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Posts Tagged ‘found toys’

Landscape at the Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

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

Sunflowers at the Falls, Sept. 2013

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

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

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

Orangey-tickseed, Sept. 2013

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

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

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

"rubberized" foam doll body, Sept. 2013

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

red, plush toy snake, Sept. 2013

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

Freshwater Drum, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

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

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

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

The Silvergill, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

Silvergill, Sept. 2013, Falls of the Ohio

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

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

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wildflowers, April 2013

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

female mallard resting on one leg, April 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

my outdoor studio spot at the Falls, April 2013

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

three coils of frayed barge cable, April 2013

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

Flood Brother #2 as I found him, April 2013

detail, head of Flood Brother #2, April 2013

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

message in the sand, April 2013

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

large, anonymous driftwood spiral, April 2013

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

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

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

repaired Flood Brother #2, April 2013

spruced up studio site with repaired Flood Brother, April 2013

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

Eastern Garter Snake, Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

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Figure with Bear Hat, Feb. 2013

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

blue plastic watch, Feb. 2013

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

former Colgate Clock, 2012

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

white plastic astronaut, Feb. 2013

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

very small plastic doll head and walnut, Feb. 2013

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

 

Toy wheels found today. Feb. 9, 2013

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

3 plastic toy hammers found on 2/9/13

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

more found plastic toys, Feb. 2013

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

four fishing lures, Feb. 2013

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

colorful, disposable cigarette lighters, Feb. 2013

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

My outdoor studio, Feb. 2013

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Hello all and welcome to another adventure set at the Falls of the Ohio.  Since my last visit, the Ohio River has risen in response to all the rain that fell in the northern portion of the Ohio Valley and has flowed down river in a southwestern direction.  The fossil beds normally exposed during the summer and early autumn months are now submerged by swiftly flowing water.  Walking this ever shifting shoreline I’m open for whatever presents itself as novel and different.  Turning the corner around a  stand of willow trees I was caught by this unusual sight.

A tree captured barge cable or rope was in a different position from the last time I had noticed it (see this year’s Halloween post).  It is possible that the river rose high enough to dislodge it from its previous resting spot.  I was struck by the way it seemingly is suspended in mid-air with its regular yellow and black intervals contrasting with the unruly roots and branches around it.  Around here, water can both rise and fall quickly.  In the fine silt and mud you can often find interesting patterns that were created by the movement of wind and water.  Here is such an example.

The back and forth rhythm of the river caressing the land are recorded as peaks and valleys in this very fine mud.  I can be “hypnotized” at times by concentrating on this movement which I find soothing.  I’m always interested in the various subtle patterns that water can create on the mud of the riverbank.  It’s akin to trying to “track” water and recognize its footprint as it moves onto the land. I also noticed about a two foot tall, low “wall” of material (mostly wood and dried grasses) along the shoreline that marks this latest high water moment.  And of course, there is always the ever-present mostly plastic junk that also gets swept away and mixes with the natural debris.  I found lots of plastic detergent bottles, bits and pieces from toys including another doll’s head.  Here are images of other finds including an interesting toy ball.

I’m assuming this is a dog toy based on the image of the dog on the ball?  The small knobs are different from the usual balls I find out here.  Now, for a bright blue comb in a design that’s also new to me.  The tiny grains around the comb are seeds from various river grasses.

More ” blueness”  in the form of plastic wheels on a wrecked pull toy.

In the mud, I came across this other type of footprint that I thought was a bit unusual from the norm.  Of course, it’s a sports shoe with cleats on the bottom sticking up from the mud.

And one last found wheel whose radial pattern inspired another image in my ever-growing “Coal Flake” series.

I’ve come to really like making these designs from river-altered coal that I find at the Falls.  I’m under the impression that this coal has fallen or been swept off the immense barges that transport this fuel up and down the river.  I suppose it’s possible that somewhere along the river’s journey the water has cut down through the rock to expose a coal seam somewhere, but I haven’t ever heard of this happening.  The barges seem the likeliest answer.  This particular example has more Asiatic Clam shells used in the design.  These clams are the most common of their kind that I find at the Falls.  Once upon a very recent time a go, the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys were the world’s epicenter for fresh water clams.  By altering the rivers and the water quality in them, many of these amazing creatures have either gone extinct or have become so very rare.  The Asiatic Clam is a non-native animal imported here in the 19th century as a good luck charm and has thrived as has the Zebra Mussel that you may have heard about?  The day was moving on and except for a few Mallard ducks and Canada geese I hadn’t seen much in the way of wildlife.  I decided to end my day by doing a little fishing.  I found a short, recently beaver-chewed willow branch and attached some waste fishing line I found.  I attached a hook and found bobber and into the water it went.

Oh, for bait I caught a small grasshopper and attached it to the hook.  A small found lead weight kept the bait below the water.  Every once in a while I would raise my short pole up and down in a “jigging” motion.  To my immense surprise I caught this very unusual fish!

This fish is called the Iron Gill based on the metallic covers it sports around its gills.  Other distinctive features include bright blue eyes and a small white dorsal fin.  It’s body shape is unique and lends itself to easy filleting…although I wouldn’t normally recommend eating the fish from this part of the river.  Catching this fish here was a surprise because normally this is a deep water fish found in large flowing rivers.

This species was first described to science by Constantine Rafinesque back in 1811.  Rafinesque was a controversial figure and brilliant naturalist.  He had a gift for collecting and recognizing new species, however, in his zest to publish and receive credit for his discoveries he was very sloppy in his methods.  As a result, many of the animals and plants he introduced to science are poorly described and classified which led to much confusion and consternation among the other “scientifics” of the time.  In the end, Rafinesque usually won out because science gives priority to the person who first (no matter how poorly) brings the new creature to the world’s attention.

After this last image, I released the Iron Gill back into the water and rebaited my hook.  Alas, this was the only fish I caught on this day, but it reassured me that my skills in this area were still intact.  For my next post, I want to show you images of a coal-themed exhibition I’m participating in the nearby town of  New Albany, Indiana.  It’s a good show and worth a post.  For now, I would like to close with another image of a found toy I came across on this day.  Have a great weekend out there in the wider world!

 

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I confess that I like the word “plush”.  In my mind it evokes a sense of luxury and well-being.  I roll the word around my mouth like a fine wine and I also get overtones of comfort, safety, warmth, softness, and abundance.  I feel similarly about the word “verdant”, but that’s the subject of another post.  Returning to “plush”…it is also a word used to describe a variety of soft, sewn toys usually made with polyester fibers.  This includes most of the teddy bears and stuffed animals that one is likely to come across today.  In my own family, plush toys are and were among our most beloved and trusted playthings and misplacing or losing one was like losing a member of the family itself.  Which brings me to this portfolio of images taken with found plush toys in situ that I stumbled upon at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Each toy was probably loved by some child and if these images hold any power it probably derives from feelings of separation and loss.  I’m also interested in them as aspects of our material culture that manifest themselves as more junk for the environment to try to absorb.  All these plush toys were deposited by the Ohio River and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some of these objects probably floated hundreds of miles to reach my camera’s lens.  Here are some of my “favorite” images in this “genre” and I’ll start with the object I’m holding in the first picture.

Once upon a time this was an impressive toy.  I think this is “Pink” from the famous Pink Panther cartoon series.  Lifting it from the mud took some effort because its stuffing has been replaced with impacted mud.  This toy had effectively merged with its muddy matrix.

I also found this cute plush dinosaur embedded in the mud.  Later I set him up on a log and took his portrait in the context of where he was found.  He’s a friendly tyrannosaur photographed against a fossil landscape that predates the real dinosaurs by millions of years.

This was an unusual find.  Later I identified this as a  child’s slipper featuring a Rug-rats character, but it fits my plush category nevertheless!  Now let’s look at some teddy bears.

This was once a member of the Care Bear clan.  Here’s a different kind of bear minus his stuffing.

I came across this unfortunate bear in the sand.  Somehow he lost all his stuffing and was essentially just a hollow skin which I salvaged and used as a costume for one of my Styrofoam figures I later entitled “Cubby”.

This bear was still in the process of arriving by water when I came across him.  The black background is coal gravel and dust while the white dots are the remains of broken clam shells.  I’m sure you will recognize my next find.

My eldest son has the exact sized Pooh bear that he has treasured all his life.  Even though he’s now a teenager, I noticed that Pooh still occupies a prominent place in his room.  Here’s one last bear and its a little different and may not “technically” qualify as a plush toy.  Nevertheless, I found it appealing and I include it with the others.

Let’s try a change of pace and include a few rather small stuffed toy objects I’ve found over the last couple of years.

This looks to be some kind of flamingo head.

I’m not really sure what this might represent…it could be a moon or a vegetable?

Here’s another object I had trouble identifying.  I like how the cockle burrs are hitching a ride on its knitted surface.  Here are few toys that either are or were inspired by Beanie Babies.

The purple reindeer was photographed against the blackness of coal dust and gravel.

I believe this is another beanie baby-styled toy in the form of a purple cow?

I believe this tiny plush toy is meant to represent a killer whale.  Here’s an image that came out of the floods from two years a go.

This guy is clearly an elephant.  When I was a child I had a Dumbo character soft animal toy.

Another hard for me to identify figure, but the destroyed aluminum can help give you a sense of how large this plush toy is.  Could this be some type of Halloween toy?

Over the years I have found many surprises buried in the sand.  When I spotted the above object…I had no idea what it was until I lifted it up.  This is what I found.  I remember staring at the blue eye!

To my surprise emerged the form of this friendly and shaggy green parrot.  I placed him upon a branch for others to find and moved on.  We are getting close to being done!  Here are a few more found figures.

A sharp-eyed observer identified this as the Magician character from the Frosty the Snowman cartoon.  Makes sense to me because I found him right after Christmas of that year.  Could have been some child’s gift that wasn’t properly appreciated and in to the river you go?

I don’t know why I remember this now, but I believe this figure was once used to advertise a barbecue restaurant?  Could have had additional info on the back of the shirt, but I also could be completely wrong about this.  It might simply be a birthday wish novelty.  I think you will recognize this next one.

This isn’t the original Raggedy Ann doll, but a similar conception.  I found it face down in the sand and flipped it over for this photo.

I live in a basketball crazy region, but this is the first time I’ve encountered this object.  I know it references basketball, but what else is it intended to do?  What purpose do the white cords serve?   It definitely has plush elements.

This is me standing in my beat up Falls shoes next to a found plush “dog bone”.    My dog makes short work of any plush toys she comes across.  She knows how to get her teeth around their seams and split their contents open.  This makes me wary to think that this orange bone might be a dog’s toy…but what else could it be?  The Ohio River is always presenting me with such conundrums, however, I enjoy putting on my thinking cap and trying to puzzle them out.  I hope you liked some of the images and I will leave you with this final one of the parrot in the place where I left him for others to find.

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