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Posts Tagged ‘found objects’

Entry into the Giles Gallery, Sept. 24, 2015

My Artist at Exit 0 show opened at the Giles Gallery on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY.  I was able to make the opening reception which is a two-hour drive from my house.  Gallery Director, Esther Randall did a great job of installing the artworks so they flowed easily from one piece to the next.  I was wondering if I had brought too many or too few art works, but it seems everything worked out just right.

"La Belle Riviere" at the Giles Gallery, Eastern KY University, Sept. 24, 2015

I was especially interested in how Esther would display my giant necklace entitled “La Belle Riviere”?  She mounted the piece in a corner of the gallery and created a shape similar to the one I photographed on the willow tree.  I had a new enlargement of that image created, a dye sublimation print on aluminum and it looked great located near the actual necklace.

Dye sublimation print, "La Belle Riviere", Giles Gallery, E.K.U., Sept. 2015

What was especially gratifying was getting to meet and talk with some of the art students and faculty members who attended the reception.  Many of them had previewed the show and a few had formed opinions which they shared with me.  There was a lot of curiosity about the work.  In general, the artworks were received favorably, however, knowing what my materials are and how I obtained them is also a sad state of affairs that left a few of the students feeling conflicted.  My art is my attempt to reconcile those very same feelings within me.  I describe the situation as being “absurd” which to me is a word that encapsulates both comedy and tragedy.  Many of my Falls artworks have a surface charm to them, but when you dig a little deeper you find a darker side that critiques our handling of and perceived place within nature.

Al with students (1), Giles Gallery, E.K.U., Sept. 24, 2015, photo by Esther Randall

The reception lasted just a couple of hours and the time went by quickly.  Before leaving for home, I did a quick spin around the space and made these snapshots of my work installed in the gallery.  At home, I’m used to seeing them stacked on boxes or leaning on one another in my basement.  Lack of storage space is also one reason I don’t save every work I make at the Falls of the Ohio.  For me, it is also an odd feeling seeing my work on pedestals and treated the way other art is presented.  That is another whole discussion altogether and it was touched upon in my conversations with the students.  Following are a few more gallery views.

Al art on exhibit at the Giles Gallery, E.K.U., Sept. 2015

Giles Gallery, E.K.U. September 2015

Giles Gallery, E.K.U., "Yellow Concentrate" and "Styro-beaver", Sept. 2015

Giles Gallery, E.K.U., Sept. 2015

Giles Gallery, E.K.U., Sept. 2015

Gallery view, E.K.U. Sept. 2015

Here’s a few images of new works and details from favorite pieces.  Let’s start with my plastic bottle piece, “Petrochemical Color Spectrum”.  It’s a more formal work, but I like the color it brings to the show.

"Petrochemical Color Spectrum", found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2015

Another bottle piece from a few years back and made with found coal, plastic and glass bottles, and wood…entitled, “Mountaintop Mini-bar”.

" Mountaintop Mini--bar", found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2015

Here’s a detail from a figurative sculpture I created entitled “The Inhaler”.  Finding the inhaler on the riverbank was the starting point for this work.

detail from "The Inhaler", Giles Gallery, E.K.U., September 2015

A recent figurative work…”Jimmy D.”  This piece has a nice presence to it.  I think making the eyes a bit mismatched contributes to that.

Detail of "Jimmy D.", Giles Gallery, E.K.U., Sept. 2015

A couple more images before closing this post.  I did send Esther an artist’s statement I used unsuccessfully while applying for a grant.  She did a good job editing it and this was posted on the gallery walls.

Artist's Statement, Giles Gallery, E.K.U., September 2015

I was sorry to see the night drawing to an end, but there was one other nice surprise in store for me.  On the drive home, I was treated to a really wonderful sunset!  The exhibition will remain on view through October 16, 2015.  See you soon near the banks of the Ohio River.

Kentucky sunset, Sept. 24, 2015

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E.K.U. show card, Sept. 2015

Although this is my first post of the month…my heart has not been far from the river or the odd kind of art that I make from the found remains of our material culture.  A few months back, I accepted the generous offer from Esther Randall, who is the Gallery Director of the Giles Galleries at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond to show in their upstairs gallery.  The bottom gallery will hold the colorful welded sculptures of Walter Early and his show will run concurrently with mine.  I do like the postcard Esther created.  She found two works by two very different artists that share the word “star” in their titles.  Our exhibitions will open during the upcoming week and if you happen to be in the area.  Please do stop by and check out our art shows.  Richmond is about 22 miles past Lexington, KY or about an hour and 45 minute drive from Louisville.  Here is the reverse of the card that gives other particulars about the opening reception and run of the show.

E.K.U. show card info, Sept. 2015

As you can see, my show is called “Albertus Gorman: Artist from Exit 0”.  For all the work I’ve done at the river, I still identify very much with the “Exit 0” sense for place and the slightly existential “feel” that it implies to me.  So much of my river art has been located in that interstitial area between the natural and artificial, between water and solid land, and between my own despair for the continued environmental degradation I experience in the park and the hope and optimism I want to feel as a human being rooted in the physical world.  So what am I going to present in this newest exhibition?

Al's art at home, Sept. 2015

Like many artists, I have the world’s greatest collection of my own artwork…or at least the pieces I’ve bothered to save from the river.  Like many artists, I tend to keep moving forward making new stuff which means that many pieces exist that may have been shown only once or not at all.  Of course, that is a big shame because different contexts bring out different qualities in the individual works and potential relationships that exist with the other pieces on exhibit.

Al's art at home, Sept. 2015

Here are a few more artworks I have “staged” prior to loading them in a cargo van.  I have many figurative Styrofoam sculptures that I have never shown in exhibition contexts.  In the above image, you can see my latest piece which continues the work I have been doing with found plastic containers.  I built a wall-mounted shelf from river-gifted wood and arranged the colorful plastic containers that I have also scavenged off the riverbank.  The individual bottles have Velcro on their bottoms to help secure them onto their narrow shelf.  A length of twine is there to help keep the bottles together while in transport.

Delivered sculptures at E.K.U., Sept. 2015

All of these Styro-sculptures have stories associated with them and I remember them like old friends!  This blog is their genealogical source recording their creation, their “lives” as art objects, and in some cases…even their demise.

Unloaded art work at the Giles Gallery, Sept. 2015

My work prior to installation at the Giles Gallery, Sept. 2015

I have five new works that were created specifically for this show.  Three of them are larger photo enlargements I have had made that show works I created in the contexts of their river environments.  For now, I will let Esther work her magic and I will post other images from the completed installation.  I also have one other project going on that I have remained mum about so far.  As you might remember, the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center has been closed for renovation as they upgrade their displays?  Well, they have contracted with me to create an assemblage on a roughly 8 foot by 4 foot wooden panel showing some of the river junk I have collected within the park.  I am really excited by this since this panel will be a part of their new presentation and will be the last panel seen as you exit the new displays.  Thousands of people (many school tours) will get a chance to see this piece which will document many of the things that you can unfortunately find in the Ohio River.  This panel is due soon and I have a lot of work left to do on it.  Once completed, it will slide into a vertical case with a sheet of plexiglas with some text elements on it to help explain, cover, and protect it.  It has already gone through several permutations, but for the moment, I will show just a few images taken of it in progress.  Here are images from Phase 1.

Panel for Interpretive Center, Phase 1, August 2015

 

Falls Panel, Phase 1, Aug. 2015

Detail, of Falls panel, Phase 1, August 2015

As you can tell, this can go in a lot of different directions because of the wealth of materials available.  All the stuff going onto this panel will have been collected within the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  There is no need to go anywhere else!  I want it to be as authentic as possible in so far as representing the kinds of stuff you can find floating in the Ohio River.  Since these images were made, Solidlight (the Louisville-based company creating the new Interpretive Center displays) has suggested some changes.  They want to see more driftwood used as a unifying element which should be easy enough to do.  I hope, however, that they will appreciate that people will be just as interested in the variety of crap I’ve collected as well and not settle for a cross-section of materials that can be found at the water’s edge.  To see that, a visitor simply needs to go down to the river to experience that already in place.  My good friend, sculptor Tom Butsch is letting me use his studio to construct this.  My own space at home is simply not large enough to accommodate this.  A couple more pictures before ending.

Beginning of Phase 2, Sept. 2015

A river found barge cable and section from a set of stairs are big individual elements going onto this panel.  I keep playing around with different compositions.  The trick for me is in keeping it more informal.  My impulse as an artist is to want to order this in some more formal way.  I will let you know how all this turns out.  I have an early October deadline, so this panel will be my focus for the next few weeks.  Until then…and from the banks of the Ohio River…see you next time.

Falls panel, Phase 2, Sept. 2015

 

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Detail, Western Petroleum Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, early August 2015

Hot, sticky, and the humidity had me sweating the moment I entered the park.  Today’s outing seemed more like an extreme sport than an attempt at art making.  I decided to focus my efforts in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  I knew the recent flooding we had experienced would more than likely deposit a lot of junk and debris along the driftwood cluttered shoreline.  I was right about that, but first I had to “earn it”.  To access the shoreline in this area of the park required going over, under, and around large trees that had either blown over by high winds or were undermined by the soil being washed away from the riverbank.

Driftwood on the riverbank, Falls of the Ohio, early August 2015

One thing I noticed being in this section of the park…was that all the purple loosestrife seemed to be gone.  Normally, one can expect to find a whole host of butterfly and other insect species sipping nectar from the colorful flowers.  On this expedition, I did not see one bloom from this admittedly invasive species.  I think the Ohio River’s recent bouts of high water must have affected them?  I find this somewhat unusual since I associate them with growing in very damp areas.  Perhaps in their case, too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing?  I will do some research to see if my hunch is true.  Regardless of no purple loosestrife, there were plenty of vines to snag and trip over making the footing tricky…as if the soft mud and irregular surfaces of the driftwood weren’t enough of a challenge!

My walking stick and found plastic items, early August, 2015, Falls of the Ohio

With the hot sun beating on me, I faithfully search the riverbank and collected the colorful discarded items that were first “gifted” to the river and then to me.  Walking from one promising area to another…I found enough plastic junk to make my next site specific piece.  Here’s another look at some of the objects that I found on this day.

River junk, Falls of the Ohio, early August 2015

The really bright and colorful plastic objects virtually scream at you when you bother to pay attention.  Otherwise, it’s all just part of the material crap we create and dispose of indiscriminately.  Maybe because I’m looking for this kind of thing…I see it more easily.  I’ve trained my eye to spot the unnatural colors mixed among the gray and brown tones of the driftwood.  I decided to set up a display in a particularly promising area between two debris fields that was also close to the river.  I looked around and gathered some old milled boards and set them up on short, cut logs and before long had a table-like altar to lay my plastic treasures upon.  Following are several looks at the completed work.

The Western Petroleum Rainbow assemblage, Falls of the Ohio, early August 2015

Here’s a view from behind the piece.  You can see other bottles and junk mixed into the driftwood in the foreground.  I set this piece up on an area of cracked and drying river mud.

Western Petroleum Rainbow, early August 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Now a view from the front.  I placed this work here to take advantage of the sunlight which was beginning to set in the late afternoon.  I also wanted the verdant darkness behind all the colors to help create greater contrast.  There are three tiers of boards that I used for this display.  As is usual, I found less of some colors and more of others.  In this instance, I could have used a few more orange plastic objects, but just one small plastic bottle was all I found this time.

Angled view, Western Petrochemical Rainbow, early August, 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Detail view, Park West Petrochemical Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, early August 2015

In the late afternoon, all the various colors in this plastic are energized by the sun’s electromagnetic spectrum which causes this junk to glow.  It’s the “golden hour” and one of my favorite times of day for its ability to infuse and unify the everyday with magic.  I have stayed out on the river far longer than I first anticipated.  The gnats and mosquitoes have had their way with me.  Plus all my granola bars for energy have been consumed and my water ran out a couple of hours a go.

Back view, Park West Petrochemical Rainbow

I’m fading fast and still have a long hike to make.  All the obstacles that were there on the way in will also be there on the way out of the park.  I took one last look back at my most recent project and decide that it is the best I can do at this particular moment.  I’m calling this one, the “Park West Petrochemical Rainbow” so I can remember what section of the park I visited when I assembled this piece.  I picked up my collecting bag and walking stick and made sure I wasn’t leaving something I might need behind me.  The rest is one foot in front of the other.  I let the fading beauty of the light distract me from my discomforts.  Food, water, and a nice shower are waiting for me at the end of the line.  See you later from the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Sunset at the Falls of the Ohio, early August 2015

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After the last high waters, late July, 2015

Eventually, the water does go back down and reveals after the fact, all the newest changes that the river has made in the park.  You saw part of that in my last post with the way one favorite willow tree has been shaped by this latest event.  In many places in the park, you can find logs that floated here from some potentially far away places.

Stranded logs on the wier dam wall, with the City of Louisville in the background, late July 2015. Falls of the Ohio

Just a few weeks earlier, I posted images of Asian carp jumping over this very same spot.  The walls of the dam were no obstacle then.  Now the dam has been “graced” with many logs that were stranded along the top.  They will stay here until the next flooding event or until something else shifts the balance.

My green bottle piece after the latest flood, late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Because this is summer and we have experienced so much rain, all the vegetation is really lush.  Familiar paths are overgrown and the heat and humidity seem trapped at ground level.  I am completely sweaty in no time at all.  I went and checked out the green bottle piece I had made many weeks a go and it is still relatively in place.  I assembled it on top of a large driftwood mound that this latest bout of high water was unable to fully reach.  I can tell that the mound has shifted some and all of the bottles have settled within the upturned boat dock.  Now, the entire mound is covered in vines.  This makes it especially tricky to walk over.  I snapped a few pictures and moved to the safety of the riverbank.  There are lots of areas to explore and who knows what we shall find?

River coconut, Late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Slogging through the mud and wetness along the river’s edge, I make this amazing discovery.  It’s a River coconut!  I wonder what the tree that produced this hairy fruit looks like?  Since much of the water that reaches us here flows from the north downward, I imagine that this is one hardy tree.  I guess the coconut’s shagginess is a coping mechanism for cold winters?  As we walk, there are more discoveries to be made.

Giant toy watch or ?, late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Further down the riverbank I encounter this object.  I am holding it as I am because initially, I thought this was an extra-large toy wristwatch minus the hands and numbers.  Since I have been able to examine it more closely from the leisure of my home…I am now thinking that this is a child’s pro wrestling inspired championship belt?  All the glued on rhinestones must have fallen off while the river carried it away from wherever it originated from.

Broken, blue plastic dolphin riding toy, late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Walking further west…I discover the remains of a riding toy.  This is a blue plastic dolphin that came to rest in the Willow Habitat.  There are more plastic items to find.  Next was perhaps my favorite find of the day.

River patinated, plastic doll shoe, late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

This is so small, that I’m surprised I spotted it among all the other small items both natural and artificial.  It’s of course a plastic doll shoe, but this one has a nice patina acquired from being in the river for a while.  I still find many dolls and doll parts, but this little doll accessory is a rare find.  Unfortunately, there is also plenty of other plastic in the park that isn’t so hard to find.  Here’s one such example as I found it in place.

Plastic jugs in a mud puddle, Late July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Three plastic bottles and containers rest in a pretty disgusting looking puddle.  The orange color is actually something I find occurring here naturally and may be due to some red oxide that exists below the many levels of clay and sand.  Of late, I have been collecting various plastic bottles and creating other site specific pieces with them.  On this particular day, I made a relatively small one due to time constraints.  I have often found that it is good to have some limits with this river art.  Simply, there are so many things one can work with and I have added to my vocabulary of forms and materials slowly over the years.

Plastic bottle composition, heavy with the black, Falls of the Ohio, late July 2015

detail of colorful bottle piece, Falls of the Ohio, late July 2015

Like some of my previous efforts, I chose a particularly promising area that seemed to have a “wealth” of plastic bottles and containers.  I then set out to find colorful examples to make an assemblage with.  I like contrasting the high artificiality of these bright objects with the more subdued organic efforts of Mother Nature.  The high-keyed colors are often cheery.  I think that even on a subconscious level, we recognize the former products that were in these bottles even without their original labels which have washed away.  From our own household experiences and uses, we are reassured by the soap that will clean our clothes or the oil that keeps our engines humming and in good condition.  That’s where the tension lies in these simple assemblages…we know that this is far from the case.   Since we now know that these containers and the products they once held were extracted from nature at great cost.  In the aftermath of use…that cost continues as the packaging is disposed of irresponsibly.  This particular artwork is heavy on the black which influences things as well.  I simply found more black containers on this day and used them.  After a few photographs, I picked up my collecting bags and headed home exhausted from slogging through the mud, heat, and humidity.  I’ll leave this post with one more view from the Indiana side of the Ohio River.  On the way home, I noticed a small flock of Canada Geese gliding past the skyline of Louisville and the river seemed at peace for the moment.  Catch you later from the Falls of the Ohio.

Skyline of Louisville with Canada Geese swimming, Late July 2015

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Driftwood and debris in flood aftermath, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

A view from last weekend when the water level was dropping and the sun was shining and welcoming.  Curiosity overwhelmed me and I ventured forth over the driftwood piles and muddy riverbanks.  Looks like most of the driftwood at the Interpretive Center has been washed away, however, under the railroad bridge, a sizeable mound of twisted matter has accumulated.  To avoid sinking ankle-deep in mud…I gingerly walk on the backs of huge logs and pick my way through the debris field.

Junk under the bridge at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Plastic and polystyrene debris, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

This most recent bit of flooding has deposited a large number of plastic drinking bottles onto this landscape.  I am assuming that the river isn’t through rising for the moment because two days ago…we received about six inches of new rain overnight.  Statistically, that was the most rain ever recorded on an April day in Kentucky’s history and the fourth biggest rainfall total for a day during any month in our state’s experience. We had a lot of localized flooding from that storm and coupled with the immense fire at the General Electric Appliance Park, put the national spotlight on Louisville…twice in one day.  The GE fire and subsequent thick, nasty smoke with its fumes and particulate matter from incinerated plastic rose into the clouds and was a nearly apocalyptic vision.  Many people mistook the immense column of smoke for a tornado and the weather services were peppered with false alarms.  All this goes into saying that environmentally, it’s been a rough few weeks around here.  Spring while lovely with the returning sunshine and greenery, also has this dark side which it is not afraid to show from time to time.

Three Stooges ball found at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

I can be sure to find novelties among all this brown materiality.  Can’t say I have ever come across a Three Stooges ball before and there they were, Larry, Curley, and Moe looking up at me!  There were other treasures as well.  Here’s a snapshot of a toy I found that I dropped into the old collecting bag.

old plastic toy, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Discovered resting upon the wood and bark chips was this plastic fragment from a vintage toy.  It is missing it’s backside.  I have found similar old toys before and now suspect the river has cut into a landfill and liberated these older toys from the ground.

dead Asian carp, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Came across this large carp which was one of three dead animals I found.  Also located the remains of a Black Vulture and a Canvasback Duck that looked to be what was left from a bird of prey’s meal.  Every now and then, you discern a sickly sweet smell emanating from the driftwood and you know some other unfortunate life form is buried under the debris.

My "Unidentified Floating Platform" and former studio area, March 2015

This is the centerpiece of my former outdoor studio area where I had cached many of the materials I found in the park.  All the Styrofoam pieces I had salvaged for artworks have washed away, but there is a fresh batch for the picking.  This large, painted, metal disc is what I’ve been calling the “UFO” which is short for Unknown Floating Object.  It washed into the park several years a go and subsequent floods have yet to move it out.  It is now tilted and has all this driftwood around it.  Formerly, it was laying flat on the ground and made a nice surface to work on.  My time is limited today and I want to make something from all this “abundance” out here.  I select a few large chunks of Styrofoam and begin constructing a figure.

Large, Styrofoam head in progress, March 2015

Some of the large pieces of Styrofoam I want to work with are water-logged and too heavy to move.  I will wait a few weeks and see if the sun dries them out more?  I select two pieces for what will be a large, absurd figure and get to work.  I pick up junk around my feet and created this large head.  I move a really large polystyrene block into place atop the driftwood pile next to a river buoy that says “Idle Zone” on it.  For the next couple of hours, I will be anything but idle.

March Madness at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Head of "March Madness", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

While I was constructing this figure, I decided to call it “March Madness”.  According to the Walls Street Journal and ESPN, the Louisville area is the epicenter of interest in the college basketball game and its season ending national championship tournament.  Our region usually has several teams competing for top honors.  On the day I made this figure, the University of Louisville Cardinals were knocked out of contention.  I attached an old basketball to the end of a very long arm.  The slight breeze blowing at the time caused the figure’s arms and head to sway and vibrate in place.

"March Madness", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Back of "March Madness" facing the City of Louisville, March 2015

I look forward to spending a bit more time out here…weather permitting.  If everything remains in place, there is a chance to make several large figures this season.  I will be curious to see if this figure is still standing or whether park visitors or the elements have toppled it?  I just received a notification from WordPress that I have just reached my sixth anniversary of blogging with them!  For today, I will end with a picture of a tree that recently was completely underwater.  You can tell how high the water rose from the junk caught among the branches.  Happy Easter everybody!

Willow tree, formerly underwater, with debris stuck in its branches, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

 

 

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City of Louisville, KY as seen across flooded Ohio River, March 2015

The Ohio River remained higher than expected and was bolstered by a few days of rain.  I visited the Falls of the Ohio last weekend during a moment when the water level had dropped just enough to reveal a muddy shoreline with its accompanying line of stranded debris.  The places in the park I like to work and visit were still underwater.

Louisville as seen from the muddy Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

I put on my “Falls shoes” which were already muddy and that I keep outside on the front porch of my house and headed for the river.  As usual, I brought a collecting bag and camera with me and ventured forth to see what there was to see.  In places, you could tell that the river with its water-born logs had acted as a battering ram and pretty much leveled the vegetation nearest to the water.

"river shivers", Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

The silt and clay are both very fine and sticky when wet.  I gingerly step on wood and other debris to keep from sinking ankle-deep in this quagmire.  I enjoy looking at the rippling wave patterns that the water creates.  I call this “river shivers” and imagine if the riverbank could display “goose-flesh” that it would look something like this.  And speaking of geese…

tracks made by geese, Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

domestic goose at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

…the flock of Canada geese I photographed the previous week, left their footprints everywhere in the mud.  Their friend, the ex-patriot domestic goose, was still hanging out with them.

High water trash at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Of course, nearly every place you looked, you could see man-made trash and driftwood.  Much of this material has originated far from here.  When things finally dry out enough for a more thorough exploration, I’m expecting to find all kinds of examples of our material culture washed into the park.

flood born trash at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Interspersed with the bottles are lots of other plastic items and various foam-based garbage including Styrofoam…my primary sculptural material.  This is just a detail of one small area.  Already I’m seeing hundreds of plastic drinking bottles.  I’ve been asked on more than one occasion if I’m ever afraid that I might poison myself or get an infection from something that I’ve found out here by the river.  My short answer is yes.  One needs to be concerned, however, I don’t press my luck with anything that looks at all questionable.  I guess I do place a lot of trust that the billions of gallons that constitutes the Ohio River does in effect “wash” the stuff that I use.  So far, knock on wood, I’ve never had an adverse reaction after working out here for more than a decade.  The Falls of the Ohio State Park is a public space and what I encounter is also what the public encounters.

trunk load of river junk, March 2015

Here’s the trunk of my car after this brief foray to the river.  This may be hard for some of you to believe, but I’m actually very selective now. These days, I only carry back to my home work space, the “cream of the crop”.  I prefer to make my artworks at the river, but will also take materials home to “hedge my bets” and for workshop purposes.  The larder I had created at my “UFO” (Unknown Floating Object) outdoor studio is now long gone and I wonder if that circular metal platform is still around…or has it finally floated away too?

Galerie Hertz exhibition announcement, March 2015

While temporally stymied by water and mud, I have the opportunity to interact with the local art world in a more usual way.  Galerie Hertz which represents my art in Louisville opened a collage and assemblage group show.  Billy and his partner Tom have been important players in our city’s cultural life.  They have been rightly credited for creating an arts district on Market Street through the activities of their renovated galleries.  Each new space the pair opened was an upgrade of a building that needed some help.  This gentrification has attracted other galleries and dealers, bars, restaurants, and several home décor stores along Market Street.  In typical Galerie Hertz fashion, Billy and Tom have moved on to a different location and their current gallery where I’m showing my works is now on South Preston Street.  How often is it the case that creative folks move into formerly neglected areas and bring them to back to life?

"Moon Star", found objects from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Among the works I have in this group show is this piece entitled “Moon Star”.  I made this piece at the river, but felt is could use a bit more embellishment.  I added many found bicycle tire reflectors and some river-polished glass around the head.  When the light hits it just right, the reflectors just glow.

"Polar Beaver", found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

"Polar Beaver", facing left, found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2015

Through the miracle of “Styro-dermy”, I saved the Polar Beaver I encountered recently.  To get this piece to sit the way I want it to…I have embedded three, large, lead fishing weights into the tail to counterbalance the body.

"The Harbinger of Spring", found materials, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

This diminutive figure is called “The Harbinger of Spring” and I created him last year at this time.  I also wrote an accompanying story that helped explain how winter transitions to spring.  Although I like to think that many of my Styrofoam-bodied sculptures can hold their own as freestanding objects…they are also relics and artifacts of a site specific performance that happens out at the river and is additionally documented through photographs and stories.  At the moment, the sun is shining, but it is also cold at the river.  Tomorrow is another day, another day for the river to recede and the mud to dry.  I think I will get up early and give it a go.  I will let you know what I discover at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Railroad bridge at the Falls of the Ohio, March 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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