Posts Tagged ‘Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest’

Louisville as seen for the Indiana shoreline. March 26, 2016

Today is Easter and close enough to month’s end to post an article of little things that weren’t quite strong enough to be posts unto themselves.  Since almost all of our holidays have a significant material culture connection to them…it’s “natural” that I would find some of the remains here at the Falls of the Ohio.  Just looking at recent images, here are a few such holiday related objects and images to ponder.

Plastic rabbit image, Falls of the Ohio, March 26, 2016

Found plastic objects in context at the Falls of the Ohio, March 26, 2016

Crushed and mix among all the other debris is the remains of what was probably a child’s Easter basket.  Although a novel item, I can remember in “my day”, the colorful wooden baskets worked just as well as the plastic ones, but without the long-term ramifications.  Interestingly, this plastic basket “mimics” the texture of an actual wooden basket.  Here are a couple of “egg-related” images to enjoy.

Giant, blue plastic egg, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I certainly would be very afraid of the giant American Robin that laid this large blue egg!  This is how it appeared when I first encountered it on the driftwood pile.  This picture is from last year and I eventually used it for an all-blue colored assemblage.  This egg does not come apart and was made to be purely decorative.  One more egg picture to go and here it is.

Heisenberg's Hammerkopf with Sponge Bob egg, Falls of the Ohio, March 20, 2016

Heisenberg's Hammerkopf (facing left) with Sponge Bob egg, Falls of the Ohio, March 20, 2016

Two views of the extremely rare and transient bird, Heisenberg’s Hammerkopf, interacting with a found plastic egg.  I photographed this bird investigating/playing? with this bright yellow plastic egg with a Sponge Bob Squarepants design on it.  I’m certain the egg once contained Easter candy in it, but now that it’s empty it becomes a candidate for the worldwide junk pile.  To see more Heisenberg’s Hammerkopf images please see my previous post.  People ask me all the time…”Al, have you ever found anything of real value?”  Usually, I reply that I’m waiting for that solid gold ingot to wash up here…but I’m not holding my breath on that one!  Recently, however, I did come across something that had great value for someone and here it is.

Stolen purse with wallet inside, March 2016, Found at the Falls of the Ohio

Walking along the riverbank in the eastern section of the park…I spied a soggy and muddy purse at the water’s edge.  Investigating further, I could see that there was a wallet and checkbook inside and so I opened up the wallet to see if the owner’s name could be found.  As it turns out, this person’s credit cards, insurance cards, driver’s license, etc…were all still there.  I took the muddy purse home and called the person whom it belongs to and she was thrilled that her purse had turned up somewhere.  She had given it up for lost after someone had broken into her home a week before and took the purse along with a few other electronic items.  The thief who broke into and entered her home only took the seven dollars in cash she had and then threw the purse into the river.  The elderly woman whose purse this is was most anxious to get back the family photos she kept in her wallet.  Included among them were precious black and white photos of her own parents that could not be replaced.  Since the owner lived in Southern Indiana we met the following day at my place of work in New Albany and I gave her property back to her.  That certainly was my good deed for that day.  Here’s another lost and found item I’m posting just for fun.  First, here’s how this object appeared as I came across it.

Synthetic fur patch buried into the riverbank, Falls of the Ohio, March 26, 2016

On first blush…I recoiled slightly because I associated the brown fur with a dead animal.  I have found several dead deer out here this year and if this was that…I wanted nothing to do with it.  Looking more closely and since few animals are this uniformly brown I could make out that it was synthetic fur and not the real thing.  So, I reached down and lifted the mystery object from its sand, mud, and wood chip debris matrix to reveal…

Tasmanian Devil character plush toy, Falls of the Ohio, March 26, 2016

…this good size plush toy of the Tasmanian Devil (aka “Taz”).  I guess he was waiting to ambush any unsuspecting prey like me that came across its path.  Years a go, I found a much smaller Tasmanian Devil and posted about that one too, but this one was truly “trophy size”.  And now, to introduce someone who actually knows something about the history of Tasmania.

Dutch artist Chiel Kuijl at the Falls of the Ohio, March 26, 2016

This is Chiel Kuijl who is visiting from the Netherlands and is at the time of this writing the current Artist at Residence at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky.  I ran into him the day the Heisenberg’s Hammerkopf was spotted out at the Falls.  Chiel is creating a site specific work at Bernheim using rope to create an elevated space that people can explore.  He needed some interesting pieces of wood for his installation and the Falls of the Ohio State Park is a great place for that.  I have had the chance to interact a little bit more with Chiel so far and look forward to his finished project and hanging out with him more.  Oh, Tasmania was visited early on by Dutch sailors who help put it onto the world’s map.  Holland has a great seafaring tradition and I wouldn’t doubt that some of Chiel’s skill with ropes and knots is a part of that heritage.  One more artist to talk about before closing…"Artist at Exit 0" issue of Southern Indiana LIving, March-April 2016 issue

The current issue of Southern Indiana Living features an article about me…the Artist at Exit 0 written by good friend and retired Courier-Journal columnist Bob Hill.  Bob now in his “retirement” also runs Hidden Hills nursery where unusual and rare plants and trees are offered for sale.  Every once in a while, Bob will invite artists to place projects at Hidden Hills which is what I will do in late May.  The day we went out to see something about the world I like to explore it is was about twenty degrees or so and an earlier attempt at a photo shoot was thwarted by snow and extreme cold.  Here is the link for the article should anyone care to check that out…Artist at Exit 0 magazine article.  This issue is good for one more month and I have had a lot of fun with this and have been gratified by the response from friends and family through Facebook.  The actual article begins on page 22 and the link allows you to turn the pages of the magazine which is cool too.  Well, there you have it…my odds and ends post to conclude March 2016.  Spring is starting out warm and promising and I look forward to many more new adventures on the Indiana side of the Ohio River.  See you then!

detail of the face on a Tasmanian Devil plush toy


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Early morning view on the Ohio River, mid March 2016

Went out to the river, but to tell you the truth…I thought it would be too high.  Just a couple of days earlier, the Ohio River was once again over its normal banks.  Every year is different and this year the tail end of our winter was marked by warmth and high water.  Although the riverbank was muddy, I was happy to be able to walk around.  I’m having a show at a friend’s place in May and I was on the lookout for more washed up materials.  As it played out, this first official day of Spring would be a more memorable one than I had first anticipated.

Heisenberg's Hammerkopf or Hammerhead, Falls of the Ohio, March 20, 2016

Heisenberg's Hammerkopf in view of Louisville, KY, March 20, 2016

One of the reasons that this can be an interesting time of the year at the Falls of the Ohio is the annual Spring migration of neotropical birds.  I have been known to set my collecting bag aside and just hit the woods on the look out for migrating birds.  The first time you see a male Scarlet Tanager or a Rose-breasted Grosbeak will make a bird watcher out of a lot of people.  This past weekend, which is still a bit early for the usual migrants…I came across something totally unexpected that I couldn’t identify at first.  I didn’t get many pictures, but what I have is here.  If you have never seen (or much less heard of) Heisenberg’s Hammerkopf, (Aviana indeterminus)…you wouldn’t be alone.  Hammerkopf translated into English is hammerhead and that description seems to fit.  Heisenberg’s bird is about the size of an American Robin.  Among the features that stand out the most are its massive red bill and the petal-like feathers found at the base of its neck.  The wings can be brown or white and it has been known to have a crest, but some individuals have been seen that don’t have this feature.  There is no consensus as to its overall population, but a few individuals seem to make the news each year.  This bird is an enigma and it seems to prefer things that way.

Heisenberg's Hammerkopf, Falls of the Ohio, March 20, 2016

The individual I came across is a second year male.  Looking at the info there is on this species did say that the unusual ruff of feathers around its neck could turn bright red as the bird matured and was ready for the breeding season.  What little there is in the scientific literature suggests that this is a highly variable species that can be found anywhere at any time.  With this bird, you really can’t pin down where it originates and it doesn’t seem to have a “normal range”.  It seems to be a very uncommon bird with a world-wide distribution.

Heisenberg's Hammerkopf at the river's edge, March 20, 2016

Heisenberg's Hammerkopf investigating goose tracks, Falls of the Ohio, March 20, 2016

This individual kept surprising me.  I almost felt that it “changed” the more I observed it.  By that I mean at first I found it by the mud and then it changed habitat by going into the trees.  I lost track of it for a short while, but rediscovered it at the water’s edge.  From there, it moved back under the willow trees where I eventually lost it for good.  I saw it use its large bill to delicately probe the mud and hammer through a driftwood log and in both cases wasn’t sure of what it was eating if indeed it found anything to begin with?  I just saw enough of this bird to pique my interest, but I have had bird sightings that have lasted mere seconds that were satisfying enough to last a lifetime.

Chiel collecting driftwood, Falls of the Ohio, March 20, 2016

While I was out exploring the Falls environment, I did come across another individual who can vouch for me that this strange bird was indeed out here.  I struck up a conversation with him and as it turns out he is also an artist.  His name is Chiel Kuijl and he is from the Netherlands.  He has a residency at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky where he is working on a unique outdoor rope environment.  He was looking for select, interesting pieces of wood that he could incorporate into his art project and the Falls of the Ohio are a perfect place to do this.  Talking with Chiel, one of the things he is enjoying most are the new and unfamiliar birds he is encountering in this country.  I asked if he had ever seen a Heisenberg’s Hammerkopf before and he said that he hadn’t and it was really unlike what he was accustomed to back home.  I am sure I will see Chiel again, but what of the hammerkopf?

Final view of Heisenberg's Hammerkopf at the Falls of the Ohio, March 20, 2016

I don’t often make an appeal to the larger blogging world, but if anyone should happen to see this bird or something similar to it…I hope that you will post pictures of it.  It might make an interesting research project to see where in the world this species will turn up and what it might have to say about those particular places where it is found.  For now, I will leave it here and hope you will follow along the next time I am hiking at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Goose tracks in the mud, Falls of the Ohio, March 20, 2016


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Since my last visit to the Falls of the Ohio State Park the willow fuzz has peaked.  Cottony drifts have gathered in places that offer some protection from even the slightest breeze.  The way the light shines on this gossamer surface is magical!  Before venturing into today’s avian adventure…a personal blogging milestone announcement as this is officially post number 300!  I hear the champagne corks popping already.  I had little in the way of expectations when I started this Riverblog, but I have been happy with this medium for describing my project.  In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if blogging would hold my interest, but it has.  I have also enjoyed the wide community that is out there and I thank everyone that has stopped by or left a comment.  As regular visitors know…I’m a big bird watching fan and I enjoy the many challenges that this hobby presents me.  A once in a lifetime experience can begin with a quick flash of the wings that may last just seconds.  It causes me to be acutely present in the moment.  Venturing down to the river I see the resident flock of Black Vultures has returned for another season.  I photographed this wary pair looking for dead fish or anything else edible.

The foreground in this image is willow fluff covering the sand.  I find the two vulture species that hang out at the Falls to be really interesting birds and I have posted on them many times before.  There are more furtive species out here as well and I had the good luck to stumble upon a small mixed flock of warbler species.  Among this group were several Magnolia Warblers and I have a few images of them.  I love their coloring with their black streaks on their bright yellow breasts.  Magnolia Warbler is a misnomer since they don’t seem to favor that tree in my experience.  I found these warblers to be very tolerant of my presence and I was able to follow them as they moved from one willow tree to another in their search for small insects.

Warblers are tiny always on the go creatures and their many species are a highlight of the spring migration.  Many of the warbler species I see are passing through our area to points mostly north of here.  I came across another seldom seen bird that I hope you will enjoy.  It’s called the Brown-winged Robin and it too is traveling through the heartland.  I have a series of this bird too beginning with a specimen I found wading through the willow fuzz.  Is this pre-nesting behavior?

Here are a few more shots of this rare bird in the environment at the Falls of the Ohio.  The brown wings are diagnostic as is the bright red beak.

There are many more bird species both real and imagined that I look forward to presenting in future posts!  I hope to continue to share with you the great variety of life that I find in this relatively small place as it reveals itself to me.  One other announcement for folks in my immediate area.  I will be presenting my project at the Pecha Kucha event at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky the evening of June 5.  This will be an outdoor event and coincides with the transit of Venus occurring on that night.  Essentially, this slide show presentation form I believe began in architectural circles and speakers have 20 slides at 20 seconds a piece to present a topic.  It goes by fast so you need to be pithy which can be a challenge! If you are interested in more information just click on my Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest link in my blogroll.  I hope to see some of you out there and thanks again to all who have checked out the Artist at Exit 0 Riverblog over the years!  Now for more willow fuzz!

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About sixty miles away from Louisville and the Ohio River is the small central Kentucky village of Nerinx.  It’s smack dab in the middle of an area renowned for its bourbon distilleries, but it also has an older, interesting history.  I brought my friend and video artist Julia Oldham with me on one final adventure before her stint as artist in residence at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest comes to an end.  On Memorial Day, Julia will be back in her familiar Brooklyn and far from bucolic Kentucky.  We started the day by listening to National Public Radio’s story about SETI and the search for intelligent life in the universe.  After fifty years of scanning the heavens for “intelligent” radio signals, only once was a signal received that had promise and that was back in 1977.  That search for promising signals became a theme for the day and dovetailed nicely into Julia’s latest videos from the Possumhaw Plant Electrics series.   I was honored to see her latest artworks which walk the fine line between art and science.   It should be fun to see how the rest of the world receives them post Bernheim.  After that, it was breakfast at Mammy’s Kitchen in nearby Bardstown, of my Old Kentucky Home fame.

Although Nerinx and The Loretto Motherhouse (which we were seeking) isn’t that far from Bardstown, I managed to get the vehicle turned around on a few occasions.  Julia discovered that her global positioning application didn’t really work very well out in the country.  Still searching for intelligent signals!  Eventually, we just stopped and asked someone and we were set upon the right road.  Some of America’s oldest Catholic roots are found in Nerinx.  The name is actually a variation on Nerinckx which is the name of the priest who helped found the Motherhouse.  We thought his image on his statue looked somewhat like the young Beethoven.  Nerinckx was joined by Theodore Badin who would become the first ordained priest in America (1793) and it was they who helped found the Sisters of Loretto in 1812.  There is a statue of him too! With the help of sisters Ann and Mary Rhodes, the order set up a school for girls since education in the frontier was often neglected.  No statues for them, but there needs to be!

Two hundred years later, the Loretto Motherhouse operates a farm and infirmary.  Julia and I were also in Nerinx seeking out an artist friend of mine that is also one of the Sisters of Loretto.  Her name is Jeanne Dueber and she is an accomplished sculptor with a wonderful studio and gallery.

Jeanne and Julia share a common friend and so it was nice that we were able to connect.  Jeanne’s studio and gallery is called Rhodes Hall and it is a wonderful old structure filled with the artist’s work.  It’s practically a retrospective of Jeanne’s life work as an artist.  There are more traditional ecclesiastical figurative works, but what I really enjoy are her abstract wood sculptures that just reach for space in all directions.  Here are a few views of the installed artworks.  Jeanne is not a big person, so it’s all the more amazing she has the energy to wrangle these larger works.

There is literature relating to the Loretto Motherhouse for sale and Julia and I found the donation box to be really charming.  The reading glasses are a nice touch.  We found little hand-painted signs all around the art works and must be Jeanne’s handiwork as well.

After parting company with Jeanne, Julia and I took a stroll around the grounds.  There were beautiful birds singing all around us.  It was a beautiful, warm, Kentucky late spring day that made you feel as if you were far away from the concerns of the rest of the world.  And we were!  Plastic bottles in a small garden caught my eye and I went in for a closer look.  Perhaps they were frost protection no longer needed?

The cemetary on the grounds was really interesting!  The first few rows of stones remember some of the contemporary, longer lived sisters.  It seemed that was quite a string going of people who lived into their 80’s, 90’s, and there were a few 100’s too!  This contrasted sharply with the early years where many of the women only lived to be in their 20’s and 30’s.  Tuberculosis and various fatal influenza outbreaks during some particularly bad years spoke of the difficulty of life during the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s formative years.  Interestingly, there were two large stone slabs set upon the ground that recorded the names of perhaps 30 or so (?) sisters who donated their bodies to science!  After the walk through the grounds it was time to return to Bernheim.  I said my farewells to Julia and wished her a good trip home.  She will be returning to our area in August for a solo show scheduled in New Albany, IN and it will be great to see her again!  Julia also wrote up a Loretto Motherhouse story which can be read at her blog, “Bee Sting Brose”.  It’s on my blogroll for your convenience!

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Continuing a streak of good luck, I was able to catch up with video artist Julia Oldham and show her a little of my stretch of the river.  I first became acquainted with Julia’s work through Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest’s Connect event from last summer.  Several of her videos were being projected outdoors and I was frozen in my tracks by them.  I later learned she would become an artist in residence at Bernheim during the months of April and May of this year. We “cyber-met”  through each other’s blogs, leaving occasional post comments back and forth.  With considerable interest,  I anticipated meeting her in person for the first time.  Julia was kind enough to give me a sneak peek of the work she is creating at Bernheim and will formally “unveil” at the arboretum later this month.  Her newest works are as she is…smart, funny, and engaging.  I looked forward to sharing a river adventure together.

We arrived at the Falls in time to celebrate Earth Day…sort of.  It was two weeks late, windy, cool, and the muddy-colored Ohio River was still very high but receding.  The park was full of cars and people participating in the festivities.  Evidence of the high water was all along the shoreline and to be truthful, I felt dismayed by the sheer amount of crap present.  Happy Earth Day everybody…let’s celebrate this liquid landfill we call a river!

Pretty much all the spots I like to inhabit were still underwater or inaccessible and muddy.  I wondered how much of a bad impression this was making on Julia?  Quietly, it affected my mood and I tried to distract myself by making a quick sculpture from this junk.  But it fell apart and I didn’t manage to even get a picture of it!  The sight of so much river born garbage was repellent and I felt like a rubber-necker at the scene of an accident.  This is also part of the fascination that I have with this place, but rarely have I seen it this bad.  Where we could, we touched base with the river.  In places, there were immense logs and washed away trees driven against the bank.  Who knows what I will find once the river returns to a more normal pool?  Definitely, there won’t be a shortage of art making materials…maybe for years.

We visited the Interpretive Center and Julia was able to see some of the displays.  I have wanted the chance to photograph the large replica of the Permian Age amphibian among the ginkgo leaves and here it is.  I got down on my belly to get eye to eye with it!  From this angle it looks like a big frog, but it is a four-legged giant salamander-like critter and lived in the swamps that millions of years later became coal deposits.  It was maybe 3 1/2 feet long in life.  I wondered if it had a long tongue?

Several birds of prey were on hand as part of a raptors rehab program in our area.  We talked birds and I photographed this really pretty male American Kestrel.  I see wild and free kestrels in the park all the time.  This small falcon is our most colorful bird of prey.  I once observed a kestrel catching a Killdeer plover on the fossil beds.  The hunt was over in seconds.

Julia and I hiked around the park where we could and then we returned to my vehicle.  I had brought with me four clean, glass pint bottles I had found earlier at the Falls as well as materials to write notes or make drawings.  After sharing a Blue Dog peanut butter cookie and a couple of pears…we set to work.

I’m frequently asked if I have ever found a note in a bottle and I have to disappoint by saying no.  The ones I would make along with Julia are in fact the first notes I have ever put into bottles.  I have, however, been interested in doing this for some time and this seemed as good a moment as any.  The notes are written with permanent ink on Tyvek and paper.

I have no idea what Julia wrote in her notes and she doesn’t know what I put in mine.  We did, however, include some contact information just in case by some stroke of luck someone should find one of these bottles.  I hope that someone does.  It would be cool to see where it went!  I placed small fishing bobbers in each bottle to give it some more visual “pick me up” appeal and then Julia and I took photographs of them in front of the skyline of Louisville.  Since the river at the Falls wasn’t conducive for launching our bottles…we drove to nearby New Albany, Indiana.  In August, Julia will be having a solo show at the Carnegie Art and History Center and I thought Julia would like to see the space.  After a few beers at the New Albanian it was time to launch our bottled notes.  We went down to New Albany’s expansive waterfront and while Julia videotaped, I threw the bottles as far as I could and they landed with a splash to begin their journeys to destinations unknown.  The setting sun reflected on the glass of the floating bottles and I lost sight of them as they drifted towards the center of the Ohio River and points west.

The day went by so quickly and then it was time to go home.  We talked about our very different experiences in the art world, but in the end, felt like we had much in common.  The following morning, I opened the local paper and was surprised to discover an article about Julia in the art section.  It was a nice way to continue our first meeting.  If you are interested in seeing Julia’s work, her blog ” Bee Sting Brose” is on my blogroll.  A click there will take you to several links featuring her videos and articles written about her and her art.

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Connect at Bernheim, 9/09

On an absolutely perfect night, my family and I attended the CONNECT event at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.  Bernheim is located in Clermont, KY about twenty or so miles south of Louisville.  The event was the park’s attempt at creating a festival that centered on promoting a creative dialogue between artists, scientists, naturalists, and other progressive thinkers.  The following is a couple images from this event.

water canon at Bernheim, 9/09

The local press suggested that CONNECT would be our version of the Burning Man event.  Although it was far from that,  the absolutely perfect weather brought the curious out by the car loads.  Much of the festivities  centered around the park’s Lake Nevin.  Two water canons were present that children could play with.  Once darkness fell, lasers were projected upon the water canon’s mist.

Back lit screen, Bernheim, 0/09

Yes, there was a science aspect to the event, but it was presented informally and was fun for the kids.  If there was a loose unifying element it had to do with the presence and absence of light.  All around Lake Nevin screens for shadow play and video projections were set up and being engaged.  Perhaps this is a sign of the times since we have become so accustomed to reading information from screens of all types?

rainbow light cube, Bernheim, 9/09

As the sun went down the music began in earnest.  The fire sculptures on Lake Nevin were lit.  People were enjoying the food and drink.  Strategically placed telescopes allowed people to obtain good views of the planet Jupiter with four of its moons.  My two sons really enjoyed the telescopes and they insisted on looking at the night sky before we could go home.

video projection, Bernheim, 9/09

The artwork I found really mesmerizing was a series of video projections by Julia Oldham, who has accepted a residency at Bernheim.  The above still is from her work entitled ” Churr-churr Ziz Ziz Ziz”.   In her videos, the artist by using some skillful speeded up editing was able to use her body to accompany the incredible sounds made by insects and birds.  It is difficult to describe, but the work held people’s attention and I’m excited to see what she creates in Kentucky!  If you would like to see Oldham’s video, she has generously posted it on her blog, “Bee Sting Brose” and the link is on my blog roll.

Lake Nevin fire sculptures, 9/09

In the afterglow of the Lake Nevin fires, I hope the organizers of CONNECT were encouraged by the public’s response.  Perhaps it’s too soon to tell if this will become an annual event?  The need to find common ground among the various disciplines is a useful excercise and the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is a beautiful and contemplative place to host this gathering.  If CONNECT should happen again next year, I would suggest advertising an earlier opening time since it was hard to get around to see all the displays before the light went down.  Throughout the year, Bernheim is a great place to visit and if you want to learn more about its history and programs…I have attached their link to my blog roll on the right.

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