Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘the environment’

The One-eyed Blue-tongued Devil at the Falls of the Ohio

The river is rising as I write this.  Just the other day…we had a storm that just sat on us and poured down a massive quantity of water.  This is to my count, the fourth time this year that we have experienced high water on the Ohio River.  Fortunately, none of them have been true floods on the big river.  All the art projects and the materials I have collected and cached at my various sites this year are gone or in different locations within the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Having the time and opportunity to access the life at the Falls is a still a big priority for me, but the river and weather don’t always cooperate.

One-eyed Blue-tongued Devil with Blue Ball

I’m out here as often as I can get away and since time is usually limited…I work quickly forming plans for projects as I take advantage of what that day presents.  A typical visit starts off first with a walk checking out what’s new in the area for potential materials and sites for projects.  I’m also looking for new birds, what fish the fishermen are having success with, any new flowering plants and the insects they may attract.  Because of the river, the areas I frequent are dynamic and change frequently which is a big part of the attraction.  After making the rounds, I will return to one of my outdoor studio sites where I store materials for later use or to take home with me at the end of the day.  If there is one change in my creative process over the past year, it is on relying on my home work space more to get things done.

Petrochemical Rainbow in progress in my home studio.

Work in progress, late January 2017

And, as you can see by these especially well-curated and selectively chosen images, there’s also plenty to work with here!  If the river was to evaporate away tomorrow…I will be in good shape for a while as far as materials go.  Drinking water and taking a hot shower, however, may be another story.  Since I participated in a recent two person exhibition that I haven’t mentioned yet, this looks like a good opportunity to share something about that.

Post card invitation for Cross Currents exhibition, Feb. 2017

My friends David McGuire and Karen Welch formed Craft(s) Gallery and Mercantile in Louisville to help promote the work and sale of Kentucky’s creative people.  I accepted their invitation to show with Mack Dryden who is another Falls of the Ohio enthusiast who also happens to be a professional comedian. Mack likes to collect the driftwood that he finds and makes more formal compositions with them.  We decided to title our exhibition “Cross Currents…” since while we appreciate nature and what the river gives us…our approaches to art making are different.  Here are a few installation shots from this show.

Taking my "Foamies" to market, late January 2017

I threw this picture in here because this is something most people don’t see or consider…how an artist gets their work from one place to the next.  Fortunately for me, most of the shows I participate in are within a day’s drive of Louisville.  In this case, I’m just going across town.  Shipping can get problematic and costly.  Ironically, since most of my Styrofoam projects don’t weigh anything…they do however, take up “dimensional space” meaning I’m charged for how much room my box occupies on the truck or cargo jet regardless of the weight.  As  you can see, I’m rather careless with my own work with minimal or nonexistent packaging.  I think there is something about knowing where my materials come from that causes me to be casual and not at all precious about what happens to my projects.  I still leave a lot of stuff behind at the river.

Cross Currents exhibition, Crafts and Mercantile Gallery, Louisville, KY, Feb. 2017

Cross Currents installation view, Craft(s) Gallery and Mercantile, Louisville, KY, Feb. 2017

Installation view of Cross Currents exhibition, Craft(s) Gallery and Mercantile, Lousiville, KY, Feb. 2017

Our exhibition was up for the month of February and was well received.  I brought projects that hadn’t been seen in Louisville before including some new colorful, plastic bottle pieces I had been working on during 2016.  My bird sculptures also did well and they seem to be many people’s favorite works by me.  I also included new dye sublimation prints on aluminum that I had made of river works that no longer exist. Most of my Falls projects after all these years of doing this project remain preserved as images only.Styrofigure with found, plastic battery operated car, Falls of the Ohio 2017

Relatively speaking this has been a warm spring and delightful when it wasn’t pouring buckets of rain on occasions.  When the opportunity presented itself…I started several new series of works taking advantage of and calling attention to the many other materials that I find in the park.  I look forward to sharing them with you and hopefully…I won’t let so much time go by.  Until then….

One-eyed, Blue-tongued Devil holding a white bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 2017

 

 

Read Full Post »

Vine covered Danger sign, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2016

It’s the end of the year and I have a handful of posts and projects I intended to present here before the date on the calendar changes.  I will do my best to try to catch up.  I’ll start with this outing along the Ohio River that happened in November.

I have finally had a bit of a lull from my day job and so I want to start catching up on posting images and stories of my Falls of the Ohio adventures over the last few weeks.  It’s also a bit of a relief from the disappointing presidential election we have just endured.  Hanging out at the river is always a good tonic for the soul.  May it always be that for me and other “river rats” who are drawn to moving waters.  For this post, I will concentrate on an assemblage I made using found bottles, jugs, and other plastic containers that I have collected from the banks of the Ohio River in this small state park in southern Indiana.

Picking up a plastic jug at the Falls of the Ohio

The Falls of the Ohio State Park is not a very big place as parks go, but it is a very historic and dynamic environment.  I remember when I first started coming out here it really bothered me to see so much junk along the riverbank.  It still does and  I tried standard recycling before settling on making art from what others preferred not to see or acknowledge.  What this unique space lacks in size, it makes up for by being a very dynamic environment.

For most of the year, the river behaves itself and lets the Army Corps of Engineers pretend that it is in control of its flow.  Every once in a while, however, the river reminds us through flooding and by going around the barriers set in its way to control it.  It is during these high water moments that all the rubbish sins of the world come down the river from environs both local and from parts north in our watershed.  As this blog documents, I find “stuff” all the time and unfortunately discarded plastic is high on the list.

Found plastic at the Falls of the Ohio, summer 2016

Here is found plastic that I brought back to my outdoor atelier under the willow trees.  I didn’t have to travel far to pick up all I wanted.  I realized as I drove to work this morning that my “outdoor atelier” is now under water.  A few days ago, we finally received enough rain to raise the level of the river.  It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have tried to do anything with plastic on this scale.  Only when I couldn’t deny the bright, unnatural colors any longer that it occurred to me to try to do something “artistic” with all this waste plastic.

Sorting the plastic by color, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2016

After I have selected a site for a project.  I move my materials to the chosen location and when I’m ready, I start sorting objects according to color.  I like to reference the electromagnetic spectrum and rainbows because they are about light.  Plastic is made from petroleum which is sun energy that has been harnessed by prehistoric plants and stored in their tissues.  Over deep time, heat, pressure and the vagaries of geology either liquefies this ancient material into crude oil or compresses it into coal.  It is interesting to think about how much our contemporary world is dependent on using the energy from our sun that shone millions of years a go!

found plastic at the Falls of the Ohio, October 2016

More found plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2016

It will be a leap for some, but “light” in my mind is not only a part of the problem here, but also implies a solution.  We need to do a better job of using our innate creativity to capture the light of today’s sun.  Leave that “ancient energy” in the ground and we certainly don’t need anymore plastic.  Through a little trial and error, I found an arrangement that suits me.  If I am lucky and park visitors or the river decide not to erase what I’ve started then I expand and tinker with my outdoor composition.  If I’m correct, then this piece is already gone taken just today by the river. It lasted many weeks longer than I thought it would.  Thanks for tagging along with me!  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Colorful found plastic assemblage, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2016

Read Full Post »

Rose Mallow at the Falls of the Ohio

We have had some stellar days of late with the air so crystalline and fresh that it has been an added bonus to be outside.  The temps have been manageable as well.  I began this post more than a week ago, but put it on the back burner until now.  I am no doubt busier now than I ever have been (particularly at work), but I’m still finding the time to be involved with my own art.  And I must confess…if I have to prioritize whether to stay home and work on a blog article or go to the river and participate in life at that level…well, I think you know what my answer will be!  I have enjoyed blogging, but must admit to myself that what I do will never be most people’s’ idea of a good read, especially since there are now literally millions of blogs out there!  I do still hope, however, to occasionally connect with folks who are creative and just plain interested in nature.

Rose Mallow, red coloring variant, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Recently, I went to the river to find a wealth of Rose Mallows in bloom.  That is not always the case and there have been years when I did not see any.  They have become among my favorite flowers that I can find at the Falls of the Ohio.  Their blooms are huge and there is some variation in our native hibiscus.  In a relatively small area, I found a patch of Rose Mallows showing off those colors which can range from a solid hot pink, to a snow-white blossom.  Usually, most of the mallows will sport some combination of white or pink with a deep scarlet throat.  I couldn’t help collecting a few seed pods and scattering their seeds in other locations I frequent at the Falls.  I don’t think this is technically legal since there is a park rule against collecting wildflowers, but since none of their seeds went home with me…I’m hoping I’ll be okay to do this?

Red Admiral butterfly, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Late summer is also a good time to see which butterflies are around.  The Falls of the Ohio certainly has its regular species who inhabit its various ecological niches.  Here is one of the park’s Red Admirals and it is visiting a “willow lick” to drink up the sugary exudence seeping from a wound in this tree’s bark.  These wounds occur in various ways, but the most common one is with collisions with large floating logs that crash battering ram-style into these willows during flooding.  This happens mostly in late winter or early spring and it is not out of the ordinary to have these willow trees be completely submerged by the Ohio River.  These willow licks attract a variety of insects ranging from butterflies, ants, hornets, and many different types of flies.

butterflies on purple loosestrife, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Of course, every year is different from the last one and so far I have to say I think this has been just an average year for butterflies.  Usually, one species will be found more commonly than the other species.  For example, I can remember certain years where the Viceroy was the most common butterfly.  I have also seen it when the small Pearly Crescent or the larger Buckeye Butterfly were the most plentiful individual species.  This year I can’t tell that one species is more numerous than another.  I like visiting the Purple Loosestrife stands particularly in the western section of the park during the height of their blooming period.  I know this plant is highly invasive, but it also attracts a large amount of insects and butterflies in particular.  Multiple species gravitate towards the nectar these plants produce.  It’s interesting to watch different species feeding on the same plant like in the above photo.   A skipper species (on top) and fritillary species (on the bottom) are coexisting on this flower because this resource is plentiful and the butterflies are focused.  What these loosestrife stands also attract are predators.  It’s common to come across large orb weaving spiders and praying mantises waiting to ambush a meal.  I have come to think of these loosestrife stands as being important feeding areas for the Monarch butterflies that migrate through our area and this has mitigated my feelings towards this invasive plant.

Installation view of show at Artists' Own Gallery, Lafayette, IN, Aug. 2016

Artists' Own Gallery, Lafayette, IN....Aug. 2016

Gallery shot at Artists' Own Gallery, Lafayette, IN, Aug. 2016

View inside my exhibit at Artists' Own Gallery, Lafayette, IN, Aug. 2016

Another reason to be feel grateful is that I have another solo art exhibition and it is currently up at the Artists’ Own Gallery in Lafayette, Indiana.  It’s a co-op space and the duties of running the gallery fall upon the member artists.  I was invited by one of the members to show at their downtown, Main Street location.  The exhibit which is entitled “At the Intersection of Culture and Nature” features a selection of my Styrofoam sculptures along with a few more dye sublimation prints on aluminum I had made of site specific projects that are now gone.  It is all stuff I have found and experienced at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  On the morning the show opened, I gave an artist’s talk and had a nice group present to hear more about how this work came to be.  I even sold a few pieces to help offset the costs of printing my photos and renting a van to haul it all around!  I really liked having the opportunity to show off my “Crying Indian” sculpture once again and it looked completely different in a gallery context as compared to where it was first shown outdoors earlier this year at Hidden Hills Nursery and Sculpture Garden.  All the Artists’ Own artists I met were welcoming and I appreciated their hospitality!  The exhibit will remain up until mid September and so if you find yourself in the area…please stop by and enjoy all the great art on display throughout this beautiful gallery.  Meanwhile, back at the Falls of the Ohio…

Styrofoam stash at the Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Figure idea, head and body, found Styrofoam, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

On my first visit back to the river after my show opened, I had this general feeling of well-being.  I went over to my stash of Styrofoam that I had collected this year and starting putting shapes together.  I soon came up with the requisite head and body for a new and large figurative sculpture I wanted to make.  The large chunk of polystyrene that I used for the figure’s body had been collected months ago, however, it was still a bit waterlogged and heavy to move.

Head of the Grateful Man, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Head and shoulders of the Grateful Man, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Without doing any direct carving, I just accepted the forms that the river had provided for me and went with that.  I did make a few small holes to insert the found objects that would serve as this figure’s features.  The mouth is a piece of wood that looked like a “mouth” when I found it.  The eyes are part of the hull of a Black Walnut that I split in half and inserted into the head.  The nose is a bright orange, Styrofoam fishing float found that morning.  For the ears, I used parts of the sole of an old shoe and then I added a small plastic ring to separate the head from the body which has become my custom over the many years of doing this activity.  The rest is just driftwood picked up on site.Large Figure in Ecstasy, found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, August 2016

The resulting figure is much bigger than me and after I assembled it…I went scouting for a good location to make my pictures.  As you may remember, the large piece of Styrofoam that is the figure’s body was water-logged and so I set it up relatively close to my outdoor atelier.  Although the figure looks to be praying, what I was going for was a trance-like state of ecstasy?  I know I have felt this sensation of being outside one’s self where you feel a part of or kinship with the other living things around you.  Behind the figure is a large log with intact root mass that washed into here during the last good flood.  In this photo, a small flock of Canada Geese does a respectful flyover of their own.

A Canada Goose flyover, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2016

Large Figure in Ecstasy near downed tree, Falls of the Ohio, August 2016

I seem to have started a personal blogging trend where my posts are getting on the long side!  So, this looks like as good a place to wrap this up as any.  By now, my ecstatic figure is probably history and martyred like so many other figures I have left in the park before.  I tell each piece I make and leave behind that this will likely be its fate unless some kind soul takes pity and takes it home with them.  These figures seem to understand.  It’s all about being present in the moment when we are at our most alive.  I have more stories to tell and art to share, but will hold of for now.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Three Clouds with Figure in Ecstasy, Falls of the Ohio, August 2016

 

Read Full Post »

Spring in Kentuckiana, Falls of the Ohio, May 2016

I’ve been remiss in posting new stories although I remain as busy as ever with my river art.  Of late, I have had fewer opportunities to go to the river because of rain, work responsibilities, and lots of family birthdays…which are all mostly good things!!  In this post, I will compress a lot of goings on starting with a quick trip to the Falls of the Ohio a few weeks back.  It’s officially Spring because the migrating birds have been through and the resident Baltimore Orioles have returned to build their hanging nests and raise their young.  Hearing the orioles’ calls is something I look forward to every year.  It seems we are having a bit cooler Spring which to my mind seems much more “seasonal” as my memory of this area and time of year is accustomed to.  As with any trip to the river, I begin by searching for the latest junk that I either overlooked or has just arrived.  Here are pictures of some recent finds.

Plastic citrus slice ice cube, Falls of the Ohio, May 2016

My sharp eyes spied this among the driftwood.  It’s a plastic, fluid-filled “citrus slice”, perhaps an orange.  If you freeze this little item until the fluid becomes a cold solid…well, you have yourself a novelty “ice-cube” for your drink.  I intercepted this on its way to the ocean and now is in my collection of odd and particularly useless plastic junk.

small plastic horse, Falls of the Ohio, May 2016

Shattered plastic rocking horse, Falls of the Ohio, May 2016

Of course, in this part of the country, the first Saturday in May also means the Kentucky Derby.  On this particular foray to the river, I found two horses whose races have been run…so to speak!  They are now river trash that have been discarded and happened to wash up here from who knows where.  This stuff may have just traveled from across the river in Louisville, KY or floated hundreds of miles to reach this destination.  My intuition tells me that this stuff has traveled far.

Broken, plastic novelty pump container in the shape of a snowman, Falls of the Ohio, May 2016

This is the first of these items that I have ever found.  It’s a plastic pump bottle for what?…soap, hand lotion, or what have you?  The snowman image is kind of fun.  Finding this item is just a short leap of the imagination to this temporary creation.

Absurd figure, Falls of the Ohio, May 2016

Scene with Absurd Figure and the Skyline of Louisville with a Fire in the Background, Falls of the Ohio, May 2016

Scouting around the immediate area produced enough detritus…I mean art materials to create this figure.  I have become quite quick in being able to make an absurd sculpture from most anything I find around me.  These figurative pieces are meant to be seen as absurd because I feel our handling of our environment is both silly, stupid, and ultimately tragic.  I try my best to let my figures “communicate” this on their own through their “very being”, but occasionally, my true feelings come out and besides people are becoming more and more literal.  These works are meant to call attention to the types of materials that make it into our environment, particularly through our precious waterways and as such help to build awareness of this situation.  But, by now, if you don’t know that this form of degradation is happening during our time…then you simply prefer not to know.  For me, it’s not enough to call attention to this problem, but to try to at least suggest something hopeful.  I know this is very idealistic…but there you have it.  What these artworks also try to embody is a call for creativity.  Anybody and everybody’s creativity is required if we are to have any kind of future.  What artists can do is take the same information that everybody else receives and by turning this information on its head…perhaps come up with something different and unexpected conclusions or applications.  Creativity, however, is not just the province of a gifted few.  It’s truly in everybody if folks could just recognize it in its many forms and try to cultivate it just a little bit.  Creativity is our kind’s “ace in the hole” and is probably why we have evolved this far in the first place.  What I do at the river is as much a demonstration project where I have been willing to engage these often poor quality materials in the hopes of forming some kind of meaning from it all.  I keep looking at the image directly above this paragraph.  There’s smoke rising from a big fire on the Kentucky side of the river and the plume as I remember kept getting larger and darker.

Destroyed figure, Falls of the Ohio, May 2016

The last time I made it out to the river I went by my absurd friend to see how he was doing.  Predictably, he was in a sad state of affairs.  His head was completely missing except for the broken snowman bottle that was lying on the ground.  I just moved on.  It’s always about moving forward and I had another mission on this day.  This year we have had some decent flooding, no records mind you, just activity that is normal to this river.  Each high water incident deposits something new upon these fabled shores.  Today, I’m looking for large branches that have the potential to be arms or legs for some big figures I’m making at home.  I have a new opportunity to show some work in a context that is a bit different.  Retired Courier-Journal columnist, Bob Hill, has invited me to place work at his Hidden Hills Nursery in Utica, Indiana…just across the Ohio River from Louisville.  Bob wrote a very nice article for Southern Indiana Living about my artwork and I want to have a nice showing which will occur on May 21.  It’s a Saturday and if you are around and interested…the fun will start about 10:00 am.  I have collected three particularly large sections of Styrofoam (probably old boat docks) and I’m using them for the bodies of figures I’m making to be placed on the grounds of his plant nursery.  Bob specializes in hard to find flowers, trees, and shrubs.  I’m really curious to see what I have in mind will look like on his property.

Basement studio view with "The Crying Indian" under construction, Louisville, May 2016

For the moment, the scene has shifted from the river to my basement studio at home.  I call it a studio, but it’s really evidence that I have become a hoarder!  It’s also proof that I don’t leave everything behind at the river.  Believe me, I have taken more than my share of river crap away from the scene of the crime.  My poor suffering wife and family.  Anyway, here’s an in process view of a figure that became “The Crying Indian”.  It’s a meditation on the old public service announcement that appeared around 1970 or 71 and if you were around then, you probably have vivid memories of it.  I look forward to telling you more about this particular figure which has an interesting back story, but for now will just tease you with a sneak peek.  When I finished this piece, I couldn’t help but take it out to the river to photograph it in the environment where I found most of the pieces.  Here’s the proof.  I will leave it here for now, but if you want to see the real thing…consider this your invitation to visit Bob Hill’s Hidden Hills Nursery.  Hope to see some of you then.

Detail view of "The Crying Indian" , Falls of the Ohio, May 2016

Read Full Post »

Our dog Cory, Feb. 2015

Many thanks to all who have wished me well in my new position at the Carnegie Center for Art and History.  The people I work with are wonderful and the “old dog” that is me is enjoying learning new things.  I noticed on the internet, Facebook in particular, how much people love posting about their pets.  I’ve decided to take a page from the animal lovers of the world and try to post something both dog and Falls of the Ohio related and here goes!  I start with a picture of our family’s dog.  This is Cory and she will soon be eight years old.  She is named after the town of Corydon, Indiana where she is from.  Her mom was a pedigreed beagle and her father was…a one-eyed, black and white spotted Chihuahua/farm dog who took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself.  Such is life!  Regardless, the puppies were beautiful and Cory seems to have inherited the good qualities of both breeds.  My youngest son, Adam, did the choosing and I recall she was the only female in the litter.  In appearance, she looks like a miniature beagle and I love her coloring which is black and tan with little white feet.  Cory has warm, brown eyes.  She is smart, alert, playful, and devoted to our family to the point of being rather possessive.  When I come home from work or the river, she is by far, the most excited to see me!  Over the years her greeting me at the front door continues to be something I look forward to with deep fondness.

Dog-inspired, found character collection, Jan. 2015

I decided one cold winter’s day to sort through some of the items I’ve found at the Falls of the Ohio over the years and classify them into more coherent collections.  Out of my large and ever-growing toy collection, I determined that I had enough dog-related pieces to form a stand alone collection.  I gathered the items up and here they are reassembled on the riverbank for this “class photo” of dog characters.  This is just the stuff I decided to pick up and put into the collecting bag and does not count all the pet bowls, balls, and chew toys I’ve encountered.  I might have picked up all these other items as well, but there is a certain threshold of plastic fatigue that is reached that is hard to move past.  There is just so much needless stuff in the world and a lot of it seems to find its way into the Ohio River.  The sheer over-abundance of our material culture has certainly shaped my personal direction as an artist.

Detail of Dog Character Collection, Jan. 2015

While this is all just kitsch, some of this is fun and has endearing qualities that recall good moments from childhood.  It’s amazing how much a tiny piece of crap plastic can have these other associations attached to it.  I do recognize some of the characters portrayed, but not all.  It’s actually become part of the challenge to try to identify what some of this stuff refers to?  In this photo I recognize good old “Snoopy” from the “Peanuts” cartoon strip.  There looks to be a pair of “Weeble” dogs and a couple of others (including a Dalmatian with a fire hat) that are from children’s play sets.

Two "Clifford the Big Red Dog" plastic items, Jan. 2015

Here are two items from the “Clifford, the Big Red Dog” series.  There is “Clifford” in the form of a juice bottle cap with a black patina from being in the river for a long period of time.  I believe the other character is “T-bone”.  Originally, when you pulled the bone on the string it would cause the dog’s body to vibrate.

Sad-eyed puppy plastic keychain, Jan. 2015

I don’t recognize this guy?  He’s kind of cute in a bug-eyed way.  I’m sure there was a lot of time and effort that went into the myriad decisions to produce this item from beginning concept to finished product.  That also includes extracting the petroleum from the earth and other ingredients that went into this exact plastic recipe.

Bowtie dog with paw raised, Jan. 2015

This cutie seems old.  I tried looking on a few toy sites, but could not identify this specific piece.  I wonder if in fact it is made of rubber that has become rigid over time?

found, earless, plastic dog head, Jan. 2015

This earless, body-less, squashed, brown, plastic dog head was probably once part of a child’s pull-toy.  That’s my best guess here.

"Huckleberry Hound" as found on Goose Island

This photo is from a few years back and shows a plastic “Huckleberry Hound” toy as I found it on Goose Island.  I remember this character from my childhood and was shown along with “Quick Draw McGraw” cartoons.  I later used the blue dog for a story I posted.  Here’s an image from that story entitled “Lost and Found Hound”.

Huckleberry Hound as the lost dog.

I wrote this story in 2010 and was inspired by the lost and stray dogs I sometimes encounter in the park.  Sadly, plastic is not the only thing that gets disposed of out here.  I did have one adventure at the Falls where I was menaced by a feral dog, but usually, they are very wary and difficult to approach.  In my story, there is a happy ending and owner and dog are reunited.  I guess it was kind of touching or at least as much as putting Styrofoam, plastic, and sticks together can be.  I’ve never taken Cory to the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  For one, dogs are supposed to be on a leash…not that everyone adheres to that.  I guess I fear I would lose her if I let her run loose.  Her nose would soon be overcome with “scent joy” and that would get the best of her.  There are so many intriguing smells out here that make up a vast language that we have forgotten about that dogs still remember.  Although she usually comes to me when I call her…out here, she could be gone in a blink of an eye and it’s not worth that.  We will just stick to our neighborhood’s park.  I have a couple other “dog” related projects I’ve made over the years.

Styro-dog playing with a Ball

Here’s an early project I created when I was less interested in stories and more interested in images and objects.  You can’t tell from this picture, but I also made an “old woman” figure to accompany the dog.  This piece is made from Styrofoam pinned together with little wooden pegs.  It also incorporates plastic, driftwood, and nuts in its fabrication.  The yellow ball is the core from a contemporary softball which gives you a hint for scale.  I think the working title I had for this piece was “A Game of Fetch”.  I enjoy the challenge of creating some sense of motion using such static materials.

Tiny dog sculpture with walnut

Despite looking large in this image…this dog is actually very small.  You can tell by the walnut I’ve added for scale.  It’s “playing” in the shed, dried leaves of a willow tree.  I think in this one, the eyes are bits of found coal.  I used this same figure for an image that became one of my Christmas cards.

Tiny dog with tracks

The dog is on the trail of a very large bird.  In this case, the tracks were made by a Great Blue Heron and partially frozen in the sand.  Well, there you have my tribute to dogs and the Falls of the Ohio.  I dedicate this post to our beloved dog Cory.  On a daily basis she teaches us that we are more fully human when we give our hearts to members of another species.  See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Cory, the Wonder Dog, Feb. 2015

 

Read Full Post »

Joe Arbor at the river's edge, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

Everybody has a different tipping point where enough is finally enough and action is called for.  This was the case with Joe Arbor.  For many years, Joe Arbor walked the river’s edge paying attention to what the Earth was telling him from the signals that washed ashore.  Yes, this is a nonverbal language, but the Earth is eloquent in this way.  On this particular day, Joe Arbor noticed that there was a lot of wood everywhere and while it was picturesque…it was also disturbing.  Joe Arbor realized that all the wood he was seeing represented trees in the past tense.

driftwood at the Falls, June 2013

Joe Arbor knew of other places where the Earth via the river had left a record of lost trees particularly at the Falls of the Ohio.  In the hot bleaching sun the various logs and limbs piled on top of one another reminded him of bones.  Joe Arbor would walk among these elephant’s graveyards of trees and felt ill at ease.  These trees represented a huge loss in terms of the free services they provided.  Here was food and shelter for a multitude of other life forms.  Here was the air we breathe and the cooling shade of summer and potential warmth in winter.  Here was lost inspiration!  Since Joe Arbor also made his home next to the river, he also knew that tree roots also held the riverbank in place.  Over the past several years it had not escaped Joe Arbor’s notice that at this location,  it rained more and harder and trees were being swept away.  Joe Arbor was no scientist or genius, but could recognize that life seemed out of balance and it worried him.  What could be done?  Joe Arbor went home and decided to sleep on the question.

Joe Arbor and Pip hatch up a plan, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

Joe Arbor makes his home at the base of an old willow tree.  It took several nights of sleeping on the question before the beginnings of an answer started to form in his mind.  When the solution came to him, Joe Arbor decided that he needed some help or company and he called his good friend Pip.  Pip is short for Pipistrel which is a name given to several species of bats.  One fine morning, the pair got up early and gathered some tools and provisions together and ventured forth to the river’s edge.  If the Earth was losing her balance due to tree loss…it made sense to Joe Arbor that getting involved with planting and saving more trees could be a good thing to do.

eastern cottonwood tree leaves and capsules, June 2013

eastern cottonwood leaves and seeds, July 2013

Joe Arbor decided he wanted to try to do something to help the Eastern Cottonwoods that grew along the Falls of the Ohio.  These cottonwoods are magnificent, fast growing trees and reach great heights.  They produce unusual capsule-shaped fruits and when conditions are right, these capsules burst open releasing tiny, fluffy seeds that drift through the air like dry snow and move with the slightest breeze.  Joe Arbor also knew from experience that many more of these seeds germinate than reach maturity.  At the Falls, those seeds that sprout nearest the river eventually are destroyed by the river during flooding.  They simply get washed away or crushed by logs rolling in the waves.  Joe Arbor decided to perform an experiment to see if he could successfully transplant a cottonwood tree to a safer location?

selecting a cottonwood seedling, July 2013

First Joe Arbor and Pip selected a little cottonwood growing in the sand.  They next held hands and said a few kind words and explained to the tree what they were about to do and why.  In this way, they hoped to obtain the tree’s blessing.  Together, they carefully dug around the sand to uncover as much of the tree’s roots as they could.  Bagging up the little tree roots and all the paired moved on to a different location.

Canada geese at the Falls, July 2013

All the while Joe Arbor and Pip were working, a small flock of Canada Geese were standing nearby and acted as guards and witnesses.  Because the geese also live near the river they are also privy to the Earth’s nonverbal language and understood what was at stake here.  Their presence added a bit of solemnity to the event.

Joe Arbor and Pip with cottonwood tree, July 2013

Joe Arbor and Pip with cottonwood tree and tools, July 2013

With their valuable charge in a bag, the pair moved on to a pre-selected location they hoped would be favorable to the cottonwood tree.  Cottonwood trees do best when they are close (but not too close) to the water.  As they walked, Joe Arbor whistled an improvised melody partly out of nervousness and the excitement of the moment.  As is his norm…Pip remained quiet.

Young cottonwood in the ground, July 2013

A large enough hole was dug in the new location to accommodate all the young cottonwood’s roots.  Sand and soil were shoveled lovingly around the tree.

Joe Arbor and Pip plant the tree, July 2013

After the tree was safely in the hole, Joe Arbor said a few words while Pip watered the transplant.  It was hoped that the chosen location was the right distance from the river and that the young tree would grab a toe-hold here and prosper.  Time will tell.  The day still had one more nice surprise and it came from Pip.  Joe Arbor didn’t know why he didn’t pay attention to this before, but Pip was wearing a circular, black, plastic box on a cord hung around his neck.  This circular box was the container that smokeless tobacco is sold in.  Many of these boxes routinely wash up at the Falls of the Ohio.  Anyway, Pip opened up the container revealing its contents and this is what Joe Arbor saw.

snuff box with mulberries, July 2013

Wrapped in mulberry leaves were four ripening mulberries.  This is another tree that grows at the Falls of the Ohio and provides food for many birds and animals.  The berries are sweet and juicy when ripe and some people find them tasty too.  The leaves are interesting and come in different shapes with serrated edges.

Pip holding a mulberry, July 2013

Pip (who says very little) had his own tree planting experiment in mind and Joe Arbor got the idea.  Moving to a different location, a new hole was dug in the rich soil and a berry was placed in that hole.

Pip and Joe Arbor plant mulberries, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

The process was repeated until all the berries were planted.  Pip was curious to see if he could start a mulberry tree in this way or whether the seeds needed to travel through the gut of a bird or some other animal first?  Again, time will tell.  Satisfied that at least for today, the duo had done some good for the Earth, the pair picked up their gear and headed home together.

Pip and Joe Arbor go home, July 2013

This little story is dedicated to an artist friend of mine I have never met.  She has a vision of creating a tree art project around the world and if you are interested in learning more about it and perhaps participating…here is a link  to a post she wrote about it:  http://rooszwart.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-bridge-land-art-forest/

Pip and Joe Arbor after planting trees together, July 2013

Read Full Post »

Wet studio under the willows, Falls of the Ohio, early June 2013

If you are reading this post between June 28 through September 1, 2013 then you are also participating in an art exhibition.  You may ask…how is that possible?  Well, sitting on a white table within a gallery of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville is a desktop computer.  On that computer, my “Artist at Exit o Riverblog” is on display in a group show entitled “The Seven Borders” which is curated by Joey Yates.  The exhibition features contemporary artists who either live in Kentucky or in the seven contiguous states that border the commonwealth. I will try to post more about this exhibit over the show’s run.  I’m delighted by this invitation because this is the first time my blog has been featured as art in an art context.  I’ve always thought this was a possibility for this blog because my art comes together here in terms of the objects I make, the pictures I take, and the words I string together to tell stories or just describe the beauty of nature.

 Of course, the dialogue created by people’s comments is a part of that too.  With hope, people will additionally feel they can participate by leaving a comment, however, online you will need to be a WordPress member or a blogger with an Open ID credential.  This is easy and free to do.  If, however, you would prefer to write a note on paper while in the museum and give it to the front desk attendant…I would be glad to include those comments in this project as well. 

 It’s been a busy and engaging June with projects at the river, a family trip to Washington D.C. etc… I had planned a different post for today, but after yesterday’s experiences at the river…I thought I would go out of sequence.   Besides, with art, it is quite often the case that progress or forward movement is not linear, but jumps all over the place.  Let’s begin again with the first image of this post…this was my outdoor studio under the willow trees at the Falls of the  Ohio in early June.  

I have used this spot to cache river found materials and to make my sculptures and this has been a handy base of operations for a couple of years now.  This spot has weathered a few near miss floods that could have washed everything away again, but has stayed remarkably intact.  Well…there were a few recent changes which form the true subject of this post and here are the pictures.

Improved outdoor studio space, June 2013

Improved outdoor studio space, Falls, June 2013

Improved studio area, Falls, June 2013

It was an already dramatic day in terms of the weather.  Bright sunshine alternated between heavy, dark clouds dumping rain showers along the way.  The clarity of the air and the mosquitoes were noteworthy.  I did get soaked on this adventure, but as long as the camera stays dry…I’m alright with it all.  Imagine my surprise upon arriving at my site to find that someone anonymously had built a structure around it!  I’m used to folks going through the junk I’ve scavenged and taking or destroying whatever creations I may have left behind, but this is a first!  A great deal of care was used in working with the existing site by utilizing the surrounding trees and logs as posts and beams.  I wonder if this is also the work of more than one person?  This is more than a flimsy lean-to where the wood is simply stacked.  Some craftsmanship is evident from the knots used to hold the structure together.  It might take more than one person to steady things as another does the tying?  Again, more pictures to illustrate the story.

knots used to hold structure together, June 2013

knots used on wood structure, June 2013

knots and wood, June 2013

The yellow nylon line is something I had found previously and used to create the giant spider’s web featured in an earlier post.  This structure has a chance to stay up for awhile…at least until someone else messes with it or the river rises again.  I was absorbed with the changes and reflecting on how often I have looked at this site from an archeological perspective.  It might even be fun to draw all this stuff in a scientific sort of way.  Because it had rained while I was looking around, the damp ground muffled the approaching sounds of my second big surprise of the day!

Figure with large head, June 2013

I turned and looked over my shoulder as this large presence stepped over the logs and entered the studio area.  He sat right down and asked, “Are you the guy that makes the Styrofoam sculptures?”

Big Figure with Pencil-thin mustache, Falls, June 2013

Big figure with pencil-thin mustache, June 2013

Whoa!…(I said to myself),…check out this dude with the huge head, miss-matched eyes, and pencil-thin mustache.  No doubt about it…I was a bit taken aback!  Regaining my composure, I replied that indeed I was that person and added that many of those creations were made in this very spot.  Without every telling me his name, he replied “I thought so…I’ve been an admirer of your work for a long time now.”  Knowing he was a fan set me at ease and we had a nice visit together.

Big Figure with pencil thin mustache, Falls, June 2013

Portrait of the Figure with the Big Head and Pencil-thin Mustache, Falls, June 2013

“So, how do you like it?”  Spreading his spindly arms around my studio,  I gathered that he was the architect of these recent improvements.  I told my mustachioed friend that I just love it when people play along and contribute to my Falls of the Ohio project!  I could see this clearly delighted him.  He asked if there were any suggestions for improvements and I replied that I had a few ideas.  To begin with, it is now much more difficult to move within the space.  I whacked my head a few times on wooden supports.  If the structure were higher…that wouldn’t be an issue and I also wouldn’t turn into a hunchback any sooner than I have to.  I also added that I missed having the big log to use as an impromptu work surface.  When I stood, it was just the right height.  Now, it is covered up with stacked wood.  I could see from his expression that this was probably enough in suggestions for this time.  I didn’t tell him that I needed to create new seating because the plank I liked using had been damaged.  That’s no big deal.  With the clouds ahead promising more rain, I gathered my camera, collecting bag, and walking stick and bid my new friend so long…for now.  Perhaps we’ll meet again?  Looking back, I saw the big guy sitting in my customary spot.  As I walked over the driftwood and sand, I wondered if my next visit to this site would harbor any more surprises?

The Big Guy with Pencil-thin Mustache at the studio, Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: