Posts Tagged ‘cigarette lighters’

Each year has a different character to it and for what I do at the Falls of the Ohio, a lot depends upon what I find.  Last year, there was an abundance of plastic bottles in a full spectrum of colors that stood out among the natural driftwood.  This year, we have had a mostly high river due to locally intense rains throughout the Ohio River Valley.  There have been successive waves of wood and plastic that have had me wandering the wrack lines filling my collecting bags and stuffing my computer with images.  The Falls are not a big area, but the dynamic changes that rearrange the riverbank keep it interesting.  This year I have concentrated mostly on formal arrangements on site using flip-flop sandals, plastic soft drink bottles with colored backwash in them, and I have also been astounded by the number of cigarette lighters I have been finding.  Following are a few of the many compositions I have already made this year.Chromatic arrangement in Flip-flops, Falls of the Ohio, Feb, 2017

Made this one on a sunny day in February.  I found all these flip-flops on a single walk along the riverbank which is how I still like to work out here.  I get ideas for projects based on what that day’s walk presents.  Kind of like going to the grocery store and seeing what’s ripe and in season.

Flip-flop arrangement on the sand, Falls of the Ohio, March 2017

Why flip-flops?  First, they are a ubiquitous part of human life around the river and they float and travel great distances to reach the park.  I also like the idea that these sandals are unique to the people who wore them and have their “soul or spirit” imprinted on them.  They come in a variety of colors and sizes and can be as variable as people.  There is also that saying about not understanding others until you can stand in their shoes.

Flip-flop ring, Falls of the Ohio, April 2017

A work from April of this year made with flip-flops.  Some colors seem to be harder to find than others particularly a true red or yellow.  Once in a while, I will also pick up and use the sole of some other kind of foot ware if I think it will come in “handy”.

Cottonwood Tree Composition, late May 2017, Falls of the Ohio

My latest flip-flop composition from late May.  Sited in the western section of the park, this piece is situated by a favorite cottonwood tree that I have shown in posts many times before.  It uniquely has a space under the roots that you can stand under.  It is a favorite place for locals to party.  Now for the next part of this post…”Mystery Fluids”.

Found soft drink and sport drink bottles with partial contents, Falls of the Ohio, April 2017

Usually found floating in rivers and other bodies of water are these partially consumed sport and soft drinks capped and in their bottles.  At the Falls of the Ohio I find them intermixed with the driftwood and everything else too.  Often, it is the bottom of the bottle that is sticking up from the wood.  I think being starved for color is why I gravitated towards this common element of our waste stream.  When the light hits these bottles just right…the colors can be very jewel-like and attractive.  Here are a few of the projects and images I made with them this year.

Found bottles and contents with the skyline of Louisville, Feb. 2017

Found bottles and contents, western section of the Falls of the Ohio, April 2017

Found bottle composition with contents, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

I have photographed these bottles in a variety of contexts and combinations over the year.  Their contents are amazingly well-preserved and I have never found one that had mold growing in it.  It could be that conditions have rendered these bottles sterile?  Did they get too hot, too cold, not enough oxygen?  Certainly, there is plenty of sugar, electrolytes, and preservatives in them.  On site, I usually have arranged them on the back of stranded logs or boards that have floated in here and then I take my pictures and walk away.  At my main outdoor studio…I have now been caching some of these bottles and flip-flops too for later in the year when the water level is low.  Now for the final category….found cigarette lighters.

Found cigarette lighters by various manufacturers, Falls of the Ohio, June 2017

Took this photograph a few days a go and represents my record for found cigarette lighters in one day out at the Falls of the Ohio.  I think there are 103 lighters here all gleaned from the driftwood.  I have always known that cigarette lighters are out here, but not until now have I concentrated on them.  When you begin looking for them, they can be everywhere up and down the riverbank and intermixed with the driftwood.  Once upon a time, the ability to create fire was a special and important skill.  It’s more than the climate that is changing.  Before I show you what I made with a hundred lighters, here are some earlier attempts.

BIC lighter color line, found cigarette lighters from the Falls of the Ohio, 2017

This found lighter composition is unique in that only “Bic” brand lighters were used.  The are arranged on the back of a log.  I still like referencing light through color.  The irony of our dependence on fossil fuels to make things like plastic and energy is that it comes from sequestered carbon created from sunlight by plants living millions of years a go.  Now we need to just look up in the sky to see that same source of energy in the here and now.

88 Cigarette Lighter Oval, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

I think from April?, but definitely the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Created this oval from 88 found lighters.  The river was still very high and this arrangement is up against the riverbank.

Found Lighter Circle, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

68 Found Lighter Circle, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

Lighter circle made with 68 found cigarette lighters.   You can see the marks my fingers made in the sand adjusting the lighters to expand the circle.

Nearly forgot about this one!  “Stump Star” composed of 48 found lighters, a yellow reflector, and of course…a stump.  Made under the willow trees, the light playing through the tree canopy made this piece hard to photograph.  It just occurred to me that I have no idea where butane comes from?  All of these once stored compressed butane.  As these physical objects age and are exposed to the elements, their metal components are the first to corrode and rust away.

Another day and visit to the river.  I try to maximize each opportunity out here by making as many site specific pieces from the various materials I encounter.  Here’s a quick piece with my the toes of my shoes poking in for good measure.  I call this one “Keep Calm” because there’s one lighter that says that…or “From Clear to Blue” because if you look closely you can see between the white and blue lighters is one clear one.  So far, that’s the only one like that I’ve seen out here.  Okay, one more to end with and it’s the one with over a hundred lighters.  I made another composition with these lighters, but decided to try a more open design and it turned out better than the first.Double-spiral Cigarette Lighter Composition, Falls of the Ohio, June 2017

When given the chance to go to the river or write about past experiences…I will opt for the river, unless the weather is bad and it has already rained hard today.  I’m staying busy and engaged with art all around me which has had a calming effect on me considering all the political decisions people are making regarding the health of the environment and everything else too.  If you are interested in some of what’s in the Ohio River and other rivers in this country…then I’m your blog.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Double Spiral found cigarette lighter composition at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2017

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Figure with Bear Hat, Feb. 2013

As promised here is the second part of the previous post.  I did fill an empty cloth bag with river finds and here are some of today’s choice tidbits.  Once I straightened up my outdoor studio, I dumped the bag out onto the sand and started the sorting process.  I guess I also do a similar thing with my camera except it’s a memory card that gets filled and downloaded into the home computer.  Let’s begin with a few pictures of my newly discovered river treasures in situ.

blue plastic watch, Feb. 2013

I like all kinds of references to time.  I have a few other toy clocks and watches I’ve found courtesy of the river through the years.  Interestingly, I haven’t owned a watch personally in over thirty years and don’t want one now.  It seems I can find the time most anywhere I go and at the Falls of the Ohio…I pass by one of the largest clocks in the world.  Let’s see if I have a picture of that I can pull up for you.

former Colgate Clock, 2012

Although this is a bit off topic, I thought you might enjoy seeing this mechanical wonder.  This is less than a mile away from my river spot.  It was once a part of a toothpaste factory that moved away a couple of years a go.  The building is a former prison…which is another way to mark time.  My reluctance to wear a watch has more to do with not liking to wear much in the way of jewelry.  Besides who needs the constant reminder?  Meanwhile, back at the river.

white plastic astronaut, Feb. 2013

Houston…we have a problem.  I’m a plastic astronaut and it looks like the family dog has chewed one foot off!  Having some issues with my helmet too…don’t think I can last long in this alien environment.  This is an American astronaut so designated by the flag patch on his left arm.

very small plastic doll head and walnut, Feb. 2013

I believe this is the smallest doll’s head I’ve ever found.  Here having a potential brain the size of a walnut could be a good thing!  I think I have found enough doll heads over the years to make a totem pole several feet tall and they would graduate from largest to smallest with no two alike.  This guy could be the cherry on top of it all.


Toy wheels found today. Feb. 9, 2013

As regular readers know…I have a thing for wheels too.  These are just the toy wheels I came across today.  I’m surprised by how many of these I have found in just the past two years.  I like them as a collection, but I may use them all in a single artwork.  I watched a depressing documentary today that included such nuggets of information like the average automotive tire takes seven gallons of oil to make.  And you may be thinking that all this petroleum is needed for gasoline?    I see too many real tires in the river as well.

3 plastic toy hammers found on 2/9/13

Now how odd is this?  I found three toy hammers within a few hours of each other.  This is the most common toy tool that I find…not screwdrivers or pliers, etc…  At the river, it’s always hammer time, well the one on the far right is technically more of a mallet.  I’m not sure what the blue wheel on the far left hammer is supposed to do?

more found plastic toys, Feb. 2013

This is an interesting grouping of character toys.  It includes three dogs, two bones, a Weeble, and a Teletubby(?).  There’s a dog friend from Clifford the Big Red Dog and quick draw Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoon.  The dog sitting on the block has a nice oily river patina that takes years to develop.  The yellow character on the right is still full of mud.

four fishing lures, Feb. 2013

Not everything I find is a toy.  Here are four fishing lures.  These get tangled up in the rocks or snagged on old fishing line.  Notice only the top left lure still has its treble hooks.  In the others, the hooks rusted or dissolved away.  I found a fifth lure after taking this photo.  I need to rephotograph my fishing lure collection because it has become seriously larger over the past couple of years.  You can see an older image in my Pages section.

colorful, disposable cigarette lighters, Feb. 2013

I picked up all these disposable cigarette lighters today.  I have more at my studio at the church and intend to put them to use one day as well.  This was more of a photo opportunity.  I wanted to see some of the color range this particular make of lighter comes in.  No doubt the color is not light fast and over time would all probably come to resemble each other until the plastic broke down into ever smaller bits.  I also picked up other items such as interesting rootlets and sticks and heavier still…nice potential bases for the sculptures I decide to hang onto.  Well, this wraps up my finds from one particular adventure.  There is always stuff to pick up after the river rises and recedes again.  I wonder what I’ll come across next?

My outdoor studio, Feb. 2013

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The ritual must have worked because when I returned to the Falls of the Ohio a week later the greening of the world was underway.  Small leaves were sprouting from the willow branches and many of the area’s trees were flowering.  There was a palpable sense of pollen being everywhere and my airways felt irritated as if coated by dry inhaled dust.  This is a dreaded time of year for people who suffer seasonal allergies.  I was glad not to count myself as a member of that unfortunate club.  As I walked along there were other marvels to behold.  I came across a rare Sand Lotus blooming along the shoreline and wondered how long its seed had remained dormant until the absolute right conditions presented itself?  Seeing this flower was worth the trip alone!

I returned to my outdoor studio and saw that the bottle tree had indeed dropped its leaves.

This, however, was not the only change that had occurred since my last visit.  My outdoor studio had been discovered and some person or persons had constructed a crude figure from the Styrofoam I had collected here.  A broken fishing rod stuck out from their creation’s body.

As is my habit, I began the day beach combing along the river’s edge and dumped some of my finds onto the sand.  I would try to make something from the objects I had come across.  Here is an earlier image of what would later become the figure I named “Phillip C. Nelson” after the words written upon a piece of blue insulating foam I found.

Before showing you how this figure turned out…I want to meander a bit like the Ohio River does. During the month of March, I’ve found three objects that at least have some references to where they may have originated.  Because the river is so powerful…glued on labels usually fall off by the time they reach the Falls of the Ohio.  Knowing where something came from can give you a sense of the journey it took to reach “here”.  Well, let’s just see where this takes us and I’ll begin with the object I discovered that traveled the furthest down river.

First, I was amused to find this piece of plastic with a stylized finger image on it!  It says its a thumb saver and I guess it functions something like a crowbar for stubborn thumb tacks so you don’t need to risk breaking a fingernail?  I have heard of Beaver Falls before because it’s the Pennsylvania hometown of one of my boyhood heroes…Joe Willie Namath who is an American football Hall of Fame quarterback for the New York Jets.  He brashly and correctly predicted that the Jets would win it all in 1969.  Beaver Falls is in the so-called “Rust Belt” because this was once steel making country before economic hard times caught up with it.  Beaver Falls has a population of approximately 8,900 people and is 31 miles Northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania placing it near the origins of the Ohio River.  Beaver Falls is actually located on the Beaver River which flows for six miles in a southerly direction before its confluence with the Ohio River.  As for the savings and loan association…I’m not sure exist anymore because I couldn’t find more contemporary references to it.  The fact it is giving away a customer premium that involves thumb tacks seems somewhat old-fashioned to me!  Potentially, this object has traveled a great distance (approximately 560 miles) through time and space to reach me.  And now for found object number two.

Buried in the wood chips, I recognized this as the delivery box for a newspaper.  In this case, the paper is the Steubenville Herald Star which is still in business today.  Steubenville is also in the Upper Ohio Valley and downriver from Beaver Falls.  This town of approximately 19,000 souls is situated on the Ohio River which forms a border with the state of West Virginia.  Steubenville’s claims to fame include being called the City of Murals for the 25 murals it boasts in its downtown area.  It is also called Ohio’s Cookie Capital…I’m sure there is more of a story there.  And it is the hometown of crooner Dean Martin who was also Jerry Lewis’ comedy partner.  I estimated that this newspaper box traveled a bit more than 500 miles to reach here.  Interestingly, Steubenville like Louisville is situated within a Jefferson County. Okay, on to the next item which hails from Camp Nelson RV Park and forms the body of my figure.

The blue insulating foam that forms the body of my figure came from Camp Nelson RV Park located in Lancaster, Kentucky.  I have heard of Camp Nelson before because of its Civil War history.  Back in the mid 1860’s it was a recruiting and training camp for African-American soldiers.  Later it served as a refugee camp for freed slaves with some tragic consequences.  Earlier in Kentucky’s history it was known as Boone’s Landing because it was a favorable river fording spot for Daniel Boone.  It has been a recreational vehicle park since 1966.  This piece of foam with its black marker info has traveled the most interesting and surprising route to reach the Falls of the Ohio.  Camp Nelson RV Park is located on the Kentucky River.  It has floated down the most torturous and convoluted stretch of water that makes estimating distance traveled nearly impossible.  Eventually, it did float past our state capital in Frankfort and joined with the Ohio River somewhere between Prestonville and Carrollton, Kentucky.  That’s a bit more than fifty miles upriver from us.   Kentucky is rich in waterways and outside  the state of Alaska…has more miles of flowing water than any other state.  The little foam dinosaur is a child’s ink pad stamp and in my mind is a good symbol for the whole recreational vehicle industry especially since gasoline is over four dollars a gallon.  Well, other than show you a few images of Phillip C. Nelson exploring his new home…it’s been instructive for me to learn where some of the junk I find may have originated.  Every place and object has a story to tell.

Phillip C. Nelson seemed to enjoy exploring the driftwood field.  And in case you were wondering what I did with some of those old cigarette lighters…this last view will show you.  Thanks for tagging along on this extended journey with me!  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

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With Thunder over, my good friend Jeff accompanied me to the Falls the very next day.  He was on a mission to find wood for a home improvement project and the Falls has plenty of that.  On our way down to the river we passed a fisherman who warned us that there was a belligerent snake ahead of us that had tried to strike him!  Okay, we are forewarned, but not overly concerned.  Amazingly, we came across this snake.  It had not moved much since the morning was still cool and it was lying in the sun trying to get its metabolism going.  It’s a harmless Eastern Garter Snake and here are pictures of it.  This snake will try to bite, but it’s really very harmless.

This snake is often found near water, but can’t be classified as a water snake.  I did get a little closer and the snake did nothing.  Here’s a detail of its head.  This guy is about fifteen inches long.  I like its coppery-eyes.

Jeff and I had a good laugh over the fisherman’s over reaction!  At least to his credit, he didn’t try to kill this snake which happens far too much in this world.  Snakes do carry with them that element of surprise, but most of them are really beneficial.  Even if I had come across a poisonous species, I would just respect it and leave it alone.  I made another discovery and I guess I would have to classify this as a signed artwork?

It would have been easy to overlook this, but I turned my head in this direction and there it was.  Someone named “Hollie” took the time to sign and date this piece of wood near this old tire.  I felt this person was calling attention to the poetry in this space in a way similar to the work of Anne and Patrick Poirier.  It’s probably just me reading too much into the situation, but I did find this simple act compelling.

Jeff found the wood he was looking for and several potentially nice walking sticks too.  I found Styrofoam which I also used to make something, but will wait until next time to show you.  Jeff and I have been good friends since our undergraduate art school days at Murray State University.  Jeff is a talented artist in his own right and does drawing and ceramics.  He teaches art to middle school children.  During our hike at the Falls, Jeff was amazed by the number of cast off cigarette lighters he kept finding and started picking them up.  Here’s what he eventually did with them.

Jeff collected 23 lighters, but only lined up 20 for this photo.  He could have collected a sack full of these lighters if he wanted to.  Here’s the view from the other side showing my friend working on a walking stick.

After the pyrotechnics of the previous evening, this was as laid back and relaxing a day as could be.  We each left the Falls with as much river treasure as we wanted to carry.  I also had a camera full of images that I could use to post on this blog.  Eventually, the wind started to pick up and with the lighter piece in shambles, took that as our cue to go home.

On our way back to the parking lot, we passed by the wall that separates the Ohio River from this stretch of the Falls area.  With the City of Louisville in the background, I photographed these up rooted trees that were deposited here during the last high water incident.  They will stay there until the Ohio River decides to carry them away.

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