Archive for December, 2010


Another year’s worth of fresh water has passed under our bridges.  It’s been an eventful year in many ways and to recap things sounds like more energy than I currently have to expend on something at this moment. I guess I can’t party like I used to!  So, here I am limping my way across the finish line with Post number 223.

I love the way ice changes the riverscape at the Falls.  Over the years, I have been a lucky witness to some interesting ice formations.  On this last trip, however, the ice present seemed to cover surfaces in a glassy coating.  I decided to take a walk along the river side of the Woodland Trail.  It was cold, but the wind was calm which helped things a lot.  I made this figure that I named “Acorn Eyes” from stuff out of my collecting bag and objects that I found along the way.  The snow and ice formed a lighter background that actually helped objects to stand out more clearly.

Here’s a colorful shoe followed by a child’s playground ball I came across. 

One natural object that caught my eye was this ice-covered milkweed pod.  This plant is very important in the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.

By the sycamore trees I found a spot I like that has these wonderful exposed roots.  You could still see the mottled greens and whites of the tree bark through the thin coating of ice that covered them.  I decided to take a few pictures here with my newest Styrofoam figure.

With as much pressure as is regularly put upon this landscape, I marvel that there are any trees here at all.  The river is a powerful force washing away most everything that stands before it.  Subtler still, but also very effective is the role ice plays in breaking apart the fossil rock.  Water seeps into the smallest cracks and as the temperature drops below freezing, the water expands into ice, further wedging apart the gaps.  In this way rock is split and broken down. 

Walking along the trees that border the river, you can see the remains of logs that were washed into here during previous floods and eventually became stranded.  As they decay, they release their nutrients back into the environment.  I like looking for the patterns formed by the various layers deposited. 

I am also looking forward to whatever the new year brings.  May it be a positive and peaceful one for all.  I know the river will keep life interesting for me…and I hope I can do likewise for you through this blog.  See you next year!

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We awoke to a white Christmas in Louisville.  Just enough snow to cover the lawns and trees.  By now all my Falls of the Ohio holiday cards have been sent out.  Usually, I have several designs going at once.  This year, I made cards featuring snowmen, a dog I made from river delivered Styrofoam, as well as one featuring a Styrofoam polar bear with one leg I found out here amazingly enough!  Sometimes the cards are funny and sometimes they riff on some aspect of the holidays we could live without.

Both of the snowmen I made were created using parts of old Christmas ornaments I have found out here.  Usually, the perfectly round Styrofoam balls I find were originally fabric covered baubles meant for the tree.  This first snowman also features a bottle cap hat which gives you some sense for its scale.  The nose on this one is actually a miniature carrot I also discovered in the sand and kept for just such a purpose as this!  I waited for the snow to arrive which it did this year just in time.

The little dog came from a previous post that most everybody missed and so I don’t feel as badly about recycling one of my former projects.  In this case, I thought the dog came out particularly well and deserved another chance to shine.  It’s made from Styrofoam and sticks, plastic, and tiny bits of coal thrown in to create eyes and a nose!  He’s so light that he doesn’t leave tracks in the snow!

I featured another image of this dog in my last post on the spoor of a particularly large bird which was a fun juxtaposition to work with.  In this overall group of photos, the object’s shadow plays a role as a design element.  As I recall, this was a very cold day with wind which caused some issues with the camera’s batteries.  I had little time to snap these before the camera turned itself off.  Among the other bits of polystyrene I was carrying on me was a “bear effigy” that I found out here this year.  I posed it in a few places along the way and here are some of the images.

Emerging from its hibernation, the one-legged Styro-Polar Bear encounters a rapidly changing landscape.  What was historically all ice and snow is now a melting landfill.

I mounted the Styro-bear on a small piece of wood I found out here so it could stand up.  I found it in damaged condition missing one of its legs.  I have no idea what this was originally intended to represent, but it reads bear-like to me.  The bear is such a resonant image going back to the beginnings of art and ironically I find one that says something about the here and now and our relationship with nature.  Much has changed.

 One final snowman before closing and this one wears a blue hat!  I made this guy as a window decoration for a display at work, but couldn’t resist adding his portrait to the winter series.  Although he was made with Falls materials…he’s strictly a visitor.

Happy Holidays, Winter Solstice, etc… to everyone out there.  My best to all in the coming year!

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I’m the only one out here and for good reason too.  It is just so cold and the wind isn’t helping matters at all.  My eyes peer through a narrow exposed  slit formed by the bottom of my hat and the top of my scarf which covers most of my face.  On a day like today it is good to have a purpose and I do.  Each year I make my own set of holiday cards and mail them off to family and friends and I use the Falls of the Ohio to provide materials and context.

The snow changes things by generalizing the landscape.  You need to be careful where you step out here since the snow gives you a false sense of security.  All the old dangers are still out here…they are just harder to see.  A misstep can cause you to fall or twist an ankle and it is slippery walking on top of this wood. 

For me, however, all these miserable conditions are worth the moments of enchantment that occur.  Every day objects take on a renewed visual interest and new compositions are created.

With the vegetation gone, this frayed barge cable shows up easily on the willow branches that have snagged it.  The river deposited it long a go and it is finally falling apart.  Next spring, strands of this rope will form parts of next year’s oriole nests.  What I also find interesting here is how the wind, sand, and snow blow together to form a light drifting mixture.

Walking towards my outdoor studio site, I unexpectantly came across these tracks in the sand and snow.  These were made by a very large bird and I thought Great Blue Heron or even Sandhill Crane?  It’s unusual to see these bird tracks here since the herons in particular stay closer to the water’s edge.

The little dog traveling with me couldn’t resist seeing where the tracks led to.  The sand and snow mixture may have exaggerated the true size of this bird.  After a short walk the tracks end here.

I wonder if what is recorded here is a brief moment of indecision?  First, the bird turns one way then another and then the tracks are gone.  It may have jumped into the air from this spot since there are no other tracks in the immediate area.

I come across another nice snow/sand drift and start taking a few shots for my holiday cards.  I had made this little Styro-snowman with a Blue Hat at home with Falls’ materials and brought him along.  Here he is admiring the drift as he walks on one side of it.  Each time I take a picture I need to take my glove off and before long my finger tips start to burn.  The longer I’m out here…the more purposeful I become.

Reaching my familiar site, I find the large figures that watch my back.  Other than the snow, more has changed here since my last visit.  There’s a new figure leading the group like a skinny choir master.  It’s getting harder to take a simple picture and I think the day is getting colder still.  The camera is freezing and the batteries are getting zapped.  Soon, I won’t be able to take pictures and I decide to turn around after about a half an hour’s walk.  I did take one other picture for this post from my snow filled studio.  It shows that indeed, milk crates can hold water…as long as it’s frozen.  See previous posts a go.  Time for some hot chocolate and heat!

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A Twelve Image Story

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The train and I arrived at the Falls at the same time today.  It’s a frosty cold morning, but the sun is rising.  The only places you can find the icy covered driftwood now is in the shadows.  I’m more in the mood today to just go for a walk with my trusty camera.

I found this little composition and it reminded me of some of my favorite Max Ernst paintings.  I’ve always admired his creativity.  Ironically, the plywood panel with the circular hole is made of plastic!  I have no idea what it belongs to?

I thought I would check out the area near my outdoor studio site.  There’s not much in the way of birds out here in the willows, but on the river, I have spotted Lesser Scaup ducks mixing with Mallards.  The photos I made of them are good enough only for identification purposes. 

I came across one of my recent Styro-figures that I had thought was gone.  The last couple of times I have been out here, I don’t remember seeing it. He or she is still standing in an area where someone has recycled the metal wheels from these tires.  By cutting these tires up it prevents them from becoming mosquito nurseries and at least some element from the wheel gets reused.

Stopping by my trusty site gave me the chance to revisit some old friends.  The wind has knocked a couple of them down and I think they may have had some human help too.  It may only be a few months before this area will get rearranged by the later winter/early spring river overflow.

Walking down to the river it’s much windier.  The reddish bark of the willow saplings adds a note color to the landscape.  The river is a little higher than before and waves are pushing against the shore.  In the air above, Ring-billed Gulls dive into the water when food is spotted.  Yes, there is also trash in the river which gets pushed onto the land.

Objects made with fossil fuels wash over limestone bedrock with its embedded fossils.  A little water seems to make the fossils stand out a little more.  Over 350 million years a go these corals were at home in a marine environment.

Contrasting with the cleanliness of the exposed rock are sections were mud, sand, and silt have been cast ashore.  That’s were I found this image.

To me this also has the feel of a fossil.  This comb is evidence of life and its made from ancient carbon.  I wonder if plastic can fossilize?

I have collected more than one milk crate along the way.  I like to use them to store found objects and wood at my outdoor site.  Walking the river I found this image and was  provoked by it.  It’s a picture that finds some beauty in futility since this crate will never hold water.  There is snow in the forecast for this weekend and I’m anxious to see if it pans out.  More later.

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On my last walk at the Falls of the Ohio I came across so many found round objects that I thought a few photos of them might be fun or interesting so what the heck. I’ll start with the first orb I came across which was an  osage orange fruit also called a hedge-apple around here.  It looks somewhat brain-like because of its texture.  There are also a few genuine and fake baseballs in various states of decomposition thrown in for good measure.  I also found another plastic orange…that one will go into the Fake Fruits and Veggies Collection which keeps growing with each trip to the river.  The day began cool and frosty, but warmed up with some sunshine after noon.  Alright now and without further delay, here are the photographs.

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Because the work a day world had me preoccupied, it’s nice to be able to return to the river.  This interaction with the Falls occurred about a week a go, but it also takes me back to the early days of this project.  To stir the imagination I would challenge myself to only use materials found within the circle of a chosen tree.  The results were often incongruous, but it was fun to do.  The following polystyrene figure was made in a similar way where I allowed myself only materials available in a small area.

I found just enough Styrofoam for a head and body.  Splitting a nut in half became the solution for the eyes.  Bits and pieces of brightly colored plastic further called attention to the head.

The first heavy frost is near now.  The flowers have bloomed and the seeds are going on their own journey.  Migrating sandhill cranes have crossed overhead. I’m by this small “creek” that’s more of storm sewer overflow for the nearby village. 

There’s always water flowing …even when it’s not raining at all.  People like to fish here especially when the river is high and catfish are close to shore.  When we do get high water, this spot catches many of the logs that drift in here and become stranded.  I like to walk on top of this bridge when I’m crossing over from one section of the park to the other.

I moved the small figure I had made to the creek and snapped this portrait.  On the riverbank I can find recently chewed willow saplings and I know there is a beaver currently around.  Evidence of past beaver encounters mark some of the dead trees near the creek’s mouth.

Also in this vicinity are some of my favorite trees.  There are particular sycamore and willow trees that have exposed root systems.  These trees appear to be uprooting themselves and moving on which they do very slowly and deliberately!

The river has retreated from here for now.  This is also a favored place for fishermen.  The nearby fossil cliffs make a convenient place to cast a line or build a fire.  The underlying limestone sends currents flowing in multiple and treacherous directions.  The water here is usually well oxygenated and so it attracts fish.

I left this figure by the side of the path and walked to my vehicle.  This day began sunny but quickly turned overcast and gray as it wore on.  To close, here is another view of a tree with a great platform of roots showing by the nearby fossil cliffs.

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