Posts Tagged ‘figurative art’

wooden cable spool and willow tree, Falls of the Ohio, March 22, 2014

It’s a sunny Saturday and warm for this time of year.  One of those days I can’t wait to get to the river.  Spring is still slow in developing, but it can’t be much longer now.  I spent a good part of the day just filling up my canvas collecting bag with all types of odds and ends both man-made and natural that have washed up on these fabled shores.  I’m finding so much stuff that for practical reasons I decide to see if I can find a spot up the bank and under the willows that might make a good location for a temporary outdoor art studio.  I can offload some of my larder for future use while continuing to walk the edge of the river.  I’m enjoying the sunshine and taking deep breaths of the fresh air.

U.F.O. studio...Unidentified Floating Object studio, March 2014

U.F.O. studio, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

I chose a spot bordered by a large log that keeps most of the driftwood at bay and what I call the U.F.O. or Unidentified Floating Object which is circular metal platform that was once painted white with blue trim.  It’s starting to show some rust now.  This large object washed over the dam during a high water moment three or four years a go.  Since then it’s changed positions with the rising and falling river levels and was once completely buried under driftwood.  The U.F.O. is a platform that normally would be anchored out on  the river.  Barges and other water craft can tie on to it if necessary.  Some how this one got loose and relocated to the park.  When I first discovered it here I also imagined that it was a giant bathtub plug that helped keep the water in the river.   I was lucky that I had the same outdoor studio for many years before this winter’s high water rearranged the landscape again and floated all my collected materials away.  I spent a few hours walking the river collecting Styrofoam and sticks and can’t wait to make something new.

Mega Spool figure in progress, March 2014

Completed figure at the U.F.O. studio, March 2014

The first figure I make here is from the largest chunks of polystyrene I had found on this excursion.  I used two fishing floats (one larger than the other for expressive effect) for the eyes.  The nose is a plastic piece from a fooseball table.  The mouth is a red reflector.  My figure has ears, arms, and legs that are pieces of driftwood.  The figure has a benevolent feeling to it and I can’t wait to photograph it by the river.  I did run into a young sculptor attending the Kentucky School of Art who was collecting driftwood for her own project.  Her name is Jenn and she approached me asking if I was the person with the show at the Carnegie Center for Art and History?  She and her classmates had seen the exhibition.  Jenn is building an installation at the school and promised to let me know when she completed it.  It will be fun to see art made by someone else from materials collected within the park.

Large Styro-figure on a tiny willow island, March 2014

Styro-figure on tiny willow island, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

When I first meet the river, I spend a little time looking around and scouting out potential locations to create the photographs that will represent this day in my project.  I decide that I like this tiny “willow island” which consists of clay and sand bound together by the living roots of this tree.  Waves and water wash all around it and at times it does look like an island.  As the river recedes to its normal pool, this tree will be high and dry at last.  It’s amazing what it takes to keep this tree in place with such a dynamic river always testing its resolve to survive.  During the highest river levels, this tree would be completely submerged underwater.  Many of the willows along this stretch of the river bear scars and wounds from large logs battering them, breaking branches, and grinding bark away.  I pose the figure on the root mass and move to the next shot which isn’t too far away.

Styro-figure and large, wooden cable spool, March 2014

Styro-figure and wireline spool, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

Near tiny willow island is a large wooden “spool” for wire line or cable.  I’m amazed by this object’s heavy-duty construction.  This spool floated into here and is now partially sunk into the sand.  Small waves lap the shoreline and you can also see black coal dust swirling around the water’s edge.  Later when I see my pictures I’m struck by how similar this spool is to the circular platform that now forms part of my latest outdoor studio.  This new area to cache my materials is very visible and hence ultra public, however, if we have heavy spring rains…it’s very possible that all this will be washed away and rearranged again.  I often wonder what might go through people’s minds when they stumble upon my outdoor atelier?  It’s an odd archeological site of Styrofoam boulders, small piles of plastic toys, and a tangle of found roots and driftwood.  All the stuff you need to make an absurd figure!  I left my latest Styro-creation next to the spool.  I will go a head and tell you…I returned a week later and all I could find of him was his body and legs.  There must be headhunters out here?  I searched the area, but found no further trace of my figure.  As with most of my Falls projects, they continue to “exist” as images.  The exhibition that Michael Wimmer and I are participating in at the Carnegie Center of Art and History is entering its last week.  I’m so appreciative of the positive response I’ve received for my work.  The show will end with a tea and cookies closing.  If you are in the area, please stop by.

Final shot from the big spool and tiny willow island, March 2014, Falls of the Ohio

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The heat and humidity remain unabated.  I think this is the hottest summer I have spent at the Falls of the Ohio.  Yes, there were always super hot days in the past, but this year we have had many more of them.  I was excited about this weekend because I have three days off, few family obligations, and I planned to go out to the river to see and make what I could.  I have collected some large pieces of Styrofoam and it’s time to use it before the river eventually rises and carries it all away again.

On this day, I have made one of my tallest figures ever.  This one is a head taller than I am and when you add the extra long arm…it is even more so.  I can’t say that I worked up a story to go with this one…yet.  If, however, he hangs out long enough, I’m sure I will think of a narrative.  For now, this is what I made and in the process I drank all the water I brought with me and soaked through my shirt.  A mixture of sweat and sun block kept running into my eyes which led to a few choice words said by me.  Fortunately, there wasn’t anybody around to hear them!

After I made this figure, it seemed to me that it had some affinities with the Wallace and Gromit characters.  I think it’s because of the close-set eyes and large nose?  I like that this guy has a sense of humor which can’t be said about some of the figures I have made before.  He’s probably amused that anyone would choose to spend their day off engaged in this activity!

What prompted this sculpture was the long stick I eventually used for one of his arms.  The body is somewhat elongated and the extra long arm brings this out even more.  Perhaps the arm is an evolutionary adaptation for picking fruit from the higher branches of the tree?  In this way, it works similarly to a giraffe’s neck with its ability to reach the topmost leaves.

The brutal sun kept me close to the shade of the willows, but even this had its issues.  There are mosquitos in the shadows and the humidity is trapped by the vegetation and foliage.  Being uncomfortable made me less patient with myself.  Every once in a while I would get distracted by the song of a wren or the myriad insect life around me.  There are still many butterflies and wasps visiting the flowers and willow trees.

I had a few technical problems to work out. The main one being how will this sculpture stand upright?  Even though the sand and mud are soft, this figure is clumsy and comes down to a point.  My solution was to rest the figure on a tripod of sticks.  Two of them can be seen, the third “leg” lends support from behind the figure.  Once it cools down, I would like to move this sculpture around the different vignettes that the Falls offers and see if I can improve upon the photographs.  For the moment, I consider these evidence that I made something on a fairly uncompromising day cut short by the heat.  I decided to leave early and left this figure resting against the trunk of a tree.  I can’t wait for it to cool down a little.  I can tell Autumn is around the corner.  I detect a hint of yellow in the leaves around me that were a bright green not too long a go.

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"You are Loved", 10/09

It’s been four weeks since I was last able to visit the Falls.  Between a badly twisted ankle ( turned the same ankle twice in one day) and work and family obligations, I have had to remain close to home.  In just such emergencies, I have an ample supply of Falls materials at home.  I prefer working in the larger context, but home will do in a pinch.

I made this small table-top piece last night for a work colleague who recently lost her mother.  My friend had expressed a wish to own one of my works and since her mother was an artist, thought this might be a nice way to offer my condolence.  This work incorporates found wood, Styrofoam, coal, plastic, and the shells from Asiatic clams. 

Over the years, I have made many smaller pieces ( my family calls them “Foamies”) and I have sold and given them away as presents.  I get asked to donate to many not for profit art auctions and I usually give these smaller works all made from materials gathered in my walks at the Falls of the Ohio.

Now that I have scratched my itch to blog and published another image, I can move on!  The ankle is getting better, the cool fall weather with its great light quality is here.  I have a few opportunities (including work in an exhibition) coming up soon and I’m feeling upbeat!  I promise another post soon.

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Face of Abstract man, 7/09

There’s a spicy, herbal scent coming from the plants and a small garter snake crosses in front of me on the sandy path.  You can hear both the river and several songs from a variety of birds in the willow habitat.  It’s a cool day for July and relatively overcast.  Despite my little treasury of Styrofoam and sticks under the trees, I still walk my route collecting what I missed before and now find compelling and useful.  The “Abstract Man” I made just a couple days ago was started in this manner.  First, I found the little piece of foam with holes in it that was probably used to hold bullets in a box.  That goes into the collecting bag.  Later I find what would become the head.  Part of it is missing, but the bump that looks like a nose, more than makes up for what is lacking.  A bright yellow spray bottle without its label catches my eye and using what I already have on hand…is enough for a figure. 

Abstract man in studio, 7/09

This is the Styrofoam nursery where this sculpture came together.  I have been using this spot for weeks now and I’m really surprised that no one has messed with this site yet.  It’s shady here and there is the occasional mosquito to deal with, but overall, it’s a fairly private area.  There are, however, signs in the nearby driftwood that homeless people may have rested here before moving on.  I found an old towel and the remains of food packaging next to the ashes of their fire.

abstract man, 7/09

I found the quizical expression on this figure provoking and the bright yellow spray bottle lent a formal note.  I decided to photograph this piece in different contexts.  This image was taken not thirty feet away from where the figure was assembled.  Each image takes advantage of the attribute in the immediate area.Abstract man posed in the willows, 7/09


Abstract Man strikes me as being more formal and so I find myself looking for places that have a graphic appeal as seen through the camera.  In this image, it’s the diagonals of the trees leading to the spray bottle that are the key elements in this composition. 

Abstract Man by log, 7/09

Here, I like the way the curving wood of the willow tree behind the figure seems to frame and call attention to the head.  The yellow of the spray bottle holds its position in space and adds that extra artificial note.

Abstract Man with Liatris, 7/09

This image has the diagonal structure of the logs resting on the ground to lead your eye back to the figure.  The purple liatris plant lends yet another color note.  This plant only grows where it is wet and butterflies do seem to like it.  It’s not until I download my images onto my computer that I get to see the full effect of what I shot at the Falls.  With this figure, I can’t say which image and environment I prefer.  Do you have a favorite?

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