Posts Tagged ‘duck decoy’

Louisville as seen from the Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014 Happy New Year everybody out there in blog land!  I want to thank everyone over the past year who have dropped by to check out the latest from the Artist at Exit 0 at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  This year is shaping up to be much like the previous one.  Which means both man and nature are predictably unpredictable with a sense of timing not easily plotted.  Since the holidays, the Ohio River has been up and much of the park that I access has been underwater.  That in itself is not news, but the length of time the water has been high has been.  It all points to heavy rains and snows in the northern part of the Ohio River Valley and water flowing downriver.  The forecast at the time of this writing is not encouraging with showers turning to snow today followed by a precipitous drop to sub-zero degree temperatures.  This cold could be historic for us and so far we have received more snow than in recent winters.  I think I will stay indoors today!  Since my last post, I have been to the river twice (including New Years Day itself) to see what there is to see and experience.  Here’s a synopsis so far.wooden pallet in the trees, Falls, Jan. 2014 Between rising and falling waters I have been able to skirt around the edges.  One thing that unfortunately hasn’t changed is the junk in the river.  I’m always interested in what gets stranded in the trees like this wooden pallet that has a corner delicately balanced on the surface of the river.  It’s cold out here and despite being warmly dressed, my eyes and nose water from the bit of wind that is also present. various kinds of debris at the water's edge, Jan. 2014 At the water’s edge is a mix of debris.  Most of it is natural with driftwood, wood bark and bits being the most prominent.  Trees that have surrendered to the river are rolled against other logs by the waves and the grinding (which can be very audible as well) knocks the limbs off with a loud crack and chews the bark away from the trunks.  Intermixed is various man-made and colorful junk that is mostly plastic in composition which also gets masticated by the river.  The above photo is fairly typical with lots of polystyrene fragments which also make up the core of my art materials.  Most artists have positive feelings for their materials, but I have a love /hate relationship with mine.  Let’s move on and see what other sights are along the river in this new year. floating automotive tire at the Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014 Floating tires always catch my eye.  Their blackness and circular perfection contrasts sharply with the rest of the objects on the river’s surface.  A short distance away from this wheel I find a dead steer at the water’s edge. dead steer in the Ohio River, Jan. 2014 I debated with myself whether to include this distasteful image in this post, but decided to do it since it represents some of the truth that is in the river.  Pictures of man-made trash are one thing and have an almost benign aura to them by now, but something that was once alive registers in a different way.  The gravity is far heavier.  This poor cow is the largest dead animal I have encountered in the park.  Dead deer and other smaller animals are not too unusual in the river.  No telling how far this unfortunate animal has floated to arrive here?  Rising high waters could once again carry it away.  I take this picture and walk on. plastic turtle sand mold, Jan. 2014 There are other objects that the river has delivered to the park like this plastic turtle sand mold.  Having gone through my river collections recently I discovered that turtles are among the most common subjects for sand molds.  Who knew?  I have found six or seven of them and they are all different like the plastic hamburgers from a recent post of mine.  Here’s something else to add to a growing collection. plastic pintail duck decoy, Jan. 2014 I have a Rubber Duck Collection as well and all found within the park.  Truthfully, none of them are actually made from rubber and are of course composed from plastic.  This is a hunter’s decoy of a pintail duck and would have been cooler had it been made out of wood…alas.  I haven’t seen much of actual bird life in the park except for a few hardy species that are around all year round.  I noticed that the ring-billed gulls that come here for the winter are not present.  I wonder if the cold has them migrating further south this year?  To mark how exceptional this winter has been, our area has seen a rare migration of snowy owls from the far north.  The snowy owl is listed on the official Falls of the Ohio bird checklist as extremely rare and accidental.  For me, this would be a good enough reason to journey here and this just might be the year to see one, but I haven’t heard if any were actually seen in the park?  A short distance away from here, a snowy owl in a weakened condition was rescued by our local raptor rehab folks and is being nursed back to health.

plastic body of "Mr. Potato-head", Jan. 2014

Here’s a test for you.  Do you know what this is?  Time’s up…this is the plastic body of a Mr. Potato Head toy!  I count Mr. Potato Head as one of my artistic influences for my Falls of the Ohio Styrofoam projects and this is the first one of these that I have found out here.  According to Wikipedia, Mr. Potato Head has been in continuous production since 1952 (that’s a lot of plastic) and was the first toy advertised on television.  I can remember as a kid…using actual potatoes to make funny faces and now I use Styrofoam.

My former outdoor studio, now river-swept clean, Jan. 2014

I walked up the riverbank to access my outdoor atelier and discovered that the river has swept over it.  All the materials that I had cached here over the last couple of years have floated away and the large logs that defined my space are rearranged.  I will need to create a new studio if I continue here.  I suspect, however, that the river is far from being done and would wager we will experience more flooding in the near future.  I picked up a few small pieces of Styrofoam and willow sticks and made my first figure of the new year and posed him at the river’s edge as waves lapped the shoreline.

New Year's Day figure at the river's edge, Jan. 2014

He is not a large figure and the expression on his face is one of amazement.  I first posed him near the river in an old life-preserver that washed up.  In addition to being expedient on a cold day it also seemed symbolic.  For me, it always comes back to the river and its waters.  The quality of our fresh water remains our number one vanishing resource and the river’s course is the journey we all take through life.  I will continue to use my creativity at this one small spot on a large river and publish my results on this riverblog.  Thanks for checking it out every now and then.  As the year progresses, I hope to be like the river by being predictably unpredictable.  May we all have a wonderful 2014!

First figure with life ring of 2014, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014

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The clock read ten minutes after four, otherwise, I wouldn’t have remembered what time it was when I began my last exploration of the river.  This is one of the world’s largest clocks and once was the pride of the Colgate toothpaste factory in Clarksville, Indiana which is just a quarter-mile at most from the entrance to the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  The company moved to Mexico and now the building is for sale.  The clock’s fate is uncertain as are all the jobs that were lost when the company relocated to another country.  The fire truck happened to be going by at the moment I took this image.

After parking my vehicle, I descended down the wooden staircase and into the driftwood field that was deposited last summer.  It has been a gray and melancholic winter.  I noticed that the river was higher now than during my last foray and my heart lifted a bit knowing that there would be fresh river booty to find!  I was correct and this post has a few of the objects and sights I came across during the hour and half I spent here.

I have observed that many people who visit here never venture far from these stairs.  They may go down to the water’s edge to take a look, skip a stone, or write their names in the shifting sands.  I came across the word “people” written in the sand and recorded the image before the advancing waves erased it. 

After so many years of walking this beach, I’m amazed at how much of the same kinds of stuff I find out here.  This was one of five basketballs I came across.  I wish I had a dollar for every one I’ve seen at the Falls.  The river was playing with this one and its waters would float it to a different location and then cast it back upon the shore before licking it back into the water again.  Here’s another ball I found.  It’s small and looks similar to a plastic representation of a ball of yarn?  I like the contrast between the ball and the willow rootlets that captured it.

I’m always finding dolls and doll parts.  On this expedition I found three dolls.  Here’s a picture of one of them as I found it.  I’m not certain if this is a Barbie doll or a knock off of one?  Doesn’t matter, what catches my eye here is the arrangement of doll and driftwood.  Because there isn’t a lot of color involved…it would be easy to overlook this while walking.

More flamboyant is this cloth and plastic artificial “plant” embedded in the sand.  Now this was easy to find because it’s winter and the eyes are starved for color.  I wonder what these plastic “nuts” are supposed to be?

Now comes the part where this post’s title originates.  For the last couple of weeks the Falls has been home to many Mallard ducks.  I was walking along the shoreline when from a distance I spotted this next to a large log.

My first reaction is why is this duck  just sitting there and not trying to get away?  Is it hurt or sick?  Did it narrowly escape the talons of one of the local Peregrine falcons?  It took me a moment before I realized that it wasn’t real!

This is the first decoy that I have come across out here and thought photographing it next to tracks left by webbed feet was appropriate.  The indigenous people of this country were the first (as far as we know) to make decoys to lure prey species closer to the hunter.  There is an aspect to some of my Styrofoam sculptures that takes a page from them.  I want people to come closer and check out what I’m doing and come away with a greater awareness of what’s happening to the environment around them.

My subconscious must be scanning this stuff as I move along, because I don’t know how I found this!  It’s a plastic slice of bread or toast and not much different in shape or color to the other forms that were around it.  Naturally, it went into the collecting bag and joins the other artificial food items I have found out here over the many years.

After hanging out at the water’s edge, I cut up the beach to my open air studio in the willows.  The so-called “Choir” grouping had been smashed to bits since my last visit.  All the figures have been beheaded, but things weren’t a total loss.  I did find this to cheer me up!

Some other creative soul left me this next to the plank I sit on when I make my Styrofoam sculptures.  This small figure looks surprised like it’s caught in mid slip.  Perhaps there was ice and one foot flew out from under it?  All the materials were on site and I’m glad that someone else took advantage of them to make something no matter how silly.  Whenever I’m out here it’s easy for me to lose track of time, but I knew it was time to go because I was cold and getting hungry.  On the walk back to my car I took this photograph.

I call it the “Staircase to Heaven” and yes it’s a wooden set of stairs that was snagged by this willow during a flood two years a go.  I once found a refrigerator stuck in the top of a tall tree and the river put it there during another bout of high water.  The river level can surprise you and with all the snow that has fallen this winter north of here.  It’s very possible we may see high water again and soon.  This weekend, (can it be true!) it’s supposed to be sunny and warmer.  I definitely will plan another trip and maybe make something of my own from all this river junk.  Until then…

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