Posts Tagged ‘barge cable’

Head in Hand, Aug. 2014

Each trip I take to the Falls of the Ohio results in lots of other images recorded on site.  Although I may think all of my photographs are interesting in some way, for brevity’s sake…they can’t all make it into a post.  If a storyline develops while I’m at the river, I will try to prioritize that and hope that at some other time in the future some of these other photographs will fit in somewhere?  This post is an attempt to include some of the other pictures that were taken during my last excursion to the river.  Although that visit resulted in my last published post about this tiny artist persona with a penchant for creating micro installations with plastic cup lids and straws…there were a few other sights at the river that caught my eye on this day.

Wild Potato Vine bloom, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

The Wild Potato Vine is a common flowering summer plant at the Falls.  The flowers are large and its leaves are heart-shaped and grow on very long vines.  This plant is named for the large tuber it produces.  I’ve noticed that out here, these large blooms attract large bumble bees.  This is a genuine and indigenous wild flower which contrasts with my next discovery.

Yellow-flowering Mud Nymphea, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

In a pool of stagnant water I came across this other interesting bloom.  Don’t bother looking it up in a field guide to flowers because you won’ find it.  I discovered it and so I take credit for naming it.  I call this the “Yellow-flowering Mud Nymphea” and it “mimics” members of the lotus family.  This plant has a single leaf that floats on the surface of still water or upon particularly juicy mud.  Rising from that leaf is a large blossom (about the size of a child’s hand) that is a dingy yellow color and the petals have a cloth-like texture.  Most fascinating of all…there are fake droplets of water that “bead up” on the individual petals.  Imagine if you took hot glue and applied small drops to the petals…well, it would look a lot like what is happening on this plant.  Knowing how this plant functions out here will require additional study.  The Falls of the Ohio is a highly disturbed place and oddities are springing up all over.  This just happens to be the latest mutant plant to add to a growing list.

Grass growing from small hole in a plastic, toy wheel, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

Another topic I have explored in a past post see “Life in a Bucket” are real plants that grow in less than promising circumstances.  Like many people, I have marveled at how plants can grow in narrow cracks in the sidewalks. The next trio of images are related to that phenomena.  On my last adventure, I found three examples to share with you that demonstrate how opportunistic life can be.  The image above shows a couple of sprigs of grass that are growing out of a small hole in a plastic, toy wheel.  The wheel was probably originally part of a child’s tricycle.  Over time, the detached hollow wheel filled with dirt and silt and retained enough moisture to allow grass seeds to germinate.  Next is another wheel/plant combination that I see more commonly in the park.

Tire garden, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

This is a tire garden.  Because old, ruined automotive tires are frequently thrown in the river (out of sight, out of mind) they frequently wash up here.  Over time, they sink into the sand and mud and are very difficult to move.  Opportunistic seeds colonize the central space where wood, silt, and other nutrients collect and before long you have a mini ecosystem growing out of a circular island in the sand.  My next image is an amazing willow tree that I have posted images of before.  Let’s look at how it is doing this year?

Willow tree growing out of a tire, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

Amazingly, this willow is growing through the metal holes of the wheel.  Previously, I had speculated on whether or not this tree would lift the tire into the air as it grew or be choked to death as the holes became too small?  This year’s seasonal flooding has tipped the wheel up on one edge and exposed the roots of the tree.  So far, it appears to be okay.  I will be keeping tabs on this tree to see how it fares in the future.  How the natural and artificial come together in the wider environment is an area of great interest for me.  Our next example is a good illustration of this.

Willow roots and strands of frayed barge cable, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

willow roots and barge cable merge, Falls of the Ohio, 2014

I walked passed this willow tree and noticed that a frayed, root-like, barge cable was intertwined with the living tree’s root system.  Perhaps it’s the cable’s bright colors contrasting against the natural tones of the willow roots and earth that give it an aggressive appearance to me?  The actions of the river help unravel these large nylon ropes used to moor and secure very large barges.  Interestingly, I have seen various bird species hasten this process by picking apart the fibers for use as nesting material.  The Baltimore Oriole is especially good at this and uses the colorful fibers in the construction of their hanging basket nests.  The Ohio River, per tonnage moved, is one of the busiest waterways in the world for commercial navigation.  I find the remnants of old barge cables frequently washed up upon the shore and buried in the sand and on occasion have integrated them into different projects.

Soft drink can in the water, Aug. 2014

Sometimes it’s just the incongruity or coincidence that I feel just finding the trash in this context.  The photo above finds a partially crushed “Sunkist” brand soft drink resting upon a piece of rusty-colored concrete in the water on a sun-kissed day.  I later noticed at home, the small damselfly that is also resting on the concrete.  Do you see it?  Or, how about the next one?

squished plastic "Real" lemon juice container, Aug. 2014

Washed ashore upon the fossil rocks was this smashed plastic lemon.  It once contained “real” lemon juice.  Over the years, I have found many of these lemon-shaped bottles.  What I find interesting here is the presented combination of image and substance…a plastic lemon that once held genuine lemon juice.  It doesn’t take much to pique my interest!  I never know what I will find on any given day at the Falls of the Ohio.  The river washes in “fresh” material on a regular basis.  The river is like our subconscious and who knows what lies below its depths or floats upon the surface to be discovered by someone walking its shoreline?

people fishing at the Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

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Previously,  I mentioned how interested I had become by the frayed barge cables I was finding tangled up with the willow trees at the Falls of the Ohio.  I really liked watching the process of change as these big synthetic ropes broke down through river power and dissolved back into nature as artificial raw materials.  I have also used these ropes to broach the subject of quantum mechanics (something I profess to really know very little about except that I like the idea of the universe being composed of nearly invisible vibrating strings ).  It’s also about all the interconnectedness of the world and the literal fibers that hold it all together. At the Falls of the Ohio, our material culture engages the natural physical materials and forces of the planet in a way that can be photographed.  Here is a portfolio of some of my favorite rope and string images.

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In the beginning he was so unclear about what had happened.  There was this vague image in his mind of some kind of presence he felt that may have created him?  Even that “fact”  was up for debate.  All he remembers with any kind of certainty was that he couldn’t remember anything at all until the breath of life was blown into him.

What he remembers next is feeling the warmth of the sun on his face.  He tried looking at the sun, but his eyes couldn’t stand the gaze.  Averting his face, he saw a shape on the ground and was surprised when it echoed his own movements like a dance partner.  It was in this moment that he felt his body and became fully aware that he was physical and could move around in space.   He took a minute or two, three, four…to survey his birthplace.

What he saw astonished him!  Positioned in the sand were lots of pieces that looked like the same material he was made from.  It was a bit creepy and confusing for him and his next impulse was to escape.  This decision set him upon the path that would be his life’s adventure.  He walked and walked and everything he saw was new, confusing, and miraculous to him.  There were trees and plants and other life forms that occupied the same space and were delightful to behold. It took a while to absorb and understand some of the things he was encountering.  After a half day’s journey or so, the traveler came to a place different from where he began and after surveying this field…he had an epiphany.

It was a debris field full of all kinds of materials…some of which resembled the pieces he saw before and which constituted his very physical being.  He realized that he was made of the stuff of the world and felt the kinship.  He further intuited that these materials were themselves extracted from what had lived and came before.  Life is built upon life…dust to dust…ashes to ashes…plastic to plastic.  The Traveler moved on.

The Traveler was gaining experience of the world which then led to knowledge of it.  He encountered many other objects and filed them away in his being for future reference.  One such object was this immense cable or rope and our hero recognized that all the individual strands of this rope gave it great strength and unity when they were woven and twisted together.  The sun was at its high point and the day was getting hot.  The Traveler decided to move into the shade of the trees to cool off and discover what he could learn there.  After an hour’s walk or two or three…he came to a large black tunnel leading into the ground and it beckoned to him.

Reflexively, the Traveler overcame any misgivings and entered the tunnel.  It felt cool which he liked and there was blackness which he feared. In the next heartbeat there was an incredible burst of light and he found himself on the other side of the tunnel.  What he saw next was the most perplexing sight of this new and memorable day!

Impaled upon three sticks were three heads that were regarding him with interest.  The Traveler was a confusion of feelings that ranged from horror to outright fascination!  One head was blue and looked like an elephant minus its  ears.   The other two heads were childlike and misshapen.  Within his own mind, the Traveler heard the largest childlike head speak to him and it said, ” Welcome Traveler…we are the Oracle of the Sands of Time.  Together we are the past, present, and future.  All that you were before…you will be again…and more.

The Oracle then spoke in unison and told the Traveler that the Past, Present, and Future simultaneously coexist.  They were appearing to him now to act as a guide to the life that had been given to him.  Naturally, the Traveler was a bit  confused since he was new to paradoxes!  Then the larger head placed an image into the Traveler’s mind and said, “Do you remember that rope you saw today?…imagine a slightly different one more colorful and expanded. Now imagine it’s a model of the universe and everything in it.”

The Traveler then tried to grasp the idea that the universe is made of vibrating strings that phase in and out of time.   Because there are differences in spacetime and your point of view changes depending on how you focus on a moment…the possibility of multiple “you’s” can exist in different dimensions in space and time.  What you were before…you can be again…or not.  Yes, it’s all rather confusing and the Traveler moved away from the Oracle and tried contemplating what he was just told.

What was he supposed to do with this knowledge?  He then remembered the last thing the Oracle told him and it somewhat made sense.  As long as he was fully present and open in each moment of his life…he would be fine.  If he was having a bad day…somewhere in the universe those other “you’s” could be having better or worse days.  In the big scheme of things…it just doesn’t matter.  As the sun was setting in the west, the Traveler was able to face the sun with his shadow confidently following behind him.  He decided that he would keep walking towards the light and treat each day like it was brand new.

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Looking up at me with that reassuring smile, I thought it a good omen on my first foray of the new year.  It’s winter and so it’s cold, but the sun is bright and clear and strong shadows are everywhere.  I’m bundled up and so it’s okay as I venture forth along my spot on the Ohio River.

Today the landscape and it’s living inhabitants are asleep or away.  I see only a few seagulls and ducks along the river and that’s all.  With the leaves now fallen, the polystyrene sculptures that mark my studio area are more visible.  The very bright whiteness of the Styrofoam can be seen from a distance and it helps these pieces are vertical elements too.  This contrasts sharply with Spring and Summer where you could walk within fifteen yards of this spot and not see these figures for the trees.

The “choir” is still all here, which is what I expected.  People are fair weather animals and when it’s cold, fewer are willing to explore this landscape on foot.  I admit to liking the existential “feeling” I perceive on these winter walks.  There is a clarity that I appreciate not only in the light, but within my mind too.  Winter does a good job with its cold in prioritizing things and the relative lack of sound makes it easier to hear my own thoughts. 

My found materials are as I left them at my open air studio.  I decide to sit on the plank (a little cool on the buns!) and make my first figure or 2011.

Looking around I pick up two smallish pieces of Styrofoam and constructed this delicate figure.  Here he is before the addition of found glass ears.  The mouth is also glass and I like how the river and sand polish this material as it grinds away the sharp edges.  Once completed, I look for an interesting backdrop to create the images that represent this day.

I featured this on a late post from last year.  I’m fascinated by this frayed barge rope or cable that has been snagged by this willow tree.  I like how it is slowly unraveling and the bright orange nylon? fibers add that unnaturalistic element that seems so out-of-place in this environment. 

As I move this little figure around this orange fiber outburst I wonder if the beauty I’m perceiving from the color is somehow out-of-place and perverse?  I begin the year wondering if what I’m also doing out here is aestheticizing garbage as much as I am calling attention to our relationship with nature?  In my defense, I tell myself that I’m just an artist doing what artists have always done…which is react to materials and processes and selectively ordering things in the ways that artists do.  What do you think?

When I last saw this frayed cable, it was helping to form this interesting drift that was a combination of wind, snow, sand, and ice.  I posed a different figure around that formation.  Now all the snow is gone for the moment, but surely we will receive more before season’s end.  Oh, I forgot about the small shoe sole that I tied onto my figure.  Since it came from a child’s shoe…it is meant loosely to be an attribute of innocence.  I have done this with other figures in the past.

When I could no longer push the cold out of my mind and finger tips, I decided to leave this figure by its orange curtain.  I moved him into a position that suggests he’s taking shelter from the elements.  On my next outing to the Falls, I will stop by and see how he’s doing…that is if he’s still out here and hasn’t walked away.

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On my last expedition to the Falls, I spotted this oddity about twenty feet off the ground on a terminal branch of a cottonwood tree.  I had a feeling I knew what this is, but clicked-off a couple more close-ups for more information.  The day was very cold, but bright and clear.

I believe this to be a hanging basket nest from a Northern or Baltimore Oriole.  I had seen one other similar nest years ago at the Falls that incorporated waste fishing line and long-stemmed grass.  This one is different in that it is made mostly from synthetic fibers teased out of a discarded barge cable along with fishing line.  These cables are very large, thick ropes that are used to tie-off and secure the barges used in commercial river traffic.  Here is a recent picture of just such a cable that was lost and wound around willow roots.  This one has blue and yellow fibers instead of orange like the oriole’s nest has.

As these ropes slowly break down, it’s interesting to think of nest-building birds preferring to use this material as opposed to strictly natural ones.  I know of other birds (more in an urban environment) that will use other bits of artificial litter in their nests.  A month or so a go in the western section of the park I came across another synthetic nest created by a different species and featured that in a post about rare birds.  Here is that nest reproduced again along with a close-up of the oriole’s nest.

Since a nest made of these materials will last longer…I’m wondering if the oriole or another bird will attempt to reuse it?  I will have to wait until spring to find that out.

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