Posts Tagged ‘artificial food’

plastic pine growing out of a stump, Sept. 2013I consider this a great honor that fellow blogger Isaac Yuen focused one of his posts around my art projects from the past year and the tales I’ve created around them. For several years now, I have enjoyed Isaac’s award winning blog Ecostories. He has made me a believer in the power of the spoken and written word to convey universal truths particularly when they speak about our evolving relationship with nature. Stories are important and everyone has a story to tell. Isaac has a great way of taking on complex narratives and making them understandable. I encourage you to check out his thoughtful, positive, and beautifully written blog.

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Fake Food Collection, Nov. 2013

I have so much to be thankful for that I don’t need one particular day set aside to remind me of this.  Nevertheless, I happily will take the next two days off from my day job, hang out with my family, eat, and of course… fiddle with my art projects!  I have an exhibition coming up soon (late January 2014 at the Carnegie Museum of Art and History in New Albany, Indiana) and I have been going through my Falls of the Ohio river junk and thinking about what this show might feature of my work?  It’s going to be a two-person show and so there will be a great space to fill.

I recently went through my various river collections including my Fake Food Collection which is ongoing and I have added many new pieces over the past year.  The Ohio River has been bountiful in fact over a ten-year period, it has been a regular liquid cornucopia.  Although I haven’t counted each item, I’ll wager my Fake Food Collection has about a couple hundred pieces now… all of it collected one piece at a time, off of the riverbank.  It’s interesting to think of this stuff as being a part of the fake food tradition.  I’ve seen examples of fake Japanese sushi that look amazingly like the real thing…but not at the Falls.

After all these years, I’m still blown away…perplexed…morbidly fascinated and repulsed…insert other adjectives here…that so much of this stuff exits and that most of it is made from plastic.  I’m just one person living near a river in the interior of a big country and this is what I’ve found at this single location.  Do other American rivers flow with plastic produce and is it all floating towards the oceans?  It’s so curious that we use a natural resource like petroleum to produce artificial food even if it is intended to be playthings.  It personally strikes me as an affront to nature especially once it materially starts breaking down and merging with the substrates we depend on.  Perhaps some of you wordsmiths out there will put your finger on exactly why this stuff is so provoking?

Okay…enough of that, now where’s the beef?  Where’s the plastic meat the title of this post promised?  I was curious about that myself and so I went through my collection and this is what shook out.  Bon appetite!

Plastic poultry from the Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Since Thanksgiving here traditionally means roast fowl of some sort…I thought I would start with a couple of roasted birds and drumsticks.  Of course these items are miniature and I realize that a coin for scale would help.  Okay, I’ve found my ruler and if you must know…the biggest object in the above photo is 3.5 inches or 9 centimeters long.  The middle drumstick on the bottom row has a dark patina acquired from spending much time in the river.

plastic turkey or chicken, Nov. 2013

chewed up, plastic roast fowl, Nov. 2013

This last image of roast fowl looks like something (probably the family dog) tried to eat!  Notice the teeth marks on the carcass.  Now that we are done with the appetizer… let’s move on to the fake hamburgers and cheeseburgers.  I know the old salivary glands are probably kicking in now!

plastic hamburgers and cheeseburgers with one plastic crinkle cut french fry, Nov. 2013

plastic hamburgers and cheeseburgers, Nov. 2013

Here’s a couple of shots of the items in question.  In ten years time, the river has washed up and I have found seven cheeseburgers and hamburgers, three loose bun tops, and yes…two crinkle cut french fries (only one is shown) all are made of various plastic recipes.  Several of the burger toys I’m pretty sure were intended as dog toys.  Some of the them still have the little squeaker in the bottom bun.  The others probably came from children’s play sets.  As you can see…they are variously dressed with condiments and the buns go from plain to featuring sesame seeds in white, brown, and black colors.  I have some individual burger portraits too.  Here’s several examples of how you can have it your way.  The larger burgers are roughly life-size to slightly smaller than the real deals.

hamburger with black poppy seeds_1_1

Ahhh…a black poppy-seed bun heavy on the lettuce and tomatoes.

hamburger, plain bun, tomato and lettuce_1_1

Here’s a plain bun, segregate the tomato on one side and the lettuce on the other option.  The meat here is more of a textural suggestion.

plastic hamburger two tomatoes_1_1

This is a gaudy burger with hints of mustard and two layers of tomatoes!

plastic hamburger with seeds, lettuce and tomato_1_1

Not sure if that’s melted yellow cheese or more mustard squeezing over the edge?  Looks de-lish nevertheless!  If you are wondering what artificial food looks like in a natural environment…here are a two images of plastic meat as I found them in place.

Gross cheeseburger with white poppy seeds and river patina

This one has white poppy seeds on the bun, frilly lettuce, and a nice grimy river patina.  Let’s leave the burgers and head into new territory.  First an image of our next plastic meat subset.

conjoined plastic hot dogs from the Falls of the Ohio

I can remember the joyful moment of finding this rare double score.  Two conjoined, Siamese twin plastic hot dogs resting on a bed of Styrofoam and river sticks.  Of course, I had to take a picture!  Now, for a snapshot of my hot dog collection.

Hot dog collection from the Falls with Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile

As you can see…these tube steaks and buns vary in size.  The largest example at the very top has all of its paint gone, but you can see where a fake mustard squiggle would be.  Perhaps some of them are actually intended to be Vienna sausages, but who knows?  One particularly prized find is the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile whistle in the bottom right hand corner.  I’ve propped it up on a plastic french fry to get a better side view.  There are plastic meats that I know are out there (like fake steaks or even slices of plastic pizza with f aux pepperoni), but I have yet to find examples by the river.  I do have a code I go by…unless I find it at the Falls of the Ohio…I won’t compromise my collection with non-Falls items.  It’s a part of the quest and fun of what scrumptious simulacra will turn up next.  Is Rack of Lamb or Pot Roast on the menu…only time will tell?  For now, I will content myself with this Double Decker Dog…Happy Thanksgiving from the Falls of the Ohio.

World famous Double Decker Dog, Nov. 2013

Postscript:  Less than a month after publishing this post…I found plastic hamburger combination #8 in the late December driftwood.  Here’s a couple of images made in the field.

found plastic hamburger, #8, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2013

Plastic hamburger #8 as found, Dec. 2013

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vertical and horizontal wood at the Falls, April 2013

When words fail me, my pictures often bail me out.  I’m certainly not much of a  philosopher or poet who can consistently turn just the right phrase.  I suppose this is one reason I gravitated towards the visual arts.  I do, however, try through words and images to create some kind of synthesis that touches upon how human nature intersects with nature at large.  The Falls of the Ohio State Park continues to provide that stage for me and the river offers up many examples where the natural and artificial routinely bump into or meld with one another.  This happens most commonly when we carelessly set free our man-made detritus into the environment.  Following are a few examples I encountered on this outing.

foam deer head archery target, April 2013

Looks like a rock or a piece of wood, but on closer inspection, it’s what’s left of a synthetic deer head used for archery practice.  This head probably once attached to a life-size foam body.  The river has eroded the neck and muzzle away but you can still see an eye spot, ear stub, and a location where artificial antlers could attach.  Once upon a time, this archery target was convincingly realistic.  It’s what’s left of a fake deer where real deer exist.  In the mud very close to this find were actual deer tracks.  Deer have moved into Louisville and it is becoming more common to encounter roadkill within the city’s limits.

toy fantasy horse, April 2013

It’s Kentucky Derby time in the Bluegrass so it is fitting that I find a horse image by the river and what a horse it is!  Shockingly pink with a long flowing mane that cockle burrs and other wayward seeds have become entangled.  How long will it be before our Wizard of Oz science creates real horses of different colors?  I’ve seen that we can already do this with some fresh water aquarium fishes.  Although this toy’s inspiration is the horse…this isn’t a very naturalistic example and was designed to appeal to children.  I bet I could take this horse and plant it in the ground and have some of the attached seeds germinate.

found plastic ice cream cone, April 2013

Because this is tiny, it would be easy to walk over this “prize”. This plastic ice cream cone compliments the small plastic toaster pastry I came across a couple of weeks a go.  I think this might emulate chocolate covered mint ice cream in a wafer cone? I’m still finding plastic fruits and veggies, but I’m also encountering more plastic fake “processed” items including fast food standards like cheese burgers and the occasional petrochemical french fry.

Swept-wing Dove, April 2013

Flying by at great speed and requiring a camera with an extremely fast exposure is the Swept-wing Dove.  This is my latest avian creation.  It’s another fake bird that came together in the context of where Audubon left his footprints.  I casually put this together using found materials which includes plastic, Styrofoam, insulating foam, and I’m not sure what the brown body is made of but it’s some kind of foam as well.  The bill is a pen cap found along the trail.  The forms were shaped by the Ohio River and I used them as is.

Swept-wing dove flying over bottom land, April 2013

Coursing over the bottom land near the river’s edge is my fake bird which is also the habitat of many real birds as well.  The spring migration of neotropical birds heading northward is one of my favorite times of year.  It’s a chance to see species passing through that normally don’t hang out for very long.

Swept-wing dove in flight, April 2013

The insulating foam that forms the right-wing is practically the same value as the river in the distance and causes it to nearly disappear.

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For thousands of years the river has been a baseline supporting life in the way nature intended.  Now I see a more complicated scene where dislocated images, objects, and substances blur along the shoreline of the conventional. It’s also an odd feeling realizing that much of this trash can also possess a natural beauty of its own.

Two local boys with Swept-winged dove, April 2013

Along this stretch of the river I had these two guys tagging along and asking me questions such as “What are you doing?” and “Mr. did you make the bird and what are you going to do with it?  I asked them if they were artists too and one said yes and the other didn’t believe he was.  I later observed them swinging from a stout vine growing along a sycamore tree and playing in their fantasy world.  Their fathers were nearby fishing at the water’s edge.  I will leave now with a fuller look at the tree I often use to gauge how high the river is.

tree with snagged wooden palette, April 2013

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logs on the dam, March 2013

It’s an unbelievably gorgeous morning at the Falls of the Ohio and I have the park to myself.  The Ohio River has been running high although we haven’t had a lot of rain pass through our area.  Most of this water is probably coming from snow melt and precipitation in the northern section of the Ohio River Valley.  The river is receding and one of the first sights I see are logs that have been stranded on the dam as the water level drops.  These logs will remain balanced here until the river shifts them around again.  As I begin my walk, I see driftwood and trash everywhere I look.

plastic trash and driftwood, March 2013

Accessing the bank is tricky and muddy.  I maneuver by walking on the backs of logs and balancing myself with my walking stick.  In areas where the river has dropped back… plastic trash, Styrofoam, and driftwood remain where this detritus floated in.  I like studying the patterns I see in the deposited wood and imagine the swirl of the river in these areas.  Of course, I find other treasures and oddities too.  Here are just a few objects that made it into the collecting bag.

plastic pickle, March 2013

My fake food collection keeps getting bigger and bigger.  Here’s a plastic pickle  I found.  On this day, I also picked up a plastic chicken drumstick, a plastic plum and in the bag already from my last visit are a plastic onion and a plastic cheeseburger!  I find all this plastic food to be an interesting indicator of the times we live in.

plastic pirate skull with eye-patch, March 2013

This is kind of cool.  It’s a pirate skull with movable eye-patch.  The river has really colored this object.  Here’s something more humorous.

goofy frog sunglasses, March 2013

These silly frog sunglasses may be the only amphibian inspiration I receive all year.  In all the years I’ve worked this project, I have come across one actual common toad and two small leopard frogs.  Perhaps the river is just too big and wild here for the frogs?

driftwood on the bank, March 2013

I decide to walk west along the riverbank and reach areas that are more driftwood than trash.  I always marvel at how the river lays the wood in fairly parallel rows.  That bright reddish-orange object in the foreground is the remains of a life preserver…it is one of two that I find on this day.

large washed up log, March 2013

Another tree with an intact root mass has been beached by the river.  Notice how all the branches have been knocked off.  This is fairly typical.  The river keeps subdividing these trees into smaller and smaller parts.  Up ahead I notice something that a muddy wave has just returned to the land.  I walk over and check it out and see something I’ve never seen here before.

beached Styro-fish, March 2013

It’s a big fish, but I don’t recognize the species.  It’s not too bloated and so I examine it more closely.  I think it may be one of those Asiatic carp species that have become so invasive to our bigger rivers?  Recently, in western Kentucky in the Land Between the Lakes area, there was the first ever commercial fishing tournament to try to harvest as many of these large carp as possible.  Strong nets are needed to catch them since they grow big and rarely if ever take a baited hook.  The idea behind the tournament was to  educate people that these fish are good to eat and to try to help create a commercial demand for them.

large Styro-carp in the hand, March 2013

Here I am holding the fish at arm’s length.  Notice that it has a relatively small mouth.  This fish feeds on microscopic plankton and other tiny food items which is why they are hard to hook by traditional means.  This is a thick-bodied fish with a large head and powerful tail.  I have known that these fish are in the Ohio River, but I haven’t had the chance to inspect one this closely before.  I’ve attached a couple more views of this fish.

Styro-carp facing right, March 2013

Styro-carp facing left, March 2013

By now, you are probably used to my game!  I made this fish from a hunk of Styrofoam I picked up on this day.  The Styrofoam reminded me of a fish and so that’s the direction I took this sculpture. The other found elements include:  fishing bobber eyes, red plastic gills, fins made from wood, shoe soles, and plastic junk.  This is how it looked before I started.

found piece of polystyrene before it became a fish, March 2013

I try to respect the basic shape the river gives me and feel that whatever results… is a collaboration between me and the river.  I don’t cut too much into the polystyrene because I also try not to release many of those tiny white beads back into the environment.  I try to work minimally and to clean up after myself.  It’s not a perfect system, but is what has evolved after so many years of coming out here.  I did find even more Styrofoam on my latest adventure and now just need the time to create something from it all.  My parting shot is the latest image of my outdoor studio.  See you next time from the banks of the Ohio River.

Outdoor studio at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2013

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Okay, by now you know that we have had our share of floods, etc…at the Falls of the Ohio.  The Ohio River has gone up and down a couple of times over the past two months.  This post is devoted to toy finds that I have made during the moments I could access the riverbank and surrounding environs.  I think one of the biggest reasons I love visiting this place is that I always find something interesting left behind by the river.  This activity keeps me from spending money at the flea markets and antique malls and yet satisfies my need for visual stimulation.  I came up with my post’s title by looking at what I found recently.  Weirdly, this time I found three Mickey Mouse related objects and searching my brain…I don’t think I have even found one previous one before?  It all started with the first image in this post and …

…then I found these broken glasses.  A week or so after that find came this.

I think this was some kind of self-inking stamp.  And now for the piggies and they come in graduating sizes.  Let’s start with the smallest.

This pig is next in line.

Now this was a bit of a disturbing find bobbing in the waves and it’s considerably larger in size than the previous pigs.  I’m not sure what kind of toy this used to be…but here it is.

I have found other plastic farm animals and here’s the latest selections.

I’m surprised I found this because it’s a small, neutrally colored fragment.

I also find a lot of different kinds of heads.  Perhaps the most common are doll heads.  These are the most recent.

I even found a couple different types of Santa Claus heads.

Although he’s no Santa…this guy does have a beard.

Even more heads!!!

I think this is some googly-eyed clam or something?

This find was different.  It’s the first fake nose I’ve found out here and reminds me of Woody Allen’s early comedy entitled “Sleeper”.

I have an “impressive” fake food collection going and here’s my latest goodies.  In my last post I showed one fake banana…and here’s the other.

A bunch of celery followed by conjoined plastic hot dogs.

There is just so much of this stuff out here…now for some other random finds.  I especially like this Flintstone toy and wonder if it’s old?

A whistle shaped like a banjo?

Telephone number one.

Telephone number two…proof of evolution?

I could go on for a while, but realize this is a lot to take in and so I’ll close with the keys to my heart.  Take care everybody!

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