Posts Tagged ‘Earth Day’

at the Louisville Zoo, April 20, 2013

One of the benefits of being a long-time member of a local art community is that on occasion you get asked to help judge art contests.  I began my morning on Earth Day at an awards ceremony held at the Louisville Zoo.  Last week I was one of six judges looking at children’s artwork (from preschool to high school) made from recycled elements.  Originality, material diversity, and creativity were the criteria.  The art exhibit is entitled “Trashformation” and this is the inaugural event hosted by the zoo.  Although most of the entries were from Louisville, art projects also came in from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The winners from each of the various school group categories were recognized on an absolutely beautiful Spring morning.

Mayor Greg Fischer at the Louisville Zoo, April 20, 2013

Graciously presenting the prizes to the students was Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer.  The kids and their families were excited to have the Mayor on hand and he was very cordial and approachable.  Mayor Fischer reinforced the idea of how critical it is to preserve and protect the environment.  The Mayor highlighted a few of the green initiatives his administration has championed including appointing a Metro Director of Sustainability, increasing curbside recycling, and surveying the health of Metro Louisville’s tree canopy.  Making the status of the urban environment a priority is vital to the city’s quality of life and is good for business as well.

Trashformation winners in the group category, April 20, 2013

Kids need little persuasion on the importance of reducing, recycling, and reusing.  They seem to get it and now it’s up to the rest of us to get on board!  Here is the winning team from the group category.  Their winning entry featured a recycled globe, plastic bottles, aluminum foil, plastic, and cardboard.

Winning entries in the Trashformation contest, April 20, 2013

On the table are a few more of the winning entries across various categories.  The homemade orange recycling bin made of cardboard and aluminum cans is a witty submission from a middle school duo.  Other notable projects included a shoe box diorama of the zoo and a bird with nest and eggs made from a recycled art book.

Recycled robot winner at the Trashformation contest, April 20, 2013

This creative “Recycle Man”  was a popular choice among all the entries.  The girl standing next to the Mayor is the artist who made it.  A large crowd was on hand thanks to a “Two Dollar Day” promotion sponsored by Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities.

Young lady accepts her prize from the Mayor, April 20, 2013

This young lady accepted her award for her artwork and couldn’t wait to share it with her family.  I’m sure there were several fond memories created on this morning.  After the awards ceremony I decided to check out some of the animals at the zoo.  The Louisville Zoo is Metro Louisville’s most popular attraction.  In addition to being a fun destination, the zoo is also well-known for its many conservation successes.  I always enjoy watching the Lowland Gorillas and they were having breakfast outdoors on this fine morning in the Derby City.

Lowland Gorillas at the Louisville Zoo, April 20, 2013

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The stars were in alignment and I got to spend a nice Earth Day at the Falls of the Ohio.  It was a little cold and windy…nothing layering in sweat shirts couldn’t handle!  I found so many interesting objects and spaces that I filled up my camera’s memory card.  I now find myself with a richness of images I couldn’t post in one go…and so I will try to keep it focused in some way.  As proof that everyday should be Earth Day…the official celebration in the park has been moved to May after the Kentucky Derby.  Supplanted by a horse race!  Last night was Thunder Over Louisville which year after year is usually the largest fireworks display in North America and kicks off the two weeks long Kentucky Derby Festival.  Thousands of people were out here partying on both banks of the Ohio River.  They left their trash after the event, but fortunately it looks like the clean up crews are doing a good job and keeping this stuff out of the park.  After all, it already has enough detritus of its own.  Of late, I’ve been really fascinated by how these big barge cables and ropes that wash into here weather over time. They are made of tough stuff, but the river wins in the end.  Sometimes they unravel and drift beautifully from willow root to branch like mutant Spanish moss.  Some of their colors can even be shocking compared to the neutral earth tones of their surroundings.  Here’s one such scene I’ve been trying to describe.  This is one of my Earth Day photographs.

I later came across a nice length of barge cable stretched out across the sand. For fun, I started coiling it and taking pictures of the different configurations I came up with.  Here’s the way it looked stretched out.

When I look at my pictures at home, many of these cable fragments reference fossils.  I get a strong feeling of ancient sea lily crinoids and nautilus-like ammonites preserved in the rock that was silt millions of years a go.  I also played with the spiral form and activated an intimate space with its spring-like energy.

Creating a tighter spiral evoked ammonite shells and wavy tentacles.  Ammonites were coiled cephalopods with some resemblances to our squids and octopi. The ammonites were so successful for so long.  Beginning somewhere in the Devonian they prospered and radiated out to fill all the world’s oceans until the Cretaceous Period crashed.  Their run lasted more than 330 million years and now they are all gone.  We have a way to go to match that record.

In most of the places I walked today I could hear the Northern Orioles singing.  I tried imitating their call notes and once in a while I could get a bird to reply.  I saw various warblers, vireos, woodpeckers, wrens, and more…however, the most memorable bird event happened at my feet.  I stepped too near the nest of a Song Sparrow and flushed the bird that was hiding with its clutch of eggs.  Here’s a photo of the scene.  Can you find the bird’s nest?  Look closely at the dark spot on the left side of the young willow greenery.

And now…lets look a little deeper and closer at this spot.

Inside were four tiny eggs tinged in green and speckled with brown spots.  I’ve read that the Song Sparrow is heavily parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird which opportunistically lays an egg of its own among the sparrow’s clutch.  The unsuspecting parents raise the cowbird as their own.  As far as I could tell, this nest was in good shape.  Perhaps having a really obscure nest site has so far protected it from the cowbirds which are common in our area?  Walking further, I came to another nesting site of a different kind near my outdoor studio.  Like the Song Sparrow…this spot was also well hidden.

The tire swing helps give it away otherwise it easily blends into the natural driftwood environment.  I imagine a family coming to play here because there is evidence of children… including a misplaced fuzzy duck toy.  The kids keep raiding my Styrofoam cache, but haven’t made anything back at their fort!  Walking around the structure, I find the door is closed.

I even crawled up on the “roof”  for a look.  The builders have taken a natural space created by interlocking logs and enclosed and defined the space by leaning and propping up other found wood.  It all blends in perfectly.

I moved a few planks and logs aside and could see the interior.  I set the duck back up and snapped this shot.

Because my driftwood structure neighbors like to borrow the Styrofoam I’ve collected…I decided to leave them a present using the biggest polystyrene chunk they dragged over here.  First, I need to improvise a head.

After finding some appropriate limbs…I set the figure up in the corner of the log fort.  I thought it looked pretty good against the new green leaves of the willows.  In my head I heard this little bit of imagined dialogue…”Wait, wait…it’s not yet Earth Day!  That’s been postponed until May 12.  Come back then and bring the family.”…as he waved all wild-eyed and everything.

I’m not sure how long this guy will last?  It would be nice to think that the kids who play here could see this figure as a part of their creative environment.

The root mass from this great log makes up one “wall” of the driftwood fort.  Here’s another view looking back before I moved on to the rest of my day.

I’m going to bring this post to a close with two photos of a willow tree I saw the other day.  These trees are buffeted by the elements and begin to take on character and personality as their will to survive kicks in.  With their branches reaching for the sun…their incredible roots hang on to the mud and are sculpted by the Ohio River.  It’s good to think of trees during Earth Day.

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It doesn’t happen very often, but this was as close to a shut-out as I have experienced here at the Falls.  On this trip I didn’t make any sculptures and the resulting images weren’t as memorable.  Granted I didn’t give myself any time out here to speak of and there were other frustrations.  For one, I could barely get out of my neighborhood because of two simultaneous Derby festival events.  In a relatively tight area you could watch 15,000 runners go by or attend an arts and crafts fair.  Over the years the running thing is getting out of control and a different course needs to be constructed that goes around the city instead of paralyzing it.  You should have seen all the plastic bottles left by the side of the road and the hundreds that were discarded on the Second Street Bridge.  Many of these bottles were blown into the river by a steady wind.  Oh, and an hour after arriving at the park it rained really, really hard.  Sorry to be so down, especially when the sign above says “NO DUMPING”! 

I knew it would be a hassle with the festival activity and potential bad weather, but I went for it anyway.  It’s migratory bird season and I reasoned that if there was just one bird that I hadn’t seen before or if I made any other memorable sightings than it would be worth it!  At least the iris flowers looked nice by the Interpretive Center.

I decided to take the Woodland Trail that goes through a variety of habitats and see what was around.  I came across a small flock of White-throated Sparrows, but that was today’s avian highlight.  The sky was overcast and had that quality that makes everything seem backlit and tough to photograph.  I will say there was one thing happening that was absolutely delicious and a joy to partake in.

The lovely fragrance of honeysuckle vines and blooming honey locust trees hung in the humid air.  Their combined scents created a heavy, sweet perfume that it made it easier to appreciate the day for what it was.  On the walk back, I checked out the river and did find one interesting item.  It’s nature’s template cast off after use!  This is how oaks and tulips came to be.

I have been planning a drawing project and so this is a serendipitous find.  I definitely will put this template to work.  As I was walking along the river the little bit of mist became a monsoon.  There was a single huge flash of lightning and the resulting thunder could be heard bouncing around the valley.  I guess even Earth Day must take back seat to the Kentucky Derby Festival because the park moved their observance from the official day of April 22 to May 8! That’s one way to make any day, Earth Day!

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Annie on Earth Day

It’s officially Earth Day and my friend Annie and fellow artist/standardized patient (a topic for a later time) went to the Falls today to be out in nature.  After several cold and wet days we received one that’s  a winner.  In the spirit of collaboration we combed the riverbank and brought our finds together to create this Mother Earth image and child.

Mother Earth and Child, 4/09

Here’s the finished result which is colorful if not disturbing!  It was fun to make and includes various foams, plastics, driftwood, bark, grass to name a few of the found materials. We left the figures next to a driftwood structure (one of two we came across today) and it looks like home to me.  Here are the before and after shots.  Happy Earth Day!

found wood structure/4/09

Mother Earth, child, driftwood structure, 4/09

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Earth Day sign, 2009

Around here Earth Day was observed a little early!  In the Louisville area our social calenders begin to reflect the influences of the Kentucky Derby Festival.  Next weekend is “Thunder Over Louisville”, which each year is usually the largest fireworks display in the country.  This is the second year in a row I have been invited to present my project and art at the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center.osprey at Earth Day                                                                         


Seeing this Osprey so close to the center was a good sign for me.  You don’t usually see one perched on a branch so close to where people are.

Earth Day, 2009

Presenters set up both inside the center and outside on the grounds.  Artists, business people, and environmental advocates talked and handed out literature on how to make our area more sustainable and Earth friendly.  The center’s staff and volunteers were very helpful.

Earth Day, 2009

These folks are working on a peace-themed totem pole made from red cedar.  The symbols carved into the wood represent many cultures.

Log Man at Earth Day

I saved “Log Man” for this event and here he is posed next to one of the interpretive center’s displays.  The response to my work was very positive.  Most people were curious about the Styrofoam and asked many questions about my process and reasons for doing what I do.  By the end of the day, I was a bit hoarse from talking so much.  Usually, when I’m in the field I may talk to a couple brave souls curious about what I’m doing.  At this event, I get to converse with dozens.  I enjoy talking to kids because they understand what it is to be creative and that everyday should be Earth Day.

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