Posts Tagged ‘found materials sculpture’

willow trees and ice, Jan. 2014

Polar vortex…that’s the new buzz words for us this winter.  The Kentuckiana area has tasted this Arctic gift twice so far and we haven’t had a winter this cold in many years.  It manifests with the temperature bottoming out around 0 degrees Fahrenheit…colder still with the wind chill.  Snow and ice also accompany this blast of icy weather.  Once under the spell of the polar vortex…all one can do is ride it out.  It’s going to be bone-chilling cold for several days in a row.  Even if you know it’s going to happen, you really don’t feel prepared for it.  People tape plastic over their windows to trap heat and foil wind.  Shoppers rush out to purchase bread and milk.  Folks let the faucets drip throughout the day and night to prevent freezing and bursting water pipes.  Still, the plumbers are busy.  Extra layers of clothes are needed however,  you still feel cold around the edges.  If there is a weakness in a machine…the extreme cold will find it and this happened to my trusty rivermobile.  School may be out, but otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual.

ice formations, Falls of the Ohio State Park, Jan. 2014

The part about “business as usual” also strikes me as being a bit sad.  I am of the opinion that the reason the Earth has winter is to slow everything down and that’s vitally necessary.  It’s meant to be reflective and allows a moment for a deep breath before moving on again.  We all have more than enough pushing us to accomplish tasks at increasing breakneck speed.  The polar vortex challenges us to slow down if we can.

Ice formations, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014

Ice formations on willow trees, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014

In an effort to foster personal wonder for the world, I made it out to the Falls of the Ohio on a day that wouldn’t risk frost bite.  Over the years, I have prized coming out here on cold winter days especially if it meant seeing different ice formations.   There are ice ribbons, sausage-shaped icicles, frozen homemade candles, and just plain ice blobs on display.  I love the variety of forms and the play of light through the magic of solid water.  The most interesting ice formations are near the water’s edge where the willow trees catch the rising steam off of the river.  The water is warmer than the surrounding air temperatures and this “fog” helps coat the roots and branches with glassy layers of ice.  I thought I had the place all to myself when I was joined in this frigid landscape by a new friend.

The Ice Tourist, Falls, Jan. 2014

The Ice Tourist following my tracks, Jan. 2014

He described himself as being a fellow “ice tourist” and so that’s how I remember him.  He said he was curious about the ice, but also wary of stepping through thin ice and feeling the burn of extremely cold water.  I’ve had this experience before and so I could relate.  The Ice Tourist told me he had followed my tracks into the ice field and so far I had kept him out of danger.  We spent about an hour together before parting.  Here are some more pictures of him posed next to the ice formations we encountered.

The Ice Tourist, Falls, Jan. 2014

The Ice Tourist among icy willow, Jan. 2014

Ice Tourist and ice formation, Jan. 2014

The Ice Tourist had to check out everything as closely as possible.  He would climb upon the willow branches and roots to get the best view.  As it turns out, he was a local guy who like me, likes to hang out near the river whenever he can.  He was wearing a very thin and worn out t-shirt that said something about the town of Jeffersonville on it.  That’s the next town over from the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  I mentioned something about the poor condition of his garment and how it didn’t look substantial enough to keep him warm.  His response was that feeling warm was as much a mental state of mind and he was far too engaged by this novel environment to feel the cold.

The Ice Tourist, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014

The sun was rising.  The day was warming and the ice was beginning to drip and lose its strength.  Today’s show was at an end.  The image of a hot cup of coffee or cocoa was starting to have great appeal to me and so I said my farewell to the Ice Tourist.  Perhaps we will run into one another again at the river…we shall see?  Leaving my new friend behind, I walked the riverbank  and could see that the Ring-billed gulls that had been absent during the polar vortex were once again in residence in the park.  I wonder if the groundhogs will see their shadows tomorrow?

Ring-bill gulls and mallard ducks, Jan. 2014

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On an absolutely beautiful day I recorded these images of my latest found materials sculpture made at the Falls of the Ohio.  The morning started briskly, but warmed up enough that I felt comfortable taking my jacket off!  Around here, we were wondering if winter would ever arrive and now that it’s late February…we are beginning to have our doubts.  Without question, this has been the warmest winter I can recall around here.  At first, I had the park to myself and I began my day scrounging the river bank for materials.  After a couple of hours, I had enough river polished polystyrene assembled at one area that my latest outdoor studio was born.  As long as the river doesn’t swamp this spot anytime soon…I should have enough materials to keep me busy for a while.  Here is my first image of my latest Falls of the Ohio atelier.

It’s mostly Styrofoam chunks in various sizes, but you can see other stuff as well.  I found an interesting sign written in black marker that looks to be quoting the price of various scrap metals.  The sign is so crudely made that I wondered if some backyard entrepreneur was collecting aluminum and copper for later resale to a salvage yard?  That makes it a true sign of the times as metal of all varieties becomes increasingly valuable.  I also have a section of fire hose I salvaged.  It’s canvas-covered rubber and it’s just the right kind of thing that one of my stone carving friends could use.  When a particularly heavy piece of stone is moved, pieces of fire hose are used to protect both the stone and the ropes from abrasion as the stone is lifted by crane.  I found an especially long length of fire hose after the big driftwood fire of the early summer.  That fire must have caught the fire fighters by surprise because I can’t imagine why such a large length of perfectly good hose would be cut and abandoned?  I also found a Styrofoam life ring and various odds and ends I may use when I make my own brand of sculpture.  The following are images that show the progression of this day’s figure as it came into being.  First, I started with a large section of lightweight material that I heard one old-timer call fiberglass?  I’m not sure that it’s made of that, but it definitely is not polystyrene.  I hammered some legs into it with a board and set it upright.  I’ll let a few of the photos speak for themselves as the figure comes together.

The head is made of various found plastic fragments.  The head crest is composed of a half of a frisbee and the hard bristles of a large push broom.  The ears are the bottoms of aluminum cans which suggest ear spools.  Here is a detail of the head.

He’s a handsome guy in a Mayan sort of way isn’t he?  After assembly, I reposed the figure at different places near my studio and ran into some new friends.  This is Annie and James who were at the Falls enjoying a little photography of their own.  They had seen my work out here before and now they have a name and face to go with the artist.

After a nice visit with the couple, I reposed my piece to face the river and took these parting images while soaking up all the fresh air and light.

I’ll be curious to see how this figure survives until my next visit.  Should he disappear…I’m not too worried.  I have more materials at my outdoor studio and more arriving daily including a couple of huge Styrofoam chunks too heavy to move! Here’s one photo of what must have been a section of a boat dock.  See you next time around from the Falls of the Ohio.

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