Archive for May, 2009

Holly Allee, Yew Dell Gardens, 5/09

Yew Dell Gardens is the polar opposite of the landscape I usually site my art.  Where I’m used to the flux and drama of the Ohio riverscape…at Yew Dell Gardens…man is the measure.  It is a lovely and ordered experience walking around the various interesting buildings and admiring the skill of the gardeners.  From a previous post, I have accepted an invitation to exhibit one of my works in Yew Dell Gardens’ 2nd Annual Sculpture in the Dell show.  The opening night was as perfect as weather in our area gets which is so important to the success of a mostly outdoor show.  Following are a few images of the 60 or so works on display.  Yew Dell did a wonderful job placing the work, creating a nice printed program with map, artist statements, and price list. 

Meg White's "Sea Lion", 5/09

Kentucky sculptor Meg White has three limestone works on display including this “Sea Lion”.  Meg has built a solid reputation on her carvings and bronzes of animal subjects.  She likes to incorporate the matrix of the stone as part of the work’s content.

"Warped Frame, Tom Butsch, 5/09

One of my favorite works in the show is Tom Butsch’s “Warped Frame” which hangs from an unseen tree branch.  It’s such a simple work consisting of aluminum tubes and steel cable.  The center tube pivots in the slightest breeze and makes a nice tone when it strikes the frame.  I like his statement about not wanting to create an object as much as providing an ongoing visual experience.  Over the years, he has made many kinetic pieces.

"Abraham Lincoln", Raymond Graf, 5/09

Lincoln was born in Kentucky and this year we are celebrating the bicentennial of this event.  This over-lifesize bronze bust is by Raymond Graf.  I think this is one of the more compelling images of the great president I have seen.  It sits on a nice limestone pedestal with the name “Lincoln” insribed on it.  Graf’s bronze portraits are well known in our area.

Falls Scarecrow in Kitchen Garden, 5/09

Here’s the back of my scarecrow…like the red reflector butt cheeks?  When I delivered this piece, the kitchen garden didn’t yet exist.  It should be fun watching how this site changes over the two month course of the exhibition.  What I didn’t show were all the people who attended this event.  I have a habit of waiting for people to get out the shot before taking the picture!  I have other Yew Dell Garden images and will try to post them as time goes by… www.yewdellgardens.org

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My Foaming Brain, 5/09

May is just about history.  Despite a wet beginning, rallied to become a rose of a month.  I was outside as much as I could get away to make art and watch nature.  In retrospect, I did make quite a few objects and images that having this blog helped boost along.  My latest river figure I’ve entitled “My Foaming Brain” is as much a reflection of what’s going on inside my head as it is a document of what I’m finding at this place along the Ohio River.  I haven’t decided yet whether the foam is entering or leaving this figure’s head.  I’ll leave that open for you to decide.

tree on wier dam, 5/09

Remains of the “mini-flood” are evident all around.  Here’s a tree washed away from the riverbank just hanging on the wier dam in the eastern part of the park.  Once the river level drops, many logs and other debris become stranded on the top of the wall.  And, there they will stay until the next high water lifts them off.  Meanwhile, all manner of other river carried flotsam and jetsam is building up behind the wall like barbarians at the gate.

Cracking mud, 5/09

Don’t let the cracks deceive you…this mud is very much wet.  If you step on it… you will sink to your ankles!  My Falls shoes are now a complete ruin because of this mud’s sole-sucking quality.  I wear my most beat up clothing when I come out here and I’m sure that more than one visitor must have thought I was a homeless person living by the river.  I have come across signs in the mud where I can tell that a person’s feet were gripped so hard that they fell forward and left hand prints as well.

The Exhibit, 5/09

I believe this ties a record for me.  There are five figures sitting on informal exhibition in the park that haven’t been disturbed.  Usually, my pieces get discovered, taken or destroyed.  All of them have been featured in this month’s blog.  I did, however, keep the birds I made.  This weekend, there are several river sweeps and clean-ups going on ( some involving friends from the Living Lands and Rivers crew) and it should be interesting to see if these sculptures survive.  Will they be considered trash or treasure?  I think of what I do here as a form of “repackaging”…it goes along with those other “r-words”…reuse, recycle, rethink, rebuild, rebound, re-etc……..

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Styro-Storm Bird, 5/09

Styro-Storm Bird, 5/09

In my attempts to photograph the illusion of a flying bird, I’ve resorted to some low-tech solutions.  I first tried suspending my polystyrene models using cast-off fishing line found all too commonly on the riverbank.  Fishermen, please take your waste monofilament with you!  But, this solution was too obvious in the pictures and the models did blow around in the wind.  Then I hit upon using long thin skewers whittled  from local wood.  In the above photos, you can’t see that the bird is pinned to the branch behind it.  I call this the Styro-Storm Bird because it was made during a rain storm.  Materials used include polystyrene foam, wood, coal eyes, and plastic for the collar and part of the bill which came from a fishing bobber.  I’ve made a few of these birds recently and saved them. 

During the time I was working, this Eastern Kingbird hung around my site.  It didn’t seem too afraid of me.  I’ve noticed that there are a couple pairs of them currently at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Eastern Kingbird, 5/09

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Baby Sun, 5/09

Today was one of those days where the objects I found really directed the figure I made.  I came across the broken passifier and baby rattle and wondered what our star would look like personified as an infant?  It is afterall almost summer.  I used pieces of bark to frame the head.  The eyes and nose are fishing bobbers and I’ve imbedded a yellow light into its body.  The bottoms of aluminum cans form the ears.

Silver-spotted Skipper, 5/09

Butterflies are starting to appear in greater numbers and diversity.  This is a Silver-spotted Skipper sunning itself.  Today I also saw Red Admirals and a Red-spotted Purple. 

Yellow Warbler, 5/09

I had one opportunity to photograph this Yellow Warbler and here is the result.  The restless nature of warblers makes them challenging subjects, but when you get a good image it makes your day.  About an hour later we had a pretty good thunder shower…I’m more concerned about keeping the camera dry than if I get wet.  I left the Sun figure behind and thought it was one of the stranger ones I have made recently.  I’ll close with a detail of this odd image.

Baby Sun with Rattle, 5/09

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Orange-collared Thickbill, 5/09

The shoe/figure from the previous post wasn’t the only piece I made that day.  Here’s another in my Styro-bird series I call the “Orange-collared Thickbill”.  It  wouldn’t surprise me to learn that somewhere among the world’s 10,000 plus bird species is an actual bird called this!  All the elements came from this day’s walk.  The blue bill is the nose cone of a bottle rocket.  The eyes come from sycamore seeds.  I wanted to create another image with the willow fluff before the expected rains wash it away.

Orange-collared Thickbill and fluff, 5/09

I’m seeing fewer actual bird species now and feel we are settling into our summer time mode.  Cedar waxwings are still around…taking advantage of a bumper crop of mulberries.  The resident Eastern Kingbirds are back flycatching from their willow posts.  Orioles still flash through the treetops as they pursue their own kind relentlessly.  Closer to the ground, I came across a small flock of American Goldfinches.  Their bright yellow bodies, black wings, and orange bills add a color note to the muted tones of sand and gravel.  I remember seeing once, a small flock of about twenty goldfinches their numbers doubled by their reflections in the shallow water they were bathing in…now that was beautiful! 

male, American Goldfinches, 5/09

Last shot is of one of these amazing willow trees that survive being immersed and battered by the river’s currents.  It’s like walking through this habitat of giant bonsai trees. 

willow tree, 5/09

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hair brush and willow fluff, 5/09

Today was one of those unusual days were you couldn’t tell the color of the sky.  Neither blue nor gray it just seemed heavy with humidity.  Wafting on the air currents…fluff from willow catkins formed drifts against the landscape.  I have never seen so much out at one time.  I came across this brush in the fluff and thought it summed up the magic.  Are these seeds for the willow trees?

little guy pulling shoe, 5/09

Or, is it some kind of organic pixie dust?  Today was full of odd moments.  I was listening to the Belle of Louisville’s steam calliope…the music carries from its dock on the waterfront to the sands of the Falls.  When a particularly rousing rendition of the theme from “The Sting” finished, I then heard the Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” kick into gear.  Simultaneously with the Belle’s concert was a bit of strangeness Louisville calls “Abbey Road on the River”.  It’s a three day Beatles festival that also takes place on the waterfront and draws tribute bands from all over the world.  I wondered which Beatles group I was listening to…the one from Norway, Japan, or Germany?  Oh, and then there was this Little Guy pulling a shoe…

Little Guy pulling a Shoe, 5/09

He was struggling mightily and I give him credit for dragging  it as far as he did.  He also wasn’t much on conversation and I can only speculate what was so special about this particular shoe.  Perhaps, for whatever reason, it was just his size.

Shoe Rider, 5/09

After a bit, the Little Guy did something astounding!  He climbed into the shoe and started hopping which made the shoe cover the sand more efficiently.  Sort of sack-racing style if you know what I mean?  I soon lost sight of him…my mind swimming to the odd musical amalgam of Stephen Foster melodies meets John Lennon lyrics.  Anyway, I hope that shoe fellow didn’t hop to the river’s edge….the mud there is over your ankles.

Riverscape, 5/09

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superimposed toy boat

Well, I think I just made up a new word…although I don’t believe the Oxford Dictionary will be calling me up any time soon.  I just couldn’t think of the right thing to call these three images that seemed to fit them.  The idea is simple enough.  I overlay a found object ( like these toys) and take a picture that includes a backdrop of  the landscape they were found in.  Maybe, some wordmeister out there can hit the nail on the head.  This was a late summer image from 2008.

toy boat superimposed, 5/09

Another toy boat on the water from a couple weeks ago.  Photographed with the tainter gates as a backdrop.

toy helicopter superimposed, 5/09

Found this broken toy helicopter and thought it looked good against the blue sky.  Isn’t this what kids do…hold toys up and imagine they are somewhere else and real?  I don’t recall if I was making engine noises too!

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sign fragment detail

Just posted another in a series of river collections I have made at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  This series can be seen in my Pages section.  The image above is a detail from one of the found signs.  What man created, nature altered.  There is a very contemporary feel to these lucky finds.

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Falls of the Ohio Scarecrow, 5/09

Delivered my piece today for Yew Dell Gardens 2nd Annual “Sculpture in the Dell” invitational.  I was honored to be asked even though my work doesn’t fit the standard of what garden art generally looks like.  I asked if there was a garden on the grounds that could use a scarecrow and as it happens…a new kitchen garden was being installed.  I recycled an earlier spring project and turned it into this work the “Falls of the Ohio Scarecrow”.  I changed the arms and added a few new elements.  Should be fun to watch as this work grows with the garden over the next two months.  The show’s dates are May 30 – August 2, 2009.

Yew Dell's stone castle, 5/09

Yew Dell Gardens is in Crestwood, KY and originally was a private home, garden, and arboretum of the late nurseryman Theodore Klein.  The 33-acre garden has been restored and is now a not for profit organization.  There are many wonderful structures on the property and the best known is the Stone Castle, originally conceived as a pool house.  It’s a marvel of fieldstone construction.  You can learn more about Yew Dell by visiting their website:  www.yewdellgarden.org 

Don Lawler sculpture, Yew Dell, 5/09

Here’s a nice work by my friend Don Lawler on Yew Dells’  property.  This giant hand is carved from a block of limestone and commands the setting it is in.  This sculpture was a part of last year’s show.

Matt Weir, installing at Yew Dell, 5/09

Here’s sculptor Matt Weir installing his work for the show.  He is one of many friends participating in this outdoor exhibition.  I will post more from Yew Dell Gardens during the run of the invitational.

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Black Robe, 5/09

Had a few hours to play around and so I constructed this small figure fairly quickly.  It’s just a reminder that among the first Europeans to venture down the Ohio River were French missionaries who called these waters La Belle Riviere…..the Beautiful River.  This piece is constructed from Styrofoam, sticks, acorns, plastic, and what appears to be a rubber-like material (neoprene?)…that’s the material that makes up the robe.

mallard eggs, 5/09

I was walking by a hollow log and a female mallard duck burst out and scared the “heck” out of me!  I wondered what this duck was doing a few hunderd yards away from the water and when I poked my head inside I found her nest with eggs.  I took this quick photo and retreated.  I think we both gave each other a good fright!

beaver skull, 5/09

Even with the incissors gone, I identified this as a beaver skull.  It’s a fairly heavy and dense assemblage of bone.  The rest of the skeleton is nearby, but it still has some decomposing to do.  I photographed a beaver sitting on its tail during high waters last year.  I think of this animal as being one of my collaboraters because I love to use beaver-chewed willow sticks in my art.  As they nibble the bark off, their teeth leave marks in the wood that add a subtle pattern.  The beaver are making enough of a comeback here that in places they are considered a nuisance.

Beaver, Spring 2008

Here’s the beaver photo from last year.  He was drying his fur on the bank when he heard my camera and dashed for the water.  Sitting on its tail, it seems almost contemplative.  I like that the French word for river and reverie sound similar.  Here’s one last image of “Black Robe”. 

Black robe, 5/09

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