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Posts Tagged ‘repurposed art’

Each year has a different character to it and for what I do at the Falls of the Ohio, a lot depends upon what I find.  Last year, there was an abundance of plastic bottles in a full spectrum of colors that stood out among the natural driftwood.  This year, we have had a mostly high river due to locally intense rains throughout the Ohio River Valley.  There have been successive waves of wood and plastic that have had me wandering the wrack lines filling my collecting bags and stuffing my computer with images.  The Falls are not a big area, but the dynamic changes that rearrange the riverbank keep it interesting.  This year I have concentrated mostly on formal arrangements on site using flip-flop sandals, plastic soft drink bottles with colored backwash in them, and I have also been astounded by the number of cigarette lighters I have been finding.  Following are a few of the many compositions I have already made this year.Chromatic arrangement in Flip-flops, Falls of the Ohio, Feb, 2017

Made this one on a sunny day in February.  I found all these flip-flops on a single walk along the riverbank which is how I still like to work out here.  I get ideas for projects based on what that day’s walk presents.  Kind of like going to the grocery store and seeing what’s ripe and in season.

Flip-flop arrangement on the sand, Falls of the Ohio, March 2017

Why flip-flops?  First, they are a ubiquitous part of human life around the river and they float and travel great distances to reach the park.  I also like the idea that these sandals are unique to the people who wore them and have their “soul or spirit” imprinted on them.  They come in a variety of colors and sizes and can be as variable as people.  There is also that saying about not understanding others until you can stand in their shoes.

Flip-flop ring, Falls of the Ohio, April 2017

A work from April of this year made with flip-flops.  Some colors seem to be harder to find than others particularly a true red or yellow.  Once in a while, I will also pick up and use the sole of some other kind of foot ware if I think it will come in “handy”.

Cottonwood Tree Composition, late May 2017, Falls of the Ohio

My latest flip-flop composition from late May.  Sited in the western section of the park, this piece is situated by a favorite cottonwood tree that I have shown in posts many times before.  It uniquely has a space under the roots that you can stand under.  It is a favorite place for locals to party.  Now for the next part of this post…”Mystery Fluids”.

Found soft drink and sport drink bottles with partial contents, Falls of the Ohio, April 2017

Usually found floating in rivers and other bodies of water are these partially consumed sport and soft drinks capped and in their bottles.  At the Falls of the Ohio I find them intermixed with the driftwood and everything else too.  Often, it is the bottom of the bottle that is sticking up from the wood.  I think being starved for color is why I gravitated towards this common element of our waste stream.  When the light hits these bottles just right…the colors can be very jewel-like and attractive.  Here are a few of the projects and images I made with them this year.

Found bottles and contents with the skyline of Louisville, Feb. 2017

Found bottles and contents, western section of the Falls of the Ohio, April 2017

Found bottle composition with contents, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

I have photographed these bottles in a variety of contexts and combinations over the year.  Their contents are amazingly well-preserved and I have never found one that had mold growing in it.  It could be that conditions have rendered these bottles sterile?  Did they get too hot, too cold, not enough oxygen?  Certainly, there is plenty of sugar, electrolytes, and preservatives in them.  On site, I usually have arranged them on the back of stranded logs or boards that have floated in here and then I take my pictures and walk away.  At my main outdoor studio…I have now been caching some of these bottles and flip-flops too for later in the year when the water level is low.  Now for the final category….found cigarette lighters.

Found cigarette lighters by various manufacturers, Falls of the Ohio, June 2017

Took this photograph a few days a go and represents my record for found cigarette lighters in one day out at the Falls of the Ohio.  I think there are 103 lighters here all gleaned from the driftwood.  I have always known that cigarette lighters are out here, but not until now have I concentrated on them.  When you begin looking for them, they can be everywhere up and down the riverbank and intermixed with the driftwood.  Once upon a time, the ability to create fire was a special and important skill.  It’s more than the climate that is changing.  Before I show you what I made with a hundred lighters, here are some earlier attempts.

BIC lighter color line, found cigarette lighters from the Falls of the Ohio, 2017

This found lighter composition is unique in that only “Bic” brand lighters were used.  The are arranged on the back of a log.  I still like referencing light through color.  The irony of our dependence on fossil fuels to make things like plastic and energy is that it comes from sequestered carbon created from sunlight by plants living millions of years a go.  Now we need to just look up in the sky to see that same source of energy in the here and now.

88 Cigarette Lighter Oval, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

I think from April?, but definitely the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Created this oval from 88 found lighters.  The river was still very high and this arrangement is up against the riverbank.

Found Lighter Circle, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

68 Found Lighter Circle, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

Lighter circle made with 68 found cigarette lighters.   You can see the marks my fingers made in the sand adjusting the lighters to expand the circle.

Nearly forgot about this one!  “Stump Star” composed of 48 found lighters, a yellow reflector, and of course…a stump.  Made under the willow trees, the light playing through the tree canopy made this piece hard to photograph.  It just occurred to me that I have no idea where butane comes from?  All of these once stored compressed butane.  As these physical objects age and are exposed to the elements, their metal components are the first to corrode and rust away.

Another day and visit to the river.  I try to maximize each opportunity out here by making as many site specific pieces from the various materials I encounter.  Here’s a quick piece with my the toes of my shoes poking in for good measure.  I call this one “Keep Calm” because there’s one lighter that says that…or “From Clear to Blue” because if you look closely you can see between the white and blue lighters is one clear one.  So far, that’s the only one like that I’ve seen out here.  Okay, one more to end with and it’s the one with over a hundred lighters.  I made another composition with these lighters, but decided to try a more open design and it turned out better than the first.Double-spiral Cigarette Lighter Composition, Falls of the Ohio, June 2017

When given the chance to go to the river or write about past experiences…I will opt for the river, unless the weather is bad and it has already rained hard today.  I’m staying busy and engaged with art all around me which has had a calming effect on me considering all the political decisions people are making regarding the health of the environment and everything else too.  If you are interested in some of what’s in the Ohio River and other rivers in this country…then I’m your blog.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Double Spiral found cigarette lighter composition at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2017

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The Falls of the Ohio State Park is a place of discovery.  So many new lifeforms have been described by science in the Devonian limestone fossil beds alone.  And of course, the Lewis and Clark Expedition which both began and ended at the Falls of the Ohio did much to help illuminate the breath of this country.  Magic keeps occurring in this amazing place and the following post is about one such recent and personal find…meet the aptly named “Smiling Tortoise”.

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The Smiling Tortoise or Clemmys helmeti  is a very rare terrestrial turtle now found in just one location in the world which is the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  It was once presumed extinct.  Since being designated an Indiana state park…this elusive reptile has been seen more often in the last ten years than in the previous hundred years before the park came into existence.  Perhaps the added protective status has emboldened it to show itself more?  Park visitors have supplied a steady, if still infrequent sightings of it to the staff at the Interpretive Center.  Over the years, I have learned the best way to find something is to not look for it.  That was certainly true in the case of the Smiling Tortoise.  Although I have always wanted to see a living example, it took 14 years of patience before I came across one last November.

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We have experienced the warmest and driest Fall season I have ever lived through in the Kentuckiana area.  On such a warm November day, I happened upon a specimen that was gorging on bracket fungi growing on a decayed log.  In my enthusiasm, I took plenty of images and perhaps got a little too close by picking this one up to examine it.  I wanted to check out its shell on its belly or plastron to see if this individual had been tagged by the park naturalists when I carelessly picked one up.  Despite its benign appearance, it possesses a strong bite from a large mouth and its neck can move whip-like as it turns to defend itself from a threat.  I count myself lucky not to have lost a digit, still it bit me!

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I cut myself with my trusty Swiss Army knife or get poked by something else sharp out here every once in a while and so I have a small supply of bandages that I always keep with me.  Forewarned, but not undaunted, I carefully held the turtle by the top of its domed carapace and held it so it couldn’t reach me.  Above, it is all white, but underneath, there is a little color.  I didn’t have my measuring tape with me, but it’s roughly the size of your head.  Here’s what the ventral side of the Smiling Tortoise looks like.

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This marvelous creature sports a yellow tail which is stained by the turtle’s own urine and by a particularly musky gland found at the tail’s base.  The plastron has this unusual design and its concavity told me it was a male.  The reason for the slight indentation is to give a bit more of a “foot hold” when attempting to mate with the female of the species which of course, also possesses a domed shell.  This specimen exhibited healed wounds on its feet perhaps when a predator decided to try to eat it?  The fact that this one was still around testifies to the ability of this turtle to take care of itself.  When I showed the park naturalists my images, they were pleasantly surprised to see that this specimen did not have an identification tag on it.  So, this turtle was new even to them!

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After carefully releasing the turtle, I moved away to a discreet distance to see what would happened next?  I followed it as it moved through the woods investigating every groundhog hole and space around the trees and rocks, but what was it searching for?

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Since this is still a cold-blooded animal, the unseasonably warm weather perhaps roused it from its winter hibernation or perhaps it was still looking for that perfect den or burrow in which to over winter?  Not finding anything suitable, the Smiling Tortoise left the riverbank and headed back into the woods.

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Along the way, I was able to observe a few additional behaviors.  For the longest time, this tortoise regarded a hunk of river-polished Styrofoam.  I saw it poke the waste polystyrene both with its head and front feet.  When it didn’t respond, the Smiling Tortoise moved on.  This next image is going to be a little harder to explain…take a look.

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Well, your guess is as good as mine on this one!  Even the park naturalists were at a loss.  Something about this discarded large bottle of sports drink that floated into here from who knows where stimulated this behavior.  The turtle unable to mate with this bottle left the area in obvious disgust as it hissed its disapproval.  This was the only sound I heard it make.

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With the day drawing to a close, I decided to say good-bye and good luck to my scaly acquaintance.  I picked up my hiking gear and collecting bags and turned around and headed toward the Interpretive Center.  I was feeling stoked by the experience!  I hope the turtle eventually found an acceptable burrow and is fast asleep as a gentle snow now falls in Louisville.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

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Fresh plastic arriving at the Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

Last Saturday was a nearly 70 degree day and the sun was shining.  I couldn’t wait to get to the Falls of the Ohio to do a little exploring and maybe make something.  I was totally surprised to find that the Ohio River was up again despite our area not receiving much in the way of rain during the week.  The warmer temperatures must be melting what snow is still on the ground in the upstream sections of the Ohio River Valley?  That’s my theory and for the moment I will stick with that.  As with the previous weekend, the areas in the park that I more routinely work in were all underwater.  So, like the previous weekend I hiked out to the western section of the park where the riverbank is higher.  Honestly, I didn’t expect to find much out here since I picked up a lot of waste plastic to make my last rainbow arrangement.  Boy was I wrong.  Waiting for me along the waterline was a “fresh” selection of polyvinyl chloride for the picking.  Perhaps because for the moment I have been fixated artistically with this material, but to my eye it seems our “plastic problem” is getting worse.

Collected plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

In quick order I was able to stuff the two collecting bags I brought with me to capacity as well as fill a found plastic toboggan with even more plastic.  That was just the start.

Found plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

I could have kept going and going, but soon realized that I was also running out of light.  I chided myself under my breath for getting a late start on this day.  I had other home duties that needed my attention.  If I was going to do anything with this latest batch of plastic finds it had better be soon.  I had also intended to check out the project I had made the previous week, but it was further down the riverbank.  Once I got going on this assemblage, I forgot all about that earlier piece.  It was now a race against the quickly setting sun.

Sorting plastic into colors, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

I dragged all the plastic junk I  had collected to a place on the riverbank that I thought had pictorial possibilities.  I then sorted this mess into various color groups.  Using the two plastic milk crates I had found and a wooden plank I created a shelf-like surface that was fairly level where I could arrange my latest collection of finds.

Plastic arrangement process photo with shadow, Falls of the Ohio, Feb., 20, 2016

Here’s a process photo of my piece about half way through along with my shadow.  This plastic arrangement was situated in a space between the high riverbank and a large log that floated into position here last year.  And now for some “finished” views.

Riverbank Plastic Arrangement , Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

Riverbank Plastic Arrangement, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

I finished laying the last piece of plastic down just in time for the “Golden Hour” when for a brief moment the light has this incredible color.  This time of day reminds me of some of Maxfield Parrish’s paintings who must have also been fond of this effect of light.  Here are a few details of the junk I used for my arrangement.

Blue and Green plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

Yellow, Orange, and Red Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

In the green section you can see the Tug Boat that I found on my last trip.  This time I picked it up and carried it with me and incorporated it into this piece.  Other notable finds include a light orange, Winnie the Pooh, “Tigger” character head that was used for collecting candy on Halloween night.  That’s a little different from the usual jack-o-lantern head.  I also found a bright red plastic fish that is also a sand mold for child’s play.  The majority, however, are bottles for detergents and various petroleum products.

Plastic Arrangement under the riverbank, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

Soon, the light begins to fade.  In this shot you can get a better sense of why I selected this location.  My arrangement is protected by these wonderful tree roots that add a bit of animation to the scene.  What you can also see is that the tree to the left doesn’t have long to stand before the river and erosion will change this part of the riverbank and knock this tree down.

Arrangement on the Riverbank, found plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

Plastic arrangement on the riverbank, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

The sun was setting and I had a long walk ahead of me and after basking in a bit of color it was time to call it a day.  On the walk back to my vehicle, I wondered what I was getting out of this activity?  As an exercise in building an awareness of the plastic issue…well, by this point everybody who cares to know does.  And the folks that would prefer this to be out of sight and out of mind, well, there is that too and you wonder what it would take to convince anyone of the urgency of this problem?  I went through several rationales, but it wasn’t until I got home and downloaded my pictures to my computer that I decided there was something in the perverse beauty of man who stands in contrast to the rest of nature that I find compelling.  I will muse on this for a while, but for now…so long from the Falls of the Ohio.

Sundown at the Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 20, 2016

 

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Plastic Thumb Moth, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Beyond the Woodland Loop Trail in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio is where today’s river adventure finds me.  It has been many months since I last visited this side of the park.  I have been looking forward to walking on the driftwood that accumulates on this riverbank.  As always, I’ve got my trusty walking stick and collecting bag with me.  It’s time to find what there is to find and make something from that.  Right away, I found this plastic butterfly or moth (fireworks perhaps?) and enjoyed taking several images of it juxtaposed with the riverbank landscape.  Just a quick look around and I can see lots of plastic and polystyrene to potentially use.  I will also keep my eyes open for a good site to do one of my plastic arrangements that I have been having fun with of late.

Brown Bagging it, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

I was fairly confident that I would find as much plastic debris on this shoreline as I had found in the eastern section of the park.  That would prove to be correct and I brought an extra collecting bag along to help with the gathering process.  I have been enjoying organizing the colorful plastic bottles and containers that I find into mostly chromatic and rainbow-inspired arrangements.  The driftwood and sand out here is unified in coloring presenting a monochromatic landscape where bright, colorful plastic notes sing out among all these lost trees.  You soon realize as you sort out the plastic from the driftwood, how much of our material culture is intermixed into everything else.

Found plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan 30, 2016

Colorful, found plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

After walking the high water line for a couple of hours, I dumped all the colorful plastic I had collected onto the sand.  I thought I had picked a good location that was between the water and the riverbank.   I picked up a nice plastic milk crate along the way to assist with the gathering.  I notice that I usually pick up intact items preferring them over plastic bits and pieces…although, I will use fragments too especially if they are a hard to come by color.  Most all of the plastic bottles and containers I find have had their labels washed off by the river.  I put a lot of trust in the cleaning power of millions of gallons of water.

Sorting plastic by color, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Using the patterns and intervals of driftwood that the river had previously laid down here as a supporting structure where today’s found plastic is sorted by color and staged.  Here is where you might find out that you picked up more green bottles than yellow or that purple was that day’s hard to find color.

Found plastic on the riverbank, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Here’s a view looking eastward with a bit of the skyline of Louisville suggested through the distant trees.  From my experience, fewer people visit this section of the park and many who do often prove to be residents of Clarksville which is just over the flood wall.  Let’s show a few more images of how this piece rounded into shape.

Western Park Plastic Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Western Park Plastic Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

I like the big wooden beam lying parallel to the plastic.  Not all the driftwood out here is of the wild variety.  I find lumber cut-offs and planed planks of all kinds and have used them in my art as well.  These shots were taken on a beautiful end of the month day where we had a respite from the cold and grayness.

Western park plastic arrangement, Jan. 30, 2016

There was one large blue plastic drum that was buried in the sand and had water in it as well.  I didn’t like how it intruded into these pictures and so tried to take it away.  Well, it was much too heavy for one person to life out of the sand.  Fortunately, among the few people I did see on this day were old river rat friends who gave me a hand with this.  The blue drum nearly folded in half takes its position at the end of the line.

Variation on an image, Western Park Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30,2016

detail of Western Park Rainbow, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

I hung around and admired all the bright colors as they revealed themselves in a setting sun.  I think this is the most complex plastic assemblage (as far as variety and number of individual pieces used goes) that I have made thus far.  I will go ahead and tell you that this work no longer exists except as digital images.  Over the past week, we had strong rain storms that went through the Ohio Valley resulting in a high river.  Although the rains didn’t affect us directly, all the water that was dropped into the watershed caused it to inundate many of the familiar places on the riverbank that I like to work.  The river has been unpredictable of late and I have had at least three new projects washed away.  As I walked home, I did find an interesting bottle that I walked over before.  I’m fairly sure this is Fred Flintstone based on the diamond pattern on his “garment”.  A quick inquiry over the internet yielded some results.  This find was originally part of a four plastic baby bottle set that featured Fred, Barney, and their kids Pebbles and BamBam.  This vintage baby product was more than likely manufactured between 1977 and 1984!  I wonder if its possible for my find to be that old?  Judging from the wear and tear and severe fading…that’s a distinct possibility.  Happy with my new find…I dropped it into my collecting bag.  I think it is the unusual items I come across that make this such a fun way to spend time at the river.  With the sun going down, the temperatures are getting cooler…time to go home.  Until next time from an ever-changing Falls of the Ohio.

Very faded Fred Flintstone character plastic baby bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

Fred Flintstone baby bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 30, 2016

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Trash intermixed into the driftwood, Jan. 14, 2016

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend I was able to make it out to the Falls of the Ohio State Park on a couple of occasions.  It helped that this was a three-day weekend.  I was curious to see what was lying around the riverbank after our first dusting of snow had blown away.  As I was expecting, I found a lot of plastic bottles and containers, Styrofoam, and plenty of driftwood.  I first inspect an area for the larger pattern left by the river.  The stuff that floats most readily often defines the high water mark on the riverbank.

Junk on the driftwood pile, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 14, 2016

This is a typical detail of stuff that builds up on a driftwood mound.  There are many automotive and boating references particularly plastic bottles that held various petroleum products.  There is also a wealth of plastic beverage bottles to illustrate the carelessness of some folks recreating on the river.  I have a mental image of this stuff eventually flowing downriver, into the Mississippi River, and out into the wider world through the Gulf of Mexico.  What I see at the Falls of the Ohio is only what I see.  I know there is a glacier of plastic and junk that by passes me and will show up somewhere downstream.  With each succeeding flood, I keep thinking that all the stuff that had been accumulating upriver has already been washed into the watershed.  That, however, doesn’t seem to be the case and the amount of “fresh trash” that shows up in the park seems not to have a limit.

Found yellow and green plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

Both days that I worked at the river were very cold ones.  The piece I made using found yellow and green plastic was the coldest with temps hovering around 10 degrees and it was colder than that with the wind.  After picking up what caught my eye, I retreated to my little studio area near the U.F.O. (Unidentified Floating Object) that is this welded and painted steel platform that washed into this area over five years ago.

Massed yellow and green plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

I saw a possibility in the space under the UFO that was formed when the river shifted the driftwood mound.  I cleared the space a little bit and found a plank and stump in which to set up what I would eventually call “Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic”.  All the bottles and other colorful plastic items were picked up in the immediate area.  The wind was really biting and so I sought shelter by the treeline.  It took a little patience to make this piece because the wind kept blowing away the lighter items.  Eventually, I fit everything together and held it in place by strategically using found bottles that still had weight to them because mud or sand had become their new contents.

"Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic", Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

My photos of this piece vary from one another because elements kept blowing off.  I was struck that I could make a colorful gradation using primarily yellow and green plastic found just in the willow habitat.  I favor doing these color pieces because they also reference the electromagnetic spectrum and without light, those ancient plants that lived and succeeded millions of years ago would not eventually become the crude substance from which these bottles were fabricated.  It’s interesting to me to think that much of the energy we derive from fossil fuels is captured starlight from an ancient time.  We owe it to the plants to be able to stabilize this energy through photosynthesis and fix it into their very tissues.

Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic by the old railroad bridge., Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

Studio view, Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

Eventually, the cold started to get to me and I was fast losing what little light was present on this day.  I might have moved the blue plastic drum out of the bottom picture, but it was frozen into the ground and full of sand and mud and would have been a challenge to lift.  After awhile, I began to like it for the additional color it lent this scene.  One thing concentrating so much color in one area does is call into attention the brown drabness that subsumes everything else.

Random, found plastic in red, purple, and blue, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 18, 2016

I returned to the river two days later.  It was still very cold, however, a big improvement over the previous day.  The sun was shining and the wind was absent.  Having completed and photographed one colorful plastic arrangement, I set about creating a new one in a different palette of colors.  Searching the area I decided to work at…I could see plenty of red and blue plastic items spread out among the driftwood.  It took me an hour or so to pull these bottles and objects together.  I wished that I might have come across a few more violet or purple items, but I guess these are colors that are used less than straight up red or blue?  I know that in terms of lightfastness, red and purple plastic fades away quicker than many other colors.

Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 18, 2016

Using a bit of the geometry I was feeling from the willow trees and the way the sunlight was hitting their trunks…I decided to site “Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic” on the sand.  There’s a distant view of the Ohio River through this informal avenue of trees.  Watching how the shadows of the tree trunks were being cast upon the sand was an important element in the overall composition of this piece.

Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 16, 2016

detail of Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic, Jan. 18, 2016

Among the items comprising this work are a blue plastic child’s putter golf club, the cap to a plastic cane that held Christmas candy and several flip-flops of the right color.  When I finished this piece, I left it in place as I did the other arrangement.  Perhaps the next time I return to this area, I may combine the two groups of plastic?  I could create another grand rainbow with the addition of finding more orange in particular.  I probably would throw in some black and white plastic items since they are here in quantity as well.  I felt relatively good about this weekend’s projects and some of the images that resulted.  When I am occupied with a project, I really don’t feel the elements in the same way.  I suppose there is a bit of mind over matter happening too.  When I do feel the cold, however, is when I decide to turn for home and come across a frozen sight like these containers locked in ice!  Stay warm and safe everybody…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Plastic containers frozen in ice, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 18, 2016

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Entry into the Giles Gallery, Sept. 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giles Gallery, E.K.U. September 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kentucky sunset, Sept. 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

River junk, Falls of the Ohio, early August 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back view, Park West Petrochemical Rainbow

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

Sunset at the Falls of the Ohio, early August 2015

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