Posts Tagged ‘Ohio River watershed’

Mr. Mosquito Nose, April 2014

I’ll bet some of you out there might have wondered what’s happened to the old riverblog?  Here it is near April’s end and there is nothing to show for what occurred during this month.  Let me reassure you that the Artist at Exit 0 has been as active as the river has allowed him to be.  Exploring the line between culture and nature is personally important.  Between periodic high water, the exhibit at the Carnegie Center for Art and History, the Kentucky Derby Festival, and life in general…posting stories has needed to take a back seat.  The process, however, is ongoing.  I have been to the river on multiple occasions and observed the transition from winter to spring at the Falls of the Ohio.  Making art remains a priority and I realize that I just feel better if I have the opportunity to make something of my own.  Don’t be surprised if I end this month with a flurry of posts in an attempt to catch up.  Let’s start at the beginning of April and see how far I get.  Here’s a story featuring Mr. Mosquito Nose who had an experience with a young journalism student interested in what the Artist at Exit 0 does on an ordinary trip to the Falls.

Mr. Mosquito Nose at the river's edge, April 2014

This day began with a rendezvous at the river.  I arrived early and was scouting out the situation.  The Ohio River had just been up and I knew the riverbank was reconfigured with different driftwood and new junk  waiting to be picked up.  I had been contacted previously by Taylor Ferguson who is a journalism student at the nearby Indiana University Southeast in New Albany who requested to tag along with me on one of my Falls of the Ohio adventures.  Taylor has a creative project of her own…to create a short, documentary video and she wanted the Artist at Exit 0 to be the subject.  This was the first time anyone has requested this and so I agreed to do it.  With a cool and sunny day before us we left the still leafless willows and walked out onto the riverbank.

Taylor at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2014

Taylor turned out to be a super friendly and very interested in my projects.  I will admit that it was odd being tethered to a microphone and I felt a little self-conscience talking to myself so openly with a video camera pointing in my direction.  I usually have some dialogue running through my head as I explore this environment, but to hear it in such an audible fashion was different.  I brought Taylor to my U.F.O. (Unidentified Floating Object) art site where I keep my river materials and demonstrated how I went about making an absurd figure from the poor stuff of the world.  With Mr. Mosquito Nose in hand, the three of us left my outdoor studio and explored the environs near the railroad bridge.  Along the way, Taylor would ask me questions about when and why I started this project.  By now, those are familiar questions.  I enjoy looking for what is interesting about each day.  So, now it was time to walk the riverbank with Mr. Mosquito Nose and be present in this moment.

Mr. Mosquito Nose and orange barge cable, April 2014

The lack of footprints in the sand told me that few others had recently passed this way.   As we walked along, I kept an eye out for those little micro-contexts that I could pose this latest Styro-figure in.  After making an object…I’m interested in using it to create an image.  With luck, the images might then be used to tell a story.  Here we have come across an old, frayed barge cable that the river washed into the park.  It seemed a good location to take a few photos.

figure next to an old camp fire site, April 2014

Near the cable, we came across the remains of a camp fire.  Brick and rock define a shallow pit that still had some ashes in it.  For a few years now, I have also photographed old camp fire sites with the intention of publishing them here as a collection.  I’m always struck by the elemental nature of this activity and what its importance has meant for our species’ survival.  We set up Mr. Mosquito Nose by the fire pit and now those photos are a part of this record.

Mr. Mosquito Nose and plastic sprayer, April 2014

Among the other objects we came across was this old sprayer.  The figure’s arms are raised in warning because this might have potentially been used to spray herbicide or worse.  Caution is required whenever you come across something that could possibly harm you.  Knock on wood, I’ve been doing this project for more than a decade without any physical reactions or incidents from the stuff I’ve encountered out here.  I place a lot of faith in the diluting power of millions of gallons of fresh water.

Mr. Mosquito Nose and various bottles, April 2014

Moving on to another location, I collected a few glass and plastic bottles along the way and made this composition.  Some of these containers have mystery contents of their own.

Mr. Mosquito Nose and dog food bowl, April 2014

Later we came across this pet food bowl that was half full with water.  The water in this bowl could have collected here as the river level dropped or been filled up by rainfall?  It is another example of an incongruous object making an appearance at the Falls.Mr. Mosquito Nose, April 2014

Taylor and I came across another barge cable that had been snagged by a low hanging willow branch and created this final photograph with Mr. Mosquito Nose.  The day was moving along and both of us were needed elsewhere.  About a week later, Taylor called me up to say that most of the audio the microphone picked up had interfering  sounds of wind and water.  This seemed perfect to me because that’s what I usually hear out here as well with the occasional bird call thrown in for good measure.  Taylor had three hours of footage that needed to be edited down to three minutes which sounded like a daunting challenge in its own right without the audio difficulties.  I later caught up with Taylor in Louisville and did a quick voice over recording that I hope will do the trick for her project.  At the time of this writing…I haven’t seen the finished video, but hope it turns out for Taylor and that she gets a good grade for it.  Okay, that’s it for now from the Falls of the Ohio State Park…one last image then I’m calling it a post.

Sand, driftwood, and disposable drink cup, Falls of the Ohio, April 2014


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The ritual must have worked because when I returned to the Falls of the Ohio a week later the greening of the world was underway.  Small leaves were sprouting from the willow branches and many of the area’s trees were flowering.  There was a palpable sense of pollen being everywhere and my airways felt irritated as if coated by dry inhaled dust.  This is a dreaded time of year for people who suffer seasonal allergies.  I was glad not to count myself as a member of that unfortunate club.  As I walked along there were other marvels to behold.  I came across a rare Sand Lotus blooming along the shoreline and wondered how long its seed had remained dormant until the absolute right conditions presented itself?  Seeing this flower was worth the trip alone!

I returned to my outdoor studio and saw that the bottle tree had indeed dropped its leaves.

This, however, was not the only change that had occurred since my last visit.  My outdoor studio had been discovered and some person or persons had constructed a crude figure from the Styrofoam I had collected here.  A broken fishing rod stuck out from their creation’s body.

As is my habit, I began the day beach combing along the river’s edge and dumped some of my finds onto the sand.  I would try to make something from the objects I had come across.  Here is an earlier image of what would later become the figure I named “Phillip C. Nelson” after the words written upon a piece of blue insulating foam I found.

Before showing you how this figure turned out…I want to meander a bit like the Ohio River does. During the month of March, I’ve found three objects that at least have some references to where they may have originated.  Because the river is so powerful…glued on labels usually fall off by the time they reach the Falls of the Ohio.  Knowing where something came from can give you a sense of the journey it took to reach “here”.  Well, let’s just see where this takes us and I’ll begin with the object I discovered that traveled the furthest down river.

First, I was amused to find this piece of plastic with a stylized finger image on it!  It says its a thumb saver and I guess it functions something like a crowbar for stubborn thumb tacks so you don’t need to risk breaking a fingernail?  I have heard of Beaver Falls before because it’s the Pennsylvania hometown of one of my boyhood heroes…Joe Willie Namath who is an American football Hall of Fame quarterback for the New York Jets.  He brashly and correctly predicted that the Jets would win it all in 1969.  Beaver Falls is in the so-called “Rust Belt” because this was once steel making country before economic hard times caught up with it.  Beaver Falls has a population of approximately 8,900 people and is 31 miles Northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania placing it near the origins of the Ohio River.  Beaver Falls is actually located on the Beaver River which flows for six miles in a southerly direction before its confluence with the Ohio River.  As for the savings and loan association…I’m not sure exist anymore because I couldn’t find more contemporary references to it.  The fact it is giving away a customer premium that involves thumb tacks seems somewhat old-fashioned to me!  Potentially, this object has traveled a great distance (approximately 560 miles) through time and space to reach me.  And now for found object number two.

Buried in the wood chips, I recognized this as the delivery box for a newspaper.  In this case, the paper is the Steubenville Herald Star which is still in business today.  Steubenville is also in the Upper Ohio Valley and downriver from Beaver Falls.  This town of approximately 19,000 souls is situated on the Ohio River which forms a border with the state of West Virginia.  Steubenville’s claims to fame include being called the City of Murals for the 25 murals it boasts in its downtown area.  It is also called Ohio’s Cookie Capital…I’m sure there is more of a story there.  And it is the hometown of crooner Dean Martin who was also Jerry Lewis’ comedy partner.  I estimated that this newspaper box traveled a bit more than 500 miles to reach here.  Interestingly, Steubenville like Louisville is situated within a Jefferson County. Okay, on to the next item which hails from Camp Nelson RV Park and forms the body of my figure.

The blue insulating foam that forms the body of my figure came from Camp Nelson RV Park located in Lancaster, Kentucky.  I have heard of Camp Nelson before because of its Civil War history.  Back in the mid 1860’s it was a recruiting and training camp for African-American soldiers.  Later it served as a refugee camp for freed slaves with some tragic consequences.  Earlier in Kentucky’s history it was known as Boone’s Landing because it was a favorable river fording spot for Daniel Boone.  It has been a recreational vehicle park since 1966.  This piece of foam with its black marker info has traveled the most interesting and surprising route to reach the Falls of the Ohio.  Camp Nelson RV Park is located on the Kentucky River.  It has floated down the most torturous and convoluted stretch of water that makes estimating distance traveled nearly impossible.  Eventually, it did float past our state capital in Frankfort and joined with the Ohio River somewhere between Prestonville and Carrollton, Kentucky.  That’s a bit more than fifty miles upriver from us.   Kentucky is rich in waterways and outside  the state of Alaska…has more miles of flowing water than any other state.  The little foam dinosaur is a child’s ink pad stamp and in my mind is a good symbol for the whole recreational vehicle industry especially since gasoline is over four dollars a gallon.  Well, other than show you a few images of Phillip C. Nelson exploring his new home…it’s been instructive for me to learn where some of the junk I find may have originated.  Every place and object has a story to tell.

Phillip C. Nelson seemed to enjoy exploring the driftwood field.  And in case you were wondering what I did with some of those old cigarette lighters…this last view will show you.  Thanks for tagging along on this extended journey with me!  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

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