunshine and life does the rest. Well, some life can do this and some can’t.  The future will be determined by the life that can adapt and be resilient in the face of adversity.  Walking on the fossil beds at the Falls of the Ohio I wonder about our chances for success living on a planet that we have diminished to suit our own ends.  I have no doubt that whatever the future holds, life will find a way.  Whether or not that includes us remains to be seen.

Freshly gathered plastic jugs, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

On that jolly note I introduce my latest two projects!  I got up fairly early in the morning and got a head start on the heat.  By the early afternoon, I was whipped, exhausted, and wet from the humidity trapped in the local vegetation.  Summer is officially upon us.  It’s interesting how many conversations I’ve had this year with people similar in age to me who have remarked that as the years pass by their tolerance for the heat and humidity decreases.  This was one of those days I could commiserate with them!  As I was walking along the Falls landscape, I noticed an area that seemed to have a good supply of plastic containers and decided on the spot to do another petroleum rainbow piece.  This is how I started out, literally beating the bushes for containers of different sizes, colors, and shapes.  The material lying on the driftwood was easy to access, but in other places the vines were beginning to cover and camouflage what was under their urgent greenness.

Colorful castoff plastic containers, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

I started out collecting various plastic jugs that originally held contents of one gallon or greater…hence “big jug”.  I soon expanded that as the need for particular shades of colors became a priority.  I would have liked to use more “orange”, but couldn’t find enough plastic containers in this area that day that were that color.  Still, I managed a small sliver of “orange” to mark the transition from “red” to “yellow”.

"Big Jug Rainbow", detail, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

"Big Jug Rainbow", Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

“Big Jug Rainbow” is situated under a stressed willow tree that is bent over from the weight of lots of driftwood that was deposited in its canopy by flood waters.  A nice verdant cave was formed and it felt like a good framing element for this piece.  Here is what it looked like from the other side of the tree.

Back view of "Big Jug Rainbow", Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

The willow trees in this habitat are twisted up and have lots of character.  They remind me of the forms you find in bonsai trees, except their size is obviously much larger.  In a past post, I’ve mentioned how this area’s beavers like to prune off small branches and eat the bark.  This helps shape the trees.  This year, I can see in dramatic fashion another element that contributes to the trees’ overall forms.  The weight of the deposited wood bends the branches down and the willow continues to grow under this burden.  The driftwood will remain in the tree until the river rises or the wind knocks the deposited logs down.

"Big Jug Rainbow" on location at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

Bleaching, exposed driftwood atop a willow tree with my “Big Jug Rainbow” under its influence.  Happy with this piece, I collected my bag and walking stick and headed further under the trees seeking shade and relief from the sun.  Along the way, I was delighted to run into one of my favorite insects found at the Falls of the Ohio.

Eastern Eyed Click Beetle, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

This is the Eastern Eyed Click Beetle or Big Eyed Click Beetle, (Alaus oculatus).  This is one of the larger beetles you will find in our area and this is the largest of our click beetles.  The biggest specimens are nearly two inches long or roughly 45mm in length.  They have this wonderful, cryptic bird-dropping coloring.  The eyespots on the pronatum or thorax are dramatic and large.  The females lay their eggs in or near rotting wood (in abundance here) and I’m sure to come across these slow flyers at least a couple of times per season.  Last year, I was startled when one landed on the back of my head and got tangled in my hair.  It gave me a momentary fright to have some then unknown large insect crawling on my head.  Fortunately, they don’t bite.  The larvae on the other hand will eat other insects they encounter.

"Stump Flower", Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

As has been my recent custom, as I walk along I collect any lost flip-flops that I find.  At day’s end, I find a place to make something with the day’s finds.  I came across this table-like tree stump that seemed like an invitation to do something with.  I emptied the contents of my collecting bag and created “Stump Flower”.

"Stump Flower", found flip flops, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

"Stump Flower", detail, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

The circular form in the center I believe is a sand toy?  I found it laying nearby and thought it helped suggest a flower head.  I think as I return to many of the places where I’ve made these flip-flop projects…I will re-gather them and perhaps recycle them into a more complex form.  At day’s end, the walk back to my vehicle took a lot of effort.  I did go by my “Big Jug Rainbow” piece and took one last image of it from some distance.  You can barely see it through all the leafage, but it is there in all its artificial glory.  That bottle of warm water I had stashed under the car seat sure tasted good!  Thanks to everybody for stopping by…until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

"Big Jug Rainbow" as seen from a distance, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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Driftwood mound with partially exposed wooden boat dock, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

May was a quick month and this year is flying by.  I’m still exploring much of the flotsam that was left behind by early Spring flooding.  At several places in the park you can encounter large driftwood mounds and debris fields that are aggregates of the natural and artificial.  I was exploring a large mound near the railroad bridge and came across this large, wooden, manmade structure that was laying partially exposed.  I was curious about what this could be and so I picked a route over the driftwood to take a better look.

Destroyed boat dock on the driftwood pile, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Walking carefully to the other side, I discovered that this wooden structure is a fairly long boat dock that the river had claimed.  I was taken by the dock and its visual proximity to the railroad bridge.  The idea that this could make a nice location for another site specific work soon came to mind.  I have been having fun making images and assemblages of plastic bottles that washed into here and looking around…well, despite the overwhelming browness…there is also a lot of colorful plastic mixed into here.

Beginning of green bottle/dock piece, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

What I could see was a “wealth” of green plastic soft drink bottles that lemon/lime carbonated beverages come in.  So, I walked around the mound and boat dock and collected all the green bottles I could find.  In the interest of full disclosure…there are also a few green glass bottles in here, but 95% of them are plastic.  My idea was to activate this area by massing all the green bottles I could collect and store them “inside” the boat dock.  Here are several views of what this looked like after I was finished.

Green plastic bottles piece, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Green plastic bottles in ruined boat dock, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

The wooden dock echoes the structure of the bridge behind it.  I feel that this site specific piece successfully worked with its immediate environment.  The green of the bottles plays against the verdant green of the vegetation.  As of this posting, this artwork is still intact.  Many things I make out here are either destroyed by visitors or eventually fall apart on their own.  If you were looking at this dock from the other side…nothing would betray the surprise that exits on the flip side.  Here’s a few more views of my plastic green bottles piece.  I’m needing a good title for this one, but nothing has registered with me yet.

Green plastic bottles in ruined boat dock, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Altenate view of green bottle work, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

detail of green plastic bottles, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

While I was searching through the debris field, I was also looking for lost flip-flops.  I found a nice number of them consisting of all sizes and colors which I stored in my collecting bag.  After finishing the idea I had for the bottles…I looked around for another location to do a flip-flops site specific piece.  My search took me to the nearby fossil outcropping and rocks.  I emptied my bag upon the rocks and played around with several configurations until I hit upon something I found visually interesting.

Flip Flops and fossils, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Flip flop oval on the fossil rocks, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

I arranged the sandals from right foot to left and from largest to smallest.  The oval shape echoes some of the ancient coral forms present in the rocks which date back to the Devonian Age over 350 million years a go.  One of my all time favorite fossil discoveries was made in Laetoli, Tanzania by famed archaeologist Mary Leakey in 1978.  She found preserved in hardened volcanic ash, a set of bipedal hominid footprints of a possible family group that dates back 3.7 million years and at the time were the world’s oldest human-like footprints.  Flash forward to the present, these flip-flops are the descendants of those ancient tracks.  When I’m out on the rocks at the Falls of the Ohio…I often think about how deep time is and how far back the history of life goes.

Flip flops on the fossil rocks, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

June is already shaping up to be a rather interesting month at the Falls of the Ohio and I will be interacting with the park in some different ways than I usually do.  More about that as the month progresses.  For now, I will end with one more image of my flip-flops piece as I left it upon this ancient landscape.  See you later!

Colorful flip flop oval at the Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

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Driftwood pile, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

May has turned into a productive month for me.  If April was defined by rain and flooding…May has been on the dry side.  This break in the weather (along with the nice coolness of Spring) has me out at the river at every available chance.  Friends of mine already think that I live out here, but that’s far from the case.  I wish I could physically be out here more because I don’t tire of the park and I find enough stuff to keep me busy.  The reality is I’m lucky to make it out here on the weekends and holidays.  Over the years, I’ve established routines and I know the place so well that as I walk along, I’m strategizing on what can be done with the materials that I find at various locations.  The digital part is done from home.

Sand Rose, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

In the aftermath of our most recent flooding, a great amount of wood and manmade debris has settled into the park.  I find something interesting to me most everywhere I look.  Here’s another Sand Rose that I encountered, blooming among the driftwood.  This blossom has fabric-like petals and lacks the wonderful perfume that more conventional roses possess.

Plush Parrot Toy, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Covered in burrs and various plant seeds is this plush parrot that I found intertwined in the driftwood.  Lost toys are evocative and in this case, I’m also reminded that 2016 will mark the centennial of the extinction of the Carolina Parakeet which was this country’s only native member of the parrot family.  Both the Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet passed from existence within a couple of years of one another in the same small aviary that now stands as a memorial to them at the Cincinnati Zoo.

White-tail deer skull, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Walking through the driftwood I found this intact and antlered deer skull which is a first for me. I have found other white-tail deer skulls before, but they all were from does.  Over the years , I have found deer remains out here in the wake of flooding.  Perhaps the most memorable experience happened about twenty years a go.  While hiking with a friend, we came to an area where we could smell the sickly sweet odor from something decomposing, but searching the grounds we weren’t able to locate the unfortunate creature.  By chance, I happened to look up where the smell seemed the strongest and discovered a deer carcass that was lodged in a tree about 12 feet or so off the ground.  Of course, it found its way there when the river was high and became stranded when the river receded.  At the Falls of the Ohio State Park you are likely to find unexpected things snagged in the willows.

Red Compostion, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

"Red Composition" on site, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Over the last few weeks, I have been “playing around” more with the brightly colored plastic elements that wash into the park.  I find these site specific compositions rather fun and provoking to do.  Usually, all the plastic elements that the river delivers become somewhat unified and integrated within the matrix of mud, wood, and other detritus.  I believe this thorough mixing keeps people from seeing the true extent these artificial materials and objects are present in the free world.  By choosing to concentrate on a color, like red in this case, I hope to call attention to these materials in a novel way.  This piece started with the nailed together wood frame I found on the driftwood pile.  There are also lots of milled and used lumber elements in the mix too.  Building on previous pieces I did with other colors, I decided to see how much red was in this given area.   “Red Composition” was the result.  With red being such a popular color…I thought I would come across more red than I actually did.  What I did find seemed subject to bleaching in the sun and made me wonder if red plastic was in general use less because of the fugitive nature of the pigments?  Next time I’m at the grocery store I will test this theory more.  Among my red finds of the day include an old flashlight body that had filled with dirt and had a small willow tree growing out of it.  Here’s another example of a plastic composition I did on this particular day.

From the "Petroleum Rainbow Series", Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

From the Series "Petroleum Rainbows", Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

From the series, "Petroleum Rainbows", seen from behind, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This is another in a series I have been calling “Petroleum Rainbows”.  I started with the wooden bench I found in the immediate area and set it up near the riverbank in the willow habitat.  I gathered all the brightly colored items I could find tangled in the driftwood and sitting on the sandy beach and of course most of them are made from plastic.  Testing my fugitive color theory, I did notice a prevalence for the colors green, black, blue, yellow, and white.  Red, orange, and purple were a little harder to come by.  I filled the top of the bench with my river finds and loosely organized it to resemble a color spectrum.  As one Facebook observer noted with a little ire, my colors don’t follow the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet scheme of a true rainbow.  I have done this intentionally as a further provoking element.  Beyond the surface attraction of this party-colored plastic, the brain does register that something is not quite right here which is the feeling I want to leave the observer with…hence, disquieting rainbow.  I made this piece a couple of weeks a go and it has remained relatively intact.  I have been busy at the Falls and have more to show, but will wait a bit before posting those projects. I hope everyone out there is having a nice Memorial Day holiday. See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Detail of objects, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

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Ginger Lifevest, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

We have had a stretch of gorgeous days along the Ohio River!  Lately, it has been more fun to be outdoors than indoors and consequently, documenting and posting about those adventures has taken a back seat to exploring.  With rain in today’s forecast, it seems a good day to play catch up.  Allow me, “Insert Name Here”, to be your host on what was a very productive day spent along the western shoreline at the Falls of the Ohio State Park a couple weekends a go.  This was the first time I had ventured on this side of the park since our seasonal bout of flooding.  In the past, this has also been a good place to find driftwood and plastic bottles.  For today, I decided to walk along the riverbank utilizing the materials I came across and see how far that would carry me.  Here’s today’s results in order of completion.

Shelf with Colorful Objects, found objects, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015Bottle/Shelf in situ, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This year, I have a new series that I have enjoyed exploring in this driftwood and petrochemical playground.  In part, it is a response due to the abundance of plastic bottle’s in this year’s flotsam and jetsam. It’s a challenge to try to use these materials in ways that will cause others to notice them afresh.  We have become accustomed to having so much plastic around us and despite the often brilliant color of these objects, are relegated to the background like so many other things we have used or don’t care to acknowledge or know what to do about because so many other things are competing for our attention.  To try to regain some element of focus, I have been clustering and combining mostly plastic containers in site specific areas along the trail.  It’s an all organic study.  Some of them present as shrines and are a reminder that we are all pilgrims on the river’s journey.

Arrangement in Blue Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Arrangement in Blue Plastic at the Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This piece which I’m calling “Arrangement in Blue Plastic” was assembled not too far away from the previous work.  All the blue plastic elements were found in the surrounding area and deposited by high water.  Among the found blue oddities includes a plastic boom-a-rang, the spade from a broken plastic shovel, and a beat up, formerly plush, blue plastic puppy.  The arrangement is backed up by found, joined lumber.

Bemoaning Figure, detail of the head, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

This is a detail of the head from “Bemoaning Figure”.  He’s a large Styrofoam sculpture about 6 feet tall.  The area where I left him was very muddy…which in this case also aided in standing him up.

Bemoaning Figure, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

The polystyrene floated into the park along with the plastic bottles.  I try to respect the shapes the river gives me with this foam. I thought the head was a particularly nice form.  I was additionally lucky because both the head and body were found near one another and I didn’t need to carry so much stuff back and forth.

Bemoaning Figure, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

I left “Bemoaning Man” mired in the mud which was more than five inches or so of thick sticky fudge.  I stepped right out of one of my shoes setting this figure up in the landscape!  I had to find and pull my shoe out of the mud while balancing on one leg.

Black and White Plastic Arrangement, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

arrangement in Black and White Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

On the way from my trip…I stopped and reused a shelf I had set up earlier.  I have become so much better at strategizing and planning as I go along.  This is resulting in more pieces being photographed at the river.

Family Circle, found flip-flops, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Family Circle, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

As I walked along, I was picking up lost flip-flops and putting them into my collecting bag.  At the end of day, I try to make an image with whatever I happened to find.  So far, I’m calling this piece “Family Circle”.  I left the wayward footwear right in this spot and moved on.  All that’s left to look at before calling it a productive day are a couple of pictures of me (for scale) taken earlier in the morning.

Tall Figure, "Ginger Lifevest", Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

Here I am posed next to one of my favorite trees in the park.  It’s a large cottonwood tree that has been featured on this blog many times before.  I have taken refuge underneath its roots during thunder storms and people like to camp out around it.  It is one of the best features in the western section of the park.  The day has been a long, but productive one with several river art projects realized.  Thanks for tagging along…here’s one last look back at the full height of that cottonwood tree.

Large cottonwood tree, Falls of the Ohio, May 2015

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debris field, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

April’s tale was of a high Ohio River and rain fall for the record books. Twice the river rose to flood stage before subsiding back into its muddy banks.  Left in its now drying wake are trash mounds and islands of wood and debris that were pushed and floated upon the water’s surface by wind and current.  In this mish mash of culture and nature I carefully pick my way over and through the debris fields at the Falls of the Ohio.  All along the riverbank, the dull and muddy colored wood contrasts with the reflected light from hundreds of plastic bottles and chunks of bright white Styrofoam.

Large blue plastic egg among other river debris, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I picked a great day to visit the river.  As soon as I arrived in the park, I could hear several newly arrived male Northern Orioles calling back and forth through the tall cottonwood trees.  I even found several eggs.  Here is a large blue plastic egg nestled in shredded tree bark and plastic bottles.  I also found a muddy, but real Canada goose egg now too cool to incubate. There was an adult goose hanging out near me and I suspect some early nesters had their clutch washed away by the second flood.  I decided with so much brightly colored plastic scattered all over this woody mound…I wondered if I could put any of it to use?

detail, yellow plastic trash, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

As you can see in this detail image…I decided to concentrate on the color yellow.  I stayed within a certain area and collected all the yellow objects on this driftwood mound.  It was tricky work because the footing was not good.  Several times I sank to my hip as my leg would go through the loosely tangled branches, dirt, and logs.

I call this piece “Yellow Concentrate”.  It consists of mostly plastic, quart-sized oil containers along with a few larger laundry detergent jugs.  There are a few odd items as well.  I found three rubber ducks on today’s adventure and used two of them here.  I used a bowl-like depression in the driftwood as my setting to assemble and sort through the junk.  I was glad to have the wooden platform in the foreground because it was also easy on the feet.

Landscape view with "Yellow Concentrate" facing railroad bridge, April 2015

 This site gave me potential for a few good views.  Here is “Yellow Concentrate” with the railroad bridge in the background.

"Yellow Concentrate" with the City of Louisville across the river. April 2015

Now here’s the same piece with the skyline of the City of Louisville on the southern shore.  All that massed yellow really pops you in the eye.  Individually, all these yellow plastic containers barely registered scattered across the debris field, but it’s a different story when you bring them together.  Feeling pretty good about yellow…I decided to next try a different color.

"Blue Extract", Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

As I was collecting all the yellow containers…I was also sorting out the blue ones and throwing them in the driftwood bowl.  On a nearby fallen, diagonally leaning tree trunk…I arranged my collection.  The big blue Easter egg is near the center.  As I worked on “Blue Extract”, the hole I was standing in kept getting wider and deeper.

"Blue Extract", Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Most of these containers are plastic oil and liquid detergent bottles, but I mixed a few aerosol cans in as well.  In this line are seven plastic and rubber balls.  One last project before calling it a day.  I stayed in the same area and pulled aside all the lost flip-flops I encountered.  I laid them all out on the white surface of a metal refrigerator that had floated in here with the last flood.  It looked like the Shoe Shaman had been this way too.

lost flip-flops on the side of a refridgerator, April 2015

Sandal Arc, found objects from the Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

The stark whiteness of the fallen refrigerator reminded me of the white pedestals that you would find in an official gallery.  I organized the lost foot wear from smallest to largest, left to right.  I soon left for home with a hefty collecting bag full of “river treasure” and a camera loaded with images.  Every thing else was left in place.  I will come back when the river level drops a little bit more and the fudge-like mud has had the chance to harden in the sun.  There is still so much more to explore in the park and can see myself keeping busy for the rest of the year.  Here’s one last look over the shoulder at today’s location at the Falls of the Ohio.  I realized after the fact, that the found milk crate I used to move materials around was so bright red that it holds its place among the yellow and blue.  Until next time!

Site of this day's activity, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

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Plastic Pegasus/Unicorn toy, Falls of the Ohio, 2015

It’s the last week of April, which means the first Saturday in May is a few days away.  In Louisville, that signals the world’s most famous horse race, the Kentucky Derby, will be run. This edition is the 141st Kentucky Derby, which culminates in two weeks worth of Derby Festival parties and celebrations.  Over the years, I have had occasion to find, photograph, and sometimes keep the horse related toys that I come across in the aftermath of flooding at the Falls of the Ohio.  Following is a small album of river rejects.  I start with this image and though it is not a Pegasus (The Pegasus Parade is the oldest Derby Festival event) it is somewhat horse-like.  It appears to be a flying unicorn and has a mane and tail you could probably comb at one time.

Blue plastic fragment of a horse riding toy, Falls of the Ohio

I found this fragment in the western section of the park partially buried in the sand.  At one time this was a riding toy that had a wooden handle going through the head and was kid powered.

Pink Plastic  Horse with flowing tail and mane, Falls of the Ohio

I found this pink beauty tangled in the driftwood.  These ponies that have hair that can be brushed must be popular…

Pale Pink horse toy with brushable hair, Falls of the Ohio

…or not,…because here’s another one pulled out of the debris field!  I believe this unfortunate pony also had cockle burrs tangled up in its mane.

Small yellow plastic horse with chewed off leg, Falls of the Ohio

This small yellow plastic horse was probably put out to “pasture” because it can’t run anymore.  It looks like either some one or some thing chewed off its right hind leg.

Small, white plastic horse, Falls of the Ohio

This tiny horse was found upside down.  It’s missing the green plastic base it once stood on.  Fine droplets of rain begin to wet the sand on the day I came across this find.  My friend, Bernie from Vermont, gave me the idea for this post.  He needed a horse image for a story he had written and asked if I had any in my river archive.  This was one of the ones I sent him.  I have one last horse to show and it is a piece I photographed in place last weekend.  I hope everyone out there has a great Kentucky Derby and may your horse win, place, or show…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Brown plastic horse, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

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Mid April High Water, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

It’s mid April and the television meteorologists have said it all.  If the Kentuckiana area receives one more drop of rain…we will set an all time local record for precipitation during any April since records have been kept.  With half a month to go and more rain in the forecast for this week…that record is a goner.  As I write this…the river is still rising.  I mentally contrast this to what is happening in California with their severe drought.  I wonder if there are any billionaires out there that would like to invest in a pipeline that would send all this extra water to where it’s needed most?  After all, isn’t water a much more precious commodity than crude oil?  We don’t send exploratory satellites and space craft into the vast distances of the universe looking for petroleum.  It’s water we seek because in a fundamental way we realize that water is the key to life.

The high Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

The following adventure happened last weekend which was warm and beautiful, but with an ever-rising river.  The large driftwood mound under the railroad bridge I documented in my last post has broken apart and floated away along with my absurd March Madness figure.  Perhaps when the river returns to its usual water levels, I may run into him once again?  For now, I am exploring a section of the Ohio River Greenway which is near the Interpretive Center’s entrance and has a nice view of Louisville’s skyline.  The riverbank does not lack for junk and before long I’ve photographed and collected a full bag of possibilities for future use.  It was while I was absorbed in my own head space that I bumped into a most unusual character that was engaged in what looked to be some type of ritual at the water’s edge.

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

What I first thought was singing turned out to be chanting and it was coming from this exotic guy.  I’m sure I must have had the strangest expression on my face!  Despite my presence, this blue-helmeted figure with some kind of mandala on his chest was practically knee-deep in muddy water and lining up found flip-flops on a beached log.  A perfectly normal activity don’t you agree?  I’m assuming he gathered these sandals from all the other flotsam and jetsam that has washed into here?  That part I can understand because I have an ongoing collection of the same footwear that I hope to make into something grand and profound some day.

Detail of the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation and altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I remained quiet, stayed observant, and took these photographs.  I saw the blue helmeted man face west and chant.  He later did the same thing looking towards all the cardinal directions.  On occasion, he would carefully pick up a sandal and whisper to it before placing it back upon the water-logged trunk of a limb-less tree.  For emphasis, he would also do this little hop dance step in the muddy water.  I waited for him to finish before interrupting him with a few questions of my own.

Head of the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Shoe Shaman with his altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Finally, I had my chance to speak and the mysterious figure looked my way.  I was surprised that I could understand what he was saying.  First, he thanked me for respecting his custom by not interrupting his ceremony.  He also said that it is very important that the flow of energy continue unabated if the ritual was to take hold.  Filled with questions, I asked his name and what was he doing?  Patiently, he explained that he was the Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, a holy man and offered as proof the ill-fitting helmet on his head which was the official crest of his high office.  I didn’t say anything, but thought the Shoe Shaman’s head-gear bore an uncanny resemblance to a Smurf’s head.  I wondered if that was in fact the Big Blue Nation he was referring to?  If that indeed was the case…well, it did make some sense in a surreal sort of way.  There are many cultures that have legends about “little people”.  I asked what he was doing with the sandals and he said that working with footwear was his specialty.  Each shoe, in this case, each lost sandal…has a direct connection to the soul of its former owner and is holy to them.  The weight of each person is impressed into the sole’s foam and is as individual as a fingerprint.  In his culture, they have a saying that you can’t fully understand someone until you stand in their shoes.  I said we have a similar saying.  The Shoe Shaman said that his goal is to affect the river’s empathy and not to further enrage it for taking the water and environment for granted. My new friend was attempting to appease the flood waters by asking the river to forgive our carelessness and to accept the sacrifice that had been prepared for it on this altar of wood.  The shaman assured me that only in this way would the river agree to return to its normal banks and not seek out our kind that had been hurtful towards it.

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation with the skyline of Louisville across the river, April 2015

At the water's edge, the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I’ll admit that the idea of a revenge seeking river stunned me some, however, history is full of epic floods.  In our arrogance, we forget how at Nature’s mercies we really are.  My curiosity sated…it was time to move on.  I left the shaman at that interstitial zone between water and land.  Slogging through the mud, I paused briefly sitting on a dry log and thought about what I had witnessed as I also picked the mud off the bottom of my shoes.  I am hoping that he was successful in intervening on our behalf and only time will tell.  For my part, I will never forget the scene and will pledge to do my part to be respectful towards creation by celebrating it and in doing so…hope to save myself and those dearest to me.  I don’t ever want one of our soles to go missing and find itself on a log floating somewhere along the Ohio River.  Until the river retreats…

The Sandal, Wood Altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

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