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Posts Tagged ‘lost and found’

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While my poor riverblog has been waiting for me…I have quietly been having one of my more creative years at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  When I visit the river, I’m making several projects with the junk I find as I walk along this familiar landscape.  My previous post shows some of the ways I have played with color and form using other commonly found and mostly plastic materials.   I also had fun this summer creating my own absurd brand of figurative sculpture from the river-polished polystyrene I have collected and stored out here.  Beginning in May of this year, “we”, meaning myself and the public,  have successfully added new figures to a growing site-specific installation at my favorite outdoor atelier under the willows.

One wonderful development is that on three different occasions, visitors discovering my site have interacted with or added their own figures to this group from the materials I have left behind for that purpose.  I did “harvest” a couple of figures after they made their first appearance here for a group show I’m participating in October 2017 at Murray State University.  That exhibit is entitled “Folk Fiction” and I’m elated to be showing at my old undergrad alma mater.  Besides, it’s always good to have survivors.

Autumn began with a visit from my equally anonymous nemesis…forever branded by my sons as the “Smashers”.  Whomever they are…they don’t play well which has resulted in the recent vandalism of several of these figures.  More about them later.  Now seems as good a time as any to provide a short history of this figural Styrofoam group I call “The Assembled”.  This story begins at the river on May 14, 2017 with the creation of the first sculpture.

After a wet spring with frequent bouts of high water, I was able to configure a site under the trees and near the old railroad bridge.  Over the next several months I kept adding recently found materials from the area while I pursued different art projects.  This was the first Styro-figure I created here and he’s a bat-earred naturist!  After he explored the landscape of this day in many other images, he eventually took his position greeting visitors to my outdoor studio and soon to be growing gallery.  As this installation grew, each new figure was photographed in different contexts at the park before joining the others back at my eastern most studio site.

"The Naturist" stands watch over the Styro-larder during May 2017

“The Naturist” was the first figure to join “The Assembled”.

My next figure is also the largest.  I remember needing to wait until enough of the absorbed water was gone from this big hunk of Styrofoam to just be able to lift it.  I call this piece the “Queen of Clouds” because the sky was so beautiful on the day it was made.

I remember that the wind kept blowing this figure over and it was difficult to get it to stand in place while I shot this short video.  The large fan blades that make up this sculpture kept falling off until I found a better way to attach them to her head.  The nose is a large wooden fishing float I found out here.  It’s mouth is the plastic cap from a deodorant stick.

Two Styro-figures at my outdoor studio during June 2017.

The “Queen of Clouds” parked at my studio under the willow trees.

Here’s another large figure from the month of July.  I really like how expressive the head turned out on this one.  His mouth is a red reflector that really caught the light well.  I dragged this one down to the Ohio River and documented it with this short video and lots of photos.  Afterward, it too joined “The Assembled” at my river studio.

One of the fun moments during this project was discovering visitors had added two new figures enlarging this group to four!  By days end, it was five figures with my latest absurdity with the bright red reflector mouth.  I was starting to get excited by the opportunity to create a nice little crowd this summer since plenty of Styrofoam remained to be used and people were playing along instead of just destroying what was on hand.  I also started to piece together a couple of other projects nearby.  One began at first with just a handful of found flip-flops of various colors and sizes.  Each visit to the river usually resulted in more found foot wear to add to the design.  I also created a colorful  rainbow-like arrangement from discarded plastic containers that also was a stand alone piece, but also went well with the other projects.  As the summer was approaching its height, wild grapevines were beginning to frame my grouping at the Falls of the Ohio.

Styro-group "The Assembled" in July 2017 at the Falls of the Ohio.

Three more figures joined the group.

As the summer wore on I couldn’t wait to visit my spot and listen to the oriole’s call and the sound of running water.  My site was always changing and my sculptures had survived a few summer storms as well as being vulnerable to vandalism.  So far, so good and so I continued to add new pieces here when I visited this section of the park.  Here are a few more for your enjoyment.

A Rose for Mosquito Nose

Small Styro-character I called “Mr. Mosquito Nose”.

The Assembled with Mr. Mosquito Nose.

Rare view of “The Assembled” with “Mr. Mosquito Nose”.

I took “Mr. Mosquito Nose” home with me after this picture and he will reappear in an exhibition I’m participating in the early fall.  This next piece turned out to be a visitor favorite.  He began with me finding a flipper that I used for his headdress and the fishing lure that became his nose.  Between what I found that day and what was already in my collecting bag…I soon had the makings of an orange and greenish-yellow theme for this shamanic or high priest figure.  The staff he sports is capped with a found plastic jet toy I came across on the riverbank.

"Shamanic Figure with Staff and Flipper Headdress"

Shamanic Figure carries a staff capped with a found plastic jet toy.

Here he is in context with the other figures as the month of July began to pass.  If you like trains crossing over bridges then you might like a couple of the videos I have here including this one showing an early flip-flop project at this site.

Another day and another figure and in this sculpture’s case…it’s pretty silly and strangely neurotic looking with its crossed fishing float eyes!  Here he is posed sitting on a driftwood log with one leg crossed over the other.  Soon he too would be added to “The Assembled”.

"Indecisive Dude" at the Falls of the Ohio.

“Indecisive Dude” sitting on a weather-bleached log.

Here is a video that is a good overall site view of my outdoor atelier and it shows this latest figure in the fold.  It also features a passing train crossing over the old railroad bridge and yet another flip-flop arrangement in the form of a large spiral in the sand.

I like the way the spiral turned out and I tried working with the found colors as best as I could.  There is so much individual variation between each sandal…right or left, large or small, bright blue versus dark blue, etc…  I do feel that this piece really added to what I had already started here with “The Assembled”.  Here is a still image from that moment.

My outdoor studio site at the Falls of the Ohio, August 7, 2017.

Spiral flip-flop arrangement along with “The Assembled” at my studio site, August 7, 2017.

We are into the month of August now and I keep adding figures and rearranging my site on a regular basis.  It’s generally a very good month for me if I can get out to the river three or four times.  Plus, I like to also do projects in other areas of the park and so a few weeks might pass before I next visit this particular studio site under the willow trees.  I thought this next figure turned out nicely.  It was aided by finding a nice hunk of polystyrene that was irregularly shaped enough that it could imply motion.  He has a friendly demeanor to him if you can ascribe such qualities to an altered chunk of river-polished Styrofoam?

Smiling Figure next to discarded cooler.

Smiling Styro-figure next to an old cooler that washed into the park.

Here is the video from the end of this day showing this piece in the context of my studio under the trees.  This clip also reminded me that it was a hot day peppered by annoying gnats that also buzzed around the camera.  I will mention that generally speaking…biting flies and mosquitoes are not usually an issue to visiting the park.

Still two more figures to go before the fateful day the Smashers appear and reality reasserts itself.  I improvised all my figurative sculptures on site from materials collected out here.  I still feel it’s important for me to respect the hard-won shapes that nature has provided.  Interestingly, I still feel that the river “humanizes” Styrofoam in particular by knocking of the hard edges and generalizing the overall forms.

"The Happy Hunchback" listening to birds singing.

“The Happy Hunchback” strolling through the willow woods listening to bird song at the Falls of the Ohio.

Moving very slowly and deliberately, the “Happy Hunchback” cranes his neck toward the treetops.  It’s late August, have the orioles and indigo buntings already left?  If it weren’t for the other life forms also inhabiting the Falls of the Ohio, this multi-year “art” project would not have sustained my interest alone.  I can’t believe my luck!  Between the time of this figure and the next…a visitor added another sculpture and awarded my Shamanic sculpture “Best in Show”!

"Best in Show " award...presented anonymously.

“Best in Show” Award…presented anonymously.

I had stashed this green plastic ball with my rainbow-colored plastic containers.  Makes a fine award and I have to admit, that I did put a lot of time into this particular figure.  I’m sure I had the biggest smile I can muster when I first saw this.  Whomever you are…thank you!

"The Assembled" at the Falls of the Ohio, mid September 2017.

“The Assembled”, mid September 2017 with “Best in Show” figure.

Another view from that day showing my overall site with a different found flip-flop design and my plastic container color spectrum on the left.

Outdoor studio and gallery, mid September 2017 showing "The Assembled", heart-shaped flip-flop arrangement, and plastic container color arrangement.

My outdoor studio and gallery with heart-shaped flip-flop design.

Just one more figure to go before that fateful day when the Smashers stop by and temporarily put a hitch in the magic that was this summer at the Falls of the Ohio.  I am amazed that nothing negative had happened sooner.  In the back of my mind, I understand that the river always has the last word in this process and so I don’t get too attached to the things I make out here.  Weeks would go by before I would re-visit this site in the eastern section of the park.  I was also spending a lot of time in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio which has a different quality to the landscape and receives fewer visitors.  I like to visit there when the purple loosestrife flowers are blooming because they are magnets for butterflies and other insects.  Moving on, here’s the last figure to officially join “The Assembled”.

"Raccoon Eyes" sipping from a found cup at the Falls of the Ohio, September 2017.

“Raccoon Eyes” enjoys a found beverage at the Falls of the Ohio, September 2017.

With his spiky hair-do and wide smile, the likable “Raccoon Eyes” likes to pause for refreshment when he can at the Falls of the Ohio.  Locals visiting the park bring these giant cups and I guess seeing all the other debris that has washed into here makes it okay to leave more trash behind?  The world is just absurd…and hence this project.  Old “Raccoon Eyes” took a hit, lost and eye, along with one of his arms when the Smashers came by.  Here is one more video this time showing my site before fate intervenes.

The little figure I ended the last clip with went on to have an adventure of his own and didn’t become a part of “The Assembled”.  He’s a close if diminutive cousin.  The Smashers came and went and it’s fortunate that more wasn’t actually destroyed.  My naturist character, who was the first character here, had his head split in half.  One of the volunteer figures that appeared was decapitated and I found its head in the tree branches above where it once stood.  The “Happy Hunchback” lost all the features in his head and was rendered permanently senseless.  The “Best in Show” figure lost and eye and his staff, but looks repairable.  I think whomever did this ( teenage boy(s) loom large) must have had second thoughts while in destruct mode, because it looks like some sculptures were barely touched.  I like to think that this is what happened and perhaps a little remorse set in before complete havoc was wrought.  I found a nearby stick that I remember setting aside for future use that more than likely served as the weapon.  I can imagine the temptation to not “light saber” all of them into bits must have been great.  This is my best interpretation based upon reading  the scene.

"The Assembled" after being visited by the Smashers.  Early October 2017

View of “The Assembled” after recent vandalism.

Of course you know that I’m not going to leave it here.  When I came upon the scene, I took some pictures and then off for a trek across the fossil beds and had a great day walking to the hydroelectric plant.  Yesterday, I brought my friend Peter Erwin along for a visit to the Interpretive Center and afterward we visited my studio site.  Using what I had on hand…I repaired what I could and recycled other parts to create new personas to replace the previous ones.  I think it’s going to be okay and I look forward to experiencing the continued evolution of this developing site.  I still have a little more work to do, but this is where I left it yesterday.  As for this post…one of my longer ones…reveals the level of engagement that this special place still holds upon me.  I think it also appropriate at this time to rename this group of survivors…I’m now going to call them “The Re-Assembled”!  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

"The Re-Assembled", Found Styrofoam and other materials, Falls of the Ohio, October 7, 2017

“The Re-Assembled” at the Falls of the Ohio. October 7, 2017

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Small creek leading into the Ohio River, Falls of the Ohio,  late March 2016

It’s the end of March and Spring is in full swing at the Falls of the Ohio.  Today, I have a bigger block of time and so I’m going back to the western section of the park to see how flooding has affected this area.  I am expecting to find lots of plastic and who know’s what else…and this trip did not disappoint.  Just about everywhere I looked, I found plastic and other trash.  I will begin with a few images of stuff I came across.

Found plastic panda or other bear, late March 2016

Quite unexpectedly, I found myself immersed in a bear theme.  I found this little blue plastic bear intermixed with the driftwood.  It may actually represent a panda, but I think the latest thinking on this unique animal is that it is indeed more closely related to bears than to raccoons.  Looks like it’s sucking its thumb.  And now for bear number 2.

Plastic bear teething ring, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

Here’s a piece that was originally intended for a little person.  I’m going to venture that this is a teething ring.  From the wear on the surface of the plastic, it looks like this object has spent some time in the river.  If this is not a teething ring…I have no idea what it was originally intended to be?  Okay, here is bear number 3 and it is a lot larger that these first two examples.

Large, plush Teddy Bear sinking into the gravel, late March 2016 at the Falls of the Ohio.

This piece is spectacularly integrated into the surrounding gravel!  About half of it is visible and the rest is hidden by gravel deposited here during the last Ice Age glacier.  I posted this image on my Facebook account and it resonated with a lot of my friends.  I could go on and on with the junk I’ve found out here, but I think I can also do that by showing you my latest artwork which is of course, composed of found junk.  On this beautiful day, I decided to continue my explorations using colorful found plastic and made a new variation on this theme that I think turned out pretty well.  I’ll start with a few in process shots.

Found plastic at the Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

This is some of the found plastic I came across on this day.  I brought two collecting bags and filled them both up.  I then scouted around and found a large blue plastic tub that I pressed into service before incorporating it into my finished arrangement.  The yellow object on the left is a water cooler minus the lid.  I had to do a bit of navigating around an obstacle course of downed trees and built up driftwood.  I’m usually still stiff and tired the day after I do one of these because I guess I’m not used to getting that much exercise anymore!  My two sons are quick to tell me that I’m not a young man anymore and yes I do get goaded by their trash talking into trying stuff that on occasion is more physical than I need to attempt.

Dividing the found plastic into colors, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

After selecting a site to build my latest arrangement.  I separate out all this gathered up plastic into their various color groups.  On this day, orange and purple items were in short supply, but I worked around that.  I set up this piece next to a log that looks to me like it was split in half.  The side you can see that is rough and beautiful and takes the setting sun well.  From the opposite side of this log…you wouldn’t be able to see any of the plastic.  It is intended as a surprise for those who come across it on this side of the park.

Finished plastic arrangement in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

I will begin with a view that incorporates more of the local scenery.  This piece is located next to an old cottonwood tree that has a severe lean to it.  I can imagine that at some time in the not too distant future that this tree will eventually fall over.  Even from this far away, you can see the color introduced by these plastic containers and such.  Let’s get closer.

Plastic arrangement set up next to leaning tree, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

Now you can get more of a sense for the degree in which this tree is leaning towards the river.

Petrochemical color arrangement in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

Petrochemical color arrangement in plastic, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

There are essentially two layers stacked up here.  The big blue plastic tub has a found board that finds its partner consisting of the yellow water cooler sitting on a plastic yellow child’s chair.  The span is pretty level.  The rest is a matter of picking and choosing color hues that you think will work best together.  These plastic elements are not fixed in some way.  Everything is free-standing or leaning against what is next to it.  I have by accident…set off chain reactions where the whole arrangement collapses down like dominoes.  That is where a little patience comes into play by beginning again and hopefully learning from each individual situation.

Red and yellow plastic, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

Yellow into Green found plastic, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

Blue plastic with a touch of Purple, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

I can see elements in these three details that I know I have used before in other projects and were later scattered across the park when the river floods.  Perhaps you might recognize the green plastic Tug Boat or the “Hulk Hand” also found in the green section?  They have appeared in other posts in my riverblog.

Petrochemical arrangement, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

Plastic color arrangement, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

I hung out by this piece and the river for many hours.  A few people came by, but nobody said anything.  Perhaps this comes across as being an example of “unusual or eccentric behavior” to some people?  Best to provide a wide berth around this one!  Who knows…couldn’t be any stranger than the people who make all this plastic and set it free into the world.  At the end of the day, I could not make up my mind which I thought provided the definitive view of this project?  I think some of the more successful arrangements look good in their contexts, but also provide some information on what individual elements have been brought together to create this “whole” experience.  After I felt I had enough pictures and the thought of a shower was sounding good.  I picked up my stuff and headed home.

Late sun filtering through the cottonwoods, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

The trees are just budding out and this past week took a significant turn towards the green.  I’m still on the lookout for migrating birds that come into our area.  I often wonder about the Heisenberg’s Hammerkopf I had the distinct pleasure of observing and photographing out here a few weeks a go.  I wonder where in the world it flew off to?  I was just alerted by WordPress that this week is my seventh anniversary of blogging with them!  For all the people who have dropped by and sampled something from the Falls of the Ohio State Park through this riverblog…I give my heartfelt thanks!  I hope to continue out here for a bit longer still.  This is the Artist at Exit 0 signing off for now.

unraveling barge rope, Falls of the Ohio, late March 2016

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City of Louisville as seen from the Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2016

Happy New Year to everyone out in the blogosphere!  Before closing the book on 2015, I want to thank everybody who checked out the old riverblog over the course of the year.  According to the WordPress stats wizards, I had people living in 107 different countries stop by to see what I was up to!  For an artist whose activities are as localized as mine are…publishing what I do on the world-wide web through this blog is an important part of my artistic activities.  It’s been great connecting with other creative minds and people trying to make a difference in their home locations.

The Ohio River elevated at the Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2016

As far as 2015 went…I haven’t heard the final statistics on this yet, but we either had our third or fourth wettest year on record.  We ended the year with the river at flood stage due to the great volume of rain that went through the Ohio Valley (although thankfully, we aren’t experiencing what’s going on at the moment on the Mississippi River).  We have also had an anomalous month of December that had several record-breaking temperatures with highs in the 70 degree range!  So much for a White Christmas.  These images were made on the first day of the new year and reflect the river actually going down after cresting on December 31.  We had two significant bouts of high water early in 2015 and we ended the year at the Falls of the Ohio underwater.  The four wettest years on record for our area have all happened since 1996.

Louisville as seen from the riverbank in Southern Indiana, Jan. 1, 2015

With holiday and work obligations temporarily out-of-the-way, I went out to the river on the first day of this new year.  The weather was seasonable, meaning it was actually chilly and I needed my gloves, hat, and heavy coat to stay warm.  The river level had dropped a little and side stepping the muddy areas I went to see if anything of interest had been stranded at the high water mark.  Most all of the areas at the Falls of the Ohio where I usually cache materials and make my art were underwater.  Here are a few of the things that I found.

Today's finds include three plastic ball pit balls, Jan.1, 2016, Falls of the Ohio

In addition to the usual Styrofoam and plastic containers…I found these three colorful plastic balls.  I found them at different places on the riverbank.  All three are hollow plastic balls that bear the ENOR stamp.  Looking up this company, they are a large toy manufacturer based on the East Coast that specializes in blown plastic toys.  In particular, they make the balls for ball pits.  Wal-Mart is a big distributor of their toys.  Ultimately, I don’t know what I’ll do with them?  I suppose they will enter the bags of other found balls that I’m currently storing in my basement awaiting inspiration.  The other really interesting item I encountered on this day is 100% natural and here are some images of this find.

Box turtle by a discarded tire, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2015

Near the Interpretive Center I came across other junk that had washed up with the river.  In the shadow of a discarded tire I spotted the distinctive pattern on the shell of an Eastern Box Turtle.  I assumed that this turtle was dead and washed into this area with the other river-born stuff and I picked it up to get a better look.

Found Eastern Box Turtle, Jan. 1, 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Side view, Eastern Box Turtle, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2015

Because of the cold, I was not certain whether or not this turtle was either dead or in a winter torpor?  It’s possible that the river washed it here, but then I would assume it would have drowned?  Another explanation I thought possible was that this turtle was still active due to the unseasonable warmth we had experienced and when the cold suddenly appeared and being cold-blooded it became trapped in this spot?  Normally, box turtles will dig and bury themselves under dirt and leaf debris to overwinter.  This guy probably didn’t get the chance to do this when the cold hit.  Regardless, I could not decide if this old turtle was still with us?  As a precaution, I brought it to the Interpretive Center and presented it to the park’s naturalist who said he would look after it.

Eastern Box Turtle carapace, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2015

Eastern Box Turtle plastron, Jan. 1, 2016, Falls of the Ohio

I have heard that counting the growth rings on the turtle’s shell is a good gauge of determining its age.  This turtle’s shell is worn in places and the rings were difficult to count.  One estimate I came up with had it being about 35 years old or so.  You can fairly and reliably determine the turtle sex by looking at the plastron which is the shell that protects its belly.  If there is a concave area like this turtle has…it’s more than likely a male.  The simple explanation here is that to make mating easier…the concave area conforms to the female’s carapace and keeps the male from falling off.  Several years ago during another period of flooding, I came across eight different individual box turtles and photographed them.  Looking through my old images, I wondered if this was a turtle I had seen before and it was not.  I hope that this turtle is indeed alive and can be returned to the park.  I would think this would be a great sign for the new year.

As for what else I plan to do this year…well, much depends upon what the river gives me.  When the water subsides I will come out and take a look.  On January 8, the newly revamped Interpretive Center will open and I will get my first look at the installed 8 foot by 4 foot panel of assembled river found items I was commissioned to create.  I hope it all looks great and we shall see.  I also have two other opportunities to show my work in the new year and I will give you more details about those shows as they develop.  I haven’t ever been aggressive about seeking exhibition opportunities, but rarely turn down an invitation once it presents itself.  In closing, I was reminded of this plaque that is fixed to one of the outdoor walls at the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center.  In so many words, it gives as good an explanation as to why I use this place to site my art.  Here’s hoping we all have a memorable and wonderful 2016.  See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Plaque at the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 1, 2016

 

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

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

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

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

Green Bottles, Falls of the Ohio, October 2015

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

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

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

Green Bottles, Falls of the Ohio, October 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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