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Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center panel, early October 2015

Although I could have gone on making this panel richer and richer, at a certain point, you need to call this piece finished.  Solid Light, Inc., the Louisville-based exhibit design team responsible for the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center’s renovation wanted to have everything in place by October.  Officially, the center won’t open to the public until January 2016, however, the center wants to do a series of trial runs to see how well the new exhibits will work with school groups under the center’s educational staff.  I worked pretty feverishly at my friend Tom’s large studio to get this panel realized before needing to turn it over to the designers.  Also compelling me was the need to undertake a personal trip to Florida with my family to visit my ailing mother.  Mom is getting better, but it’s just not life anymore if there aren’t many balls being juggled in the air simultaneously!  I had more than enough found objects and river materials to get the job done.  If anything, I may have had too many things to choose from!  For this post, I thought I would share images of the panel in progress as well as some detail shots of its surface.  The fun of this piece is looking up close to see the variety of objects both natural and artificial that have been fixed into place.

 

 

Falls panel at Tom's studio, Sept. 2015

I tried several arrangements before settling on something that I thought would work.  Central in all my compositions was the use of an old marine cable and the fragment from the side of a discarded set of wooden steps.  The design team wanted a look that seemed to suggest that the objects and materials I was going to use had just washed up upon this place.  Having something that appeared casual and spontaneous, but also composed was a big challenge.  My own formalist tendencies wanted to work within a tighter composition, but I relaxed that by doing several dry run layouts before I nailed or glued anything in place.  Of course, there is fantasy operating in the finished panel too because no where at the Falls of the Ohio have I ever encountered this much concentrated stuff in such a small area.

Falls Panel in progress, Sept. 2015

Another step that I realized was prudent before attaching stuff was painting my wood panel.  I went for a mottled brown and gray background that resembled mulch and dried leaves.  I think I did a good job of covering the surface and only in places can you see through to the wood panel below.

Panel painting, Sept. 2015

painted background for Falls panel, Sept. 2015

I was really proud of myself!  I only dipped my painting brush into my coffee once!  Once the surface was dry, I began by attaching the nylon cable around the panel first.  I used a borrowed nail gun hooked up to an air compressor to do this.  In fact, where possible, I used the nail gun as much as I could.  I also used screws and a variety of adhesives (depending upon the material being glued) to attach items to the board.  Working with polystyrene and various plastics can be tricky because certain compounds will eat and dissolve these materials.

Items being attached to the Falls panel, Sept. 2015

I worried that my barge cable might make the panel look too much like the decor you see in seafood restaurants, but I think I managed to barely escape that impression.  After the cable, I attached the wooden steps and glued the larger pieces of Styrofoam into place.  I had other limitations that I haven’t mentioned yet, but this is as good a place as any to say what those were.  First, nothing could project off of the surface any higher than 3.5 to 3.75 inches!  The panel would need to be able to slide into a case that is 4 inches deep.  Another concern was keeping a clean 3/4″ open wood margin along the entire outer edge of the panel.  This would assist in sliding the panel into its case.  Apparently, after the above shot, I didn’t take any more in process photos because I was too busy making the thing!  Here’s a pretty close to finished view of the panel.  I worked on this panel horizontally, but did tip it up to see it as others will see it and to find out if anything would fall off the surface?  Fortunately, everything pretty much stayed in place.

Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center Panel, October 2015

There is a whole list of things you can find on this panel.  On the base level, it is a good mix of the driftwood, polystyrene, glass, coal, aluminum, and other plastics found in the Ohio River.  Here are a few details to give you a better look.

Detail of Falls Panel, Oct. 2015

Broken flamingo, Falls Panel, Oct. 2015

Detail, Hammer and Halloween, Falls Panel, Oct. 2015

Detail of Falls Panel, Oct. 2015

Small doll on Falls Panel, Oct. 2015

Plastic Indian on Falls Panel, Oct. 2015

Coyote skull in Falls Panel, Oct. 2015

Some of the items on the panel like the coyote skull …I’ve had for many years while other pieces like the plastic Native American came to light a month a go.  I had to include at least one doll in this assemblage because outside of toy balls…dolls are the most frequently found toy I come across at the Falls of the Ohio.  I sprinkled in enough polished coal, walnuts, and mussel shells to keep it lively.  I’m looking forward to seeing all the finished displays sometime soon.  I’m sure this panel will look completely different in its case and in the context of the other exhibits.  Looking forward to getting back outside to the river sometime soon.  I still have a trip to Richmond, KY on the schedule to pick up my art that I have on display there .  For now, I will content myself with this picture taken in the park several weeks a go.  Thanks for dropping by!

View from the Falls of the Ohio State Park, Sept. 2015

 

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glass bottleneck against coal gravel, 2013

I wish I could remember the exact written passage where the image of a bottleneck captured my imagination.  Back tracking through my books has not revealed the exact source, however, I do remember that the context came from biology and more specifically the history of life.  Of the five great extinction cycles, the one that closed out the Permian period (roughly 245 million years a go) was the most brutal and efficient.  All those trilobites that had been so successful for so long hit the wall.  At this time the super continent Pangaea existed.  Millions of years of continental drift and the resulting global climate change are the leading hypothetical causes for this extinction.  Regardless, the effect was that the majority of life’s diversity as it existed then and which filled up that particular metaphoric bottle…did not make it through the bottleneck.  Fortunately, some life did survive, but it would take subsequent millions of years for life to evolve and radiate out to regain its former glory.

green glass bottleneck with cap against sand and water, 2013

We like to think that we stand atop life as its ultimate achievement.  We frequently miss the bigger picture of which we are small part and are even oblivious to the effects we have on everything else around us.  The bottleneck effect has been adapted by other systems to illustrate that which is a hindrance or impediment to progress.  The basic idea, however, remains the same.  Whatever is in the bottle is going to get squeezed on its way out that is if the contents do in fact make it out.  In my own blog, I don’t mention U.S. politics much, but lately it is in the news and it’s troublesome. Our seeming inability to govern ourselves…to in effect allow small selfish groups to manufacture bottlenecks strikes me as self-defeating and doesn’t bode well for the future.

two glass bottlenecks on sand, 2013

At the Falls of the Ohio State Park, I literally find bottlenecks all the time.  Unlike their plastic counterpoint, the glass ones don’t break down as much.  There must be something about the material strength of glass that is increased when it is forced into a tube that makes it extra resilient.  Over time, their sharp edges do get worn down and their surfaces become frosted through tumbling in the sand.  Personally, I find glass to be a far more attractive material than plastic.  I’ve come to look at our artifacts in much the same way I might regard a fossil as examples of objects that have been touched by and affected by life.

four different glass bottlenecks, 2013

There’s something about the process of “finding” that is compelling if not compulsive for me.  I try to stay watchful for opportunities, particularly if I come across an image or material that I can apply through my art.  The process of collecting, examining, and comparing is also personally meditative and relaxing.  I started photographing bottlenecks years a go with no goal in mind.  Just more documented stuff among all the other stuff along the riverbank that I come across each time I visit the park.  Looking over my photographs, forgotten images of bottlenecks would catch my eye again.

beer bottleneck with cap on stick, 2013

bottleneck with red cap on stick, 2013

Other than take contextual images, I guess the next thing I did with bottlenecks was to stick them on the ends of branches and sticks.  This allows the light to play through the glass revealing its jewel-like attractiveness.  It might also cause someone else to notice that there is a lot of smashed glass in the park.  Granted, the river floats a lot of bottles in here from upriver, but there is also a lot of drinking that goes on here via the local folks.  Why pack your empties out when you can just throw them on the ground?  One bottleneck on a branch led to more…in fact the whole arc of these now bottleneck projects has trended in the “more” direction.

glass bottlenecks on a willow branch, 2013

glass bottlenecks on driftwood tied to a branch, 2013

I guess this last image is a bottleneck candelabra?  I find many of the bottlenecks I’ve used near stands of willow trees by the water’s edge.  I suppose bottles that float in are snagged in the tree’s exposed root system eventually breaking through contact with floating logs and leaving the shards in place?  People also throw bottles against the trees which has the same effect.  Rarely, do I need to walk very far to find enough glass to create a small project and image.

glass bottlenecks stuck in the mud, 2013

Here’s one project made from bottlenecks collected around one particular willow tree.  I liked the way they looked collectively stuck in the mud and their tubular arrangement reminded me of fossil corals which also references the Falls of the Ohio.  Here’s a few other similar site specific groupings of bottlenecks.

upright glass bottlenecks in dirt with shadows, 2013

glass bottlenecks stuck in the mud at the water's edge, 2013

diverse collection of glass bottlenecks, 2013

detail of arrangement of various glass bottlenecks, 2013

The next couple of images are from my last bottleneck piece.  In addition to lots of waste glass…I also find discarded fishing line, often in the same places.  I brought these two materials together for this ephemeral work.  Recently, I was talking with a good friend of mine and we were remarking about how much of our lives seem mediated by and require reading various kinds of screens.  This last glass project may have something to do with that because the bottlenecks are arranged in a flat, parallel screen hanging from a horizontally growing willow branch.  I wonder if anyone else ever saw this and what they may have thought about it?

various glass bottlenecks suspended on fishing line, 2013

detail, various glass bottlenecks suspended by waste fishing line, 2013

Well there you have it!  I suppose these bottleneck projects will now crop up on occasion like my found coal pieces do as intimate site specific expressions.  For now, it’s enough to present them as images without trying too hard to extract every bit of meaning from them.  Bottlenecks in the broader sense are challenges.  May we always remain open to meeting them.  So long from the Falls of the Ohio.

bottleneck on a stick at sundown, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

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