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Posts Tagged ‘ecological story’

Rose Mallow at the Falls of the Ohio

We have had some stellar days of late with the air so crystalline and fresh that it has been an added bonus to be outside.  The temps have been manageable as well.  I began this post more than a week ago, but put it on the back burner until now.  I am no doubt busier now than I ever have been (particularly at work), but I’m still finding the time to be involved with my own art.  And I must confess…if I have to prioritize whether to stay home and work on a blog article or go to the river and participate in life at that level…well, I think you know what my answer will be!  I have enjoyed blogging, but must admit to myself that what I do will never be most people’s’ idea of a good read, especially since there are now literally millions of blogs out there!  I do still hope, however, to occasionally connect with folks who are creative and just plain interested in nature.

Rose Mallow, red coloring variant, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Recently, I went to the river to find a wealth of Rose Mallows in bloom.  That is not always the case and there have been years when I did not see any.  They have become among my favorite flowers that I can find at the Falls of the Ohio.  Their blooms are huge and there is some variation in our native hibiscus.  In a relatively small area, I found a patch of Rose Mallows showing off those colors which can range from a solid hot pink, to a snow-white blossom.  Usually, most of the mallows will sport some combination of white or pink with a deep scarlet throat.  I couldn’t help collecting a few seed pods and scattering their seeds in other locations I frequent at the Falls.  I don’t think this is technically legal since there is a park rule against collecting wildflowers, but since none of their seeds went home with me…I’m hoping I’ll be okay to do this?

Red Admiral butterfly, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Late summer is also a good time to see which butterflies are around.  The Falls of the Ohio certainly has its regular species who inhabit its various ecological niches.  Here is one of the park’s Red Admirals and it is visiting a “willow lick” to drink up the sugary exudence seeping from a wound in this tree’s bark.  These wounds occur in various ways, but the most common one is with collisions with large floating logs that crash battering ram-style into these willows during flooding.  This happens mostly in late winter or early spring and it is not out of the ordinary to have these willow trees be completely submerged by the Ohio River.  These willow licks attract a variety of insects ranging from butterflies, ants, hornets, and many different types of flies.

butterflies on purple loosestrife, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Of course, every year is different from the last one and so far I have to say I think this has been just an average year for butterflies.  Usually, one species will be found more commonly than the other species.  For example, I can remember certain years where the Viceroy was the most common butterfly.  I have also seen it when the small Pearly Crescent or the larger Buckeye Butterfly were the most plentiful individual species.  This year I can’t tell that one species is more numerous than another.  I like visiting the Purple Loosestrife stands particularly in the western section of the park during the height of their blooming period.  I know this plant is highly invasive, but it also attracts a large amount of insects and butterflies in particular.  Multiple species gravitate towards the nectar these plants produce.  It’s interesting to watch different species feeding on the same plant like in the above photo.   A skipper species (on top) and fritillary species (on the bottom) are coexisting on this flower because this resource is plentiful and the butterflies are focused.  What these loosestrife stands also attract are predators.  It’s common to come across large orb weaving spiders and praying mantises waiting to ambush a meal.  I have come to think of these loosestrife stands as being important feeding areas for the Monarch butterflies that migrate through our area and this has mitigated my feelings towards this invasive plant.

Installation view of show at Artists' Own Gallery, Lafayette, IN, Aug. 2016

Artists' Own Gallery, Lafayette, IN....Aug. 2016

Gallery shot at Artists' Own Gallery, Lafayette, IN, Aug. 2016

View inside my exhibit at Artists' Own Gallery, Lafayette, IN, Aug. 2016

Another reason to be feel grateful is that I have another solo art exhibition and it is currently up at the Artists’ Own Gallery in Lafayette, Indiana.  It’s a co-op space and the duties of running the gallery fall upon the member artists.  I was invited by one of the members to show at their downtown, Main Street location.  The exhibit which is entitled “At the Intersection of Culture and Nature” features a selection of my Styrofoam sculptures along with a few more dye sublimation prints on aluminum I had made of site specific projects that are now gone.  It is all stuff I have found and experienced at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  On the morning the show opened, I gave an artist’s talk and had a nice group present to hear more about how this work came to be.  I even sold a few pieces to help offset the costs of printing my photos and renting a van to haul it all around!  I really liked having the opportunity to show off my “Crying Indian” sculpture once again and it looked completely different in a gallery context as compared to where it was first shown outdoors earlier this year at Hidden Hills Nursery and Sculpture Garden.  All the Artists’ Own artists I met were welcoming and I appreciated their hospitality!  The exhibit will remain up until mid September and so if you find yourself in the area…please stop by and enjoy all the great art on display throughout this beautiful gallery.  Meanwhile, back at the Falls of the Ohio…

Styrofoam stash at the Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Figure idea, head and body, found Styrofoam, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

On my first visit back to the river after my show opened, I had this general feeling of well-being.  I went over to my stash of Styrofoam that I had collected this year and starting putting shapes together.  I soon came up with the requisite head and body for a new and large figurative sculpture I wanted to make.  The large chunk of polystyrene that I used for the figure’s body had been collected months ago, however, it was still a bit waterlogged and heavy to move.

Head of the Grateful Man, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Head and shoulders of the Grateful Man, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Without doing any direct carving, I just accepted the forms that the river had provided for me and went with that.  I did make a few small holes to insert the found objects that would serve as this figure’s features.  The mouth is a piece of wood that looked like a “mouth” when I found it.  The eyes are part of the hull of a Black Walnut that I split in half and inserted into the head.  The nose is a bright orange, Styrofoam fishing float found that morning.  For the ears, I used parts of the sole of an old shoe and then I added a small plastic ring to separate the head from the body which has become my custom over the many years of doing this activity.  The rest is just driftwood picked up on site.Large Figure in Ecstasy, found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, August 2016

The resulting figure is much bigger than me and after I assembled it…I went scouting for a good location to make my pictures.  As you may remember, the large piece of Styrofoam that is the figure’s body was water-logged and so I set it up relatively close to my outdoor atelier.  Although the figure looks to be praying, what I was going for was a trance-like state of ecstasy?  I know I have felt this sensation of being outside one’s self where you feel a part of or kinship with the other living things around you.  Behind the figure is a large log with intact root mass that washed into here during the last good flood.  In this photo, a small flock of Canada Geese does a respectful flyover of their own.

A Canada Goose flyover, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Large Figure in Ecstasy near downed tree, Falls of the Ohio, August 2016

I seem to have started a personal blogging trend where my posts are getting on the long side!  So, this looks like as good a place to wrap this up as any.  By now, my ecstatic figure is probably history and martyred like so many other figures I have left in the park before.  I tell each piece I make and leave behind that this will likely be its fate unless some kind soul takes pity and takes it home with them.  These figures seem to understand.  It’s all about being present in the moment when we are at our most alive.  I have more stories to tell and art to share, but will hold of for now.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Three Clouds with Figure in Ecstasy, Falls of the Ohio, August 2016

 

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Tree in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park, Aug. 2013

Resolved to stay away from my old atelier under the willow trees for a while, I decided to explore the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  It was just the most beautiful day and residents of our area have remarked on how unusually nice it’s been of late.  The air today has wonderful clarity and although it’s summer and the sun is shining…we are many degrees below our usual temps.  I feel the western part of the Falls of the Ohio begins once you cross the creek at the end of the Woodland Loop Trail.  This is an area that receives fewer visitors and I’m happy just to wander with nothing on my mind.  As I walk the narrow strip of land that is the riverbank, on my left are sounds from the river and on my right are various bird songs originating under the tree canopy.  I see the formerly high river has deposited driftwood here in new configurations along with the usual plastic junk.  My eyes are open and ready for anything.  I doesn’t take very long before I make the first of several discoveries new to me in and around a patch of Wild Potato-Vines.

Goldstein's False Mum among Wild Potato Vine flowers, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

Close up of Goldstein's False Mum, Aug. 2013

This is Goldstein’s False Mum which is named after the resident naturalist at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  This is another in a series of very odd flowers while being organic by definition  have little in common with the other plants that grow along side of them.  In general, plastic-like blooms and foliage characterize these botanical rarities.  None of these plants (which form a new order of their own called Artificialia ) are capable of photosynthesis despite the appearance of green leaves.  Goldstein’s False Mum is a summer plant that produces a hard, yellow, frilly blossom that appears on the terminal end of a woody stem.  It prefers sandy, disturbed soils or decaying wood and is usually seen in the company of traditional flowering plants.  It produces no scent and no insects were observed being attentive to the false mum.  Now the Wild Potato-Vine is also an interesting plant.  It is a member of the Morning Glory family and its bloom is primarily white with a purplish maroon throat.  I have seen large bumble bees pollinating this flower.  What sets this plant apart is under the ground.  The Wild Potato-Vine produces a large tuber that had food value for the indigenous people.  Here is a another specimen of Goldstein’s False Mum growing out of a soft, decaying log also in the presence of Wild Potato-Vines.

Goldstein's False Mum and Wild Potato-Vine flowers, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

Not too far away and also in association with the Wild Potato-Vines is another type of plastic-like plant and here is its portrait.

Wild Potato-Vine blossom with Saprophytic Zinnia, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

The Saprophytic Zinnia, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

The Log Weed is a saprophytic plant.  Lacking chlorophyll it relies on decaying matter for its sustenance.  The Log Weed is characterized by a corolla of hard plastic-like petals and never has what we would describe as leaves coming off its woody stem.  No one is quite sure how it propagates? Its blossoms appear in mid summer and seem to hang around forever.

Trumpet Creeper, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

These are tubular flowers from the Trumpet Creeper vine which is a native and natural sight at the Falls of the Ohio.  This is a climbing, spreading vine and wood ants seem to love them.  If you look closely at the above photo…you can see several ants crawling on the Trumpet Creeper’s attractive blooms.  I was admiring this vine when I noticed that there was something not quite right about it and this is what I discovered.

Unknown fruit on Trumpet Creeper, Aug. 2013

Notice the yellow orb to the upper right of the Trumpet Creeper blossoms? Thus far, the yellow fruit with its accompanying leaf remain unclassified.  It is, however, grafted to the woody stem of the vine.  Amazingly, it even has a false stem to deceive.  Could it be parasitic?  One hypothesis why this plant with the odd fruit appears with Trumpet Creeper might be the protection it receives from the vine’s wood ants?  The fruit and leaf are also very polymer-like and may indeed be plastic.  More and more we are learning how ubiquitous plastic is in the environment.  I heard a report about the Great Lakes the other day saying that there is a considerable amount of micro plastic in these large bodies of fresh water.  Upon examination, much of this plastic takes the form of tiny balls that are blended into deodorants and toothpaste to make the product flow more evenly.  These beads are so small that they pass through the finest screens at the waste water treatment plants and into the lakes.  I think Nature is metabolizing this plastic and recombining the hydrocarbons in novel ways, but that is just my theory.

Cottonwood tree fort, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

I paid my favorite cottonwood tree a visit and it’s been a while since I took shelter under its large, exposed roots.  People, especially the locals, like hanging out here and I witnessed much less trash since my last visit which is a good thing.  One big “improvement” has been made with the addition of a red, upholstered couch and I took a moment to rest here before moving on.

red couch under the cottonwood tree, Aug. 2013

The couch is very comfortable and I’m amazed that people actually dragged this piece of furniture down here.  Eventually, it will be reclaimed by the river.  Here’s another view from under the tree.

space under the cottonwood tree, Aug. 2013

For those who prefer their comforts a bit more on the rustic side…there is another bench for seating and it’s made from a slab of wood balanced on short logs.

under the cottonwood tree, Aug. 2013

I rested, had a snack and drank some water before moving on.  I’ve designated my intended destination as “Loosestrife Land” for the abundance of these non-native flowers that have taken over moist areas in the western section of the park.  I’m going there seeking something else which will be the subject of my next post.  I’ll catch up with you soon but for now…so long and happy trails to you.

Purple Loosestrife flowers in bloom, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

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