Posts Tagged ‘Louisville, Kentucky’


Today I heard the river calling on a spectacular day at the Falls of the Ohio.  Apparently, I was not the only one who heeded this call and the park is already full of people upon my arrival.  I checked out the fossil cliffs and quickly determined that there were too many people at this location for me and I moved on.  Ducking under the trees I moved into the shade, but before I did I stopped to hear an American goldfinch that had taken up residence on a willow branch right above my head. His perch is on the borderline of  sunshine and shadow and he was singing away in his timeless goldfinch way. In appreciation I took in every note as though his song was meant for me.

Under the protection of the forest’s canopy, I came across many other spring birds including a magnificent male Pileated Woodpecker hammering away at the soft wood of a decayed log in his pursuit of wood ants and beetle larvae.  I even came across a turtle…although it’s not the type you typically find out here.  It is, however, a reminder that this bottom land where I’m walking was recently flooded.  This turtle moved into this area with the rising river.  I have a small collection of sand molds and this is my fourth different turtle design I’ve found in the park…into the collecting bag it goes.

Another unusual sight was a plastic five gallon bucket that also floated in with the high water.  Checking it out, I tried to determine whether this bucket was half full or half empty with mud and whether or not this reflected on my general outlook on life?

Eventually, my walk brought me to the creek that marks the western limit of the park’s Woodland Loop Trail.  As I moved to this spot…I was also picking up the bits and pieces that form my latest Styrofoam figure.  I posed my latest creation in a location above the creek where it meanders into the Ohio River.

I like this place because it affords a good view of the Ohio River sweeping westward.  I also enjoy checking out the mud along the creek’s banks because animals leave their tracks here.  This time I could distinguish raccoon, squirrel, heron, and dog tracks.  Because the water running through this creek is also tied to the City of Clarksville’s sewer overflow system…during peak rain storms water comes rushing through the creek.  As a result of these torrents, large boulders and stones that were buried in the mud and soil come to the forefront and help create small cascades and waterfalls.

My little man did what I also like to do which is sitting by a waterfall and losing myself in the sound of running water.  This sound and effect are so peaceful to me that I wonder if it also affects my brain’s waves?  It’s easier to clear my mind with the sound of water as a backdrop and makes me lose my sense of time.  Today, the creek offers up several terraced waterfalls and my Styroman visited them all.  Here he is by waterfall #2.

This dramatic shot depends a lot on the angle which wasn’t as acute.  Now for a couple more views.

One frequent criticism of my project which I embrace is that it is overly romantic and sentimental.  Ironically, these are also qualities I find missing in much contemporary art which seems to rely upon one’s head more than the heart.  I try to involve both feeling centers in my work.  My brand of romanticism comes from trying to evoke some sense of the sublime and respect for nature through all the garbage and habitat destruction that marks our era because this ongoing planetary degradation ultimately affects our own and other species’ chances in the game of life.  Believe it or not.

This is the last waterfall my figure visited and is marked by crisscrossing logs that were deposited here during the last good flood.  I like the composition created by all this interlocking wood.  I hung out here until the light started to  slip below the horizon and I turned for home. My mind felt relaxed and open for nearly anything.  I think this is ultimately what brings me back to the river time after time.  I can forget my daily woes, politics, and the work a day world and for a few hours transport myself to a more real and peaceful place.  I hope all of you out there in the wider world have discovered places that do the same for you.

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Okay so I’m bowing to a little peer pressure and presenting additional images from a project I did the last month.  The day I made my Styrofoam ant project I also kept crossing areas on the riverbank where iridescent flows from something oily was percolating up through the sand and mixing with slow flowing water.  In my original story…imbibing this stuff is what mutates the ant into a giant!

I still don’t know what this prismatic film is that is seeping to the surface?  It could be old long-buried petroleum or some oily residue from decaying vegetation?

These rainbow flows are a fact of life at the Falls and gives me another setting my sculptures can help interpret.  The colors and patterns on the water and sand can be very striking.  Here in quick succession are several more abstract images created the same day as the ant project, but minus the Styro-insect.

In the above image, you can see a few recognizable objects including nuts, sand, and coal.  I’ll close with a final image of why the ants are so large here…they are drinking the sheen and it’s the Godzilla effect all over again!

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One last post before all of 2011’s sand runs through the hour-glass!  Here are a few of the many rubber duckies that I have come across at the Falls of the Ohio over the years.  I thought it would be a fun way to end the year. If you would like to see more ducky images…I’ve posted a new collection, “Kentucky Lucky Ducky Collection” which can be found in my Pages section.  Have a Happy New Year and may 2012 be kind to all!

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When I asked my youngest son Adam if he wanted to go to the Falls with me he said yes for the first time in a while.  Everyone has their busy schedules these days, but somehow our calendars intersected on this day.  We went after supper when there was still a couple of hours of good light left.

Adam asked me if I had a fort out here like last year?  You know, the one with all the Styrofoam in it and if so, are we going there?  Barely were the words out of his mouth when he walked into my studio site.  Everything was as I left it except for the big helmeted figure which had fallen over.  In a way, this piece has become the figurehead of my driftwood boat for this season and as my unofficial mascot I respectfully stood it back up.

Adam wanted to go exploring around my area and while he did that I made this quick figure.  Two pieces of found polystyrene, coal eyes, plastic pen cap nose, wooden ears, plastic mouth, a plastic neck collar, and five sharpened sticks along with a foam letter “A” comprise the materials used to make this guy.  By the time Adam got back from circling around the site it was time to go…but first we could make a few photos along the way.

Of the pictures I took of the “Mister A” figure, this was my favorite.  The wrecked cooler adds a lot of formal interest.  Adam was getting hot and thirsty and so it was time to move on home.  I thanked him for coming along and promised him a cold sports drink at the next convenient store down the street.  Maybe it won’t be so hot the next time we explore together and we can stay longer?  Here’s one more shot before closing.

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Continuing my last walk…I came to the area that would be my base for the day.  There is a favorite tree with exposed roots that you can sit under and remain cool and out of the sun.  Previous visitors decorated this spot with many vertical sticks that give a fence-like impression.  Here’s two views, first the base of this tree as seen from the outside:

…and a view from the inside.  Over the years, I have left many small sculptures in this area.  They never seem to last very long in here.

Last week was my birthday, and so on this outing I have new tools.  Earlier in the year, I lost my handy two-bladed Swiss Army knife which was a previous gift from a friend.  It had a nice, easy to sharpen blade and a toothy saw that could cut wood.  Replacing that knife are these two objects.  My family gave me the updated Swiss Army knife complete with tweezers and toothpick.  My friend Jeff gave me the bigger saw.  Its blade folds out and has the advantage of locking.  I definitely can chew through a nicely sized limb with this baby! 

On this particular trip, the heat and humidity put a damper on doing anything ambitious.  I hung around this area for a couple of hours and made this guy who was checking out the butterflies in the purple loosestrife.

I found a little bit of Styrofoam to work with and this red plastic object that looks like a pipe.  I used tiny plastic fishing bobbers for eyes and the ears are clam shells.  Later because the shells kept falling off, I substituted a flat rock and sand-polished glass for the ears.  It’s subtle and you might not notice this change at first.  As for the place I was working at…last year the Purple Loosestrife was getting a foothold and now it is firmly entrenched.  This is a hard to get rid of invasive plant that plays havoc in small wetlands like this one.  The butterflies, however, love this weed. 

Among the many species feeding from the purple flowers is this Tiger Swallowtail, Pterourus glaucus.  This is a boldly patterned and large butterfly of summer.  I have seen some beat up looking butterflies of different species and am assuming they are from an earlier brood that perhaps over-wintered here?  The tiger swallowtail also has a common melanistic form and I also saw one of those out here today.

You can see the “tiger stripes” showing on his hind wing.  Also working these flowers were the large bumble bees we saw earlier on the morning glories.  I also observed several large, blue-black wasps that I associate with being spider hunters.  They are so intent on gathering nectar that they pay no attention to me.  All through the loosestrife insects were working the flowers.  Clearly, this plant has no shortage of pollinators.

Mr. Red Pipe was enjoying himself in all this purple haze and humidity.  There was something reassuring about watching all this insect life packed into a relatively small area.  Another favorite butterfly is hanging on a loosestrife blossom not too far away and if we move deliberately…we might not spook it away.

It’s an Orange Sulphur, Colias eurytheme.  We have several other members of the Sulphur family out here along with Viceroys, Red Admirals, and a couple different Skipper species.  I love the yellow-green eyes on this butterfly which seem to have a glow to them.

All my water is gone and so the idea of returning to my car sets in.  I have another bottle waiting for me there.  Tomorrow is supposed to be another high temperature day in the 90’s.  After our June being a record setter, it seems July is out for bragging rights too.  Before leaving, I snap one more picture of the Purple Loosestrife in its prime with the railroad bridge visible in the far distance. 

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The debris I find along the riverbank is an unfortunate sign of the times, but that pales to the ongoing debacle in the Gulf of Mexico now in its 58th day!  The signs that our way of life are overly dependent on fossil fuels and petroleum in particular have been in place for some time now.  The funny thing about signs is that after a while they become so familiar that they are also easy to ignore.  I decided to visit a place I feel I’m familiar with and learn what I could from the other more literal signs that are around here and this is what I found.  The further away from the park you are, the more likely you are to find signs that beckon or welcome you.  The Ohio River Scenic Byway sign promises an adventure complete with the possibility of steam boats and church steeples if you only follow the road that runs parallel to the river.  Next you come to a sign that alerts you to the historical significance of the town itself which is just outside the park.

As you travel from east to west in our country you run into all kinds of markers that are a reminder of how arbitrary the “west” actually is…eventually you do run into the Pacific Ocean which was Lewis and Clark’s eventual goal.  There are several signs that lead you into the park starting with this rather modest example.  Eventually things do build up leading you to the Interpretive Center with its limestone sign.

The historical significance of this place not only to our country, but to the world’s heritage is well-marked.  I’ll start with the more recent sign that represents the effort to recognize the Lewis and Clark bicentennial.  This expedition of discovery was one of the great moments of exploration and deserves remembrance.  We had to remind the historians, however, that this area played a huge part in the overall trip and had to fight for the recognition which included lobbying on the highest levels.

At least the sign for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail includes two representations of the explorers.  I think it’s doubtful one of them wore a coonskin cap!  Here’s the bronze plaque under the “official” statue (a story for another time!) explaining some of the significance of the voyage to the history of our country.  And , one other plaque I found on the Interpretive Center honoring the fossil beds themselves.

Around the park are other descriptive markers that alert you to some of the attractions in the park.  This sign describes the rich bird life that has been recorded here dating back to Audubon’s experiences.

The oddest signs in the park, however, describe two piles of dirt and rubble that I think we can thank the listed corporation for?  They are used for educational purposes so kids in particular can have a fossil finding experience by sifting through this material.

Once you are in the park, however, one also encounters many signs that tell you what you can and cannot do.  The park and Army Corps of Engineers have many rules and some of them alert you to potential dangers and hazards.  Here are a few of those signs in the contexts in which they are found.

And if you break the rules…you better watch out because…

I can’t leave this post on this note, so just two more images.  The first photo is the sign that gives credit where credit is due…and the last image is what it is giving thanks for!  I know it is said that people no longer read, but if you pay attention to your surroundings, then you can learn all kinds of interesting things and ways to say them.

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