Posts Tagged ‘photo essay’

The six or so inches of snow that quieted Louisville over the past two days inspired a spontaneous celebration of a traditional form.  The conditions were just right for an impromptu snowman festival!  Nearly everywhere I travelled through the city I found these ephemeral sculptures gracing both public and private spaces.  Before it became too late in the game, I grabbed my camera and recorded a few images which I’m presenting here.  I went through Tyler Park, the Douglas Loop neighborhood, the Highlands, and the Shelby Park area and in a matter of a couple hours and found some interesting creations.  I had so much success in a relatively short amount of time and distance, that the possibility of hundreds of snowmen existing scattered throughout the city gave me an extra reason to smile!

For those of you who have followed my riverblog, this may seem like a departure, but it really isn’t.  I count the making of snowmen, scarecrows, and other seasonal folk art figures among the influences for my polystyrene art.  I’m working with that same impulse towards figurative expression that people acknowledge when they make a snowman.  Can this be art?  I certainly believe so.  A friend of mine once wrote that art was turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.  When you mix intention with a user-friendly material like snow, than the creation of art is within most people’s grasp.  Eventually, when these things melt, the water that comprises them will at some point reach the river.  Considering how much snow has fallen over the Ohio River Valley, I would expect to see high water around here.

The basic idea for a snowman hasn’t changed much.  Take three snowballs and stack them in graduated size from largest to smallest and use whatever is on hand to form features and accessorize.  The use of a carrot for a nose has become a beloved standard.  It’s been interesting to see how closely people have adhered to the snowman ideal and where variation or invention has occurred.  Most of what I’ve seen over the last couple of days has been fairly traditional, but there were a few nice surprises to keep things lively.  I came across a few snow creations that demonstrated both imagination, teamwork, and skill.  Here are a few more single figures.

I imagine children and family at work on these beloved sculptures.  It’s no accident that so many of these snowmen are close to the front door of the house.  In this way, they are very site specific. They are meant to be seen and commented upon.  Most of these snowmen, if they have arms, are rather feeble.  For practical reasons, it is just too difficult to make an arm out of snow unless it is a part of the main body.  I had to laugh at the one sporting what appears to be a wooden samurai sword!  When you pair two or more snowmen together then you create another dynamic.  Take a look.

The snow figures above I thought were very successful in a “Miro-esque” sort of way.  The work on the right looks like a dog sitting up and begging.  These are fairly large works and whoever made them must be an old-hand at snow sculpture because both works also have holes in them as expressive elements.  Check out this trio of works.  The use of deer antlers on the smallest sculpture is an unusual touch.

And now for a few more animal snow sculptures…how about this seal! It’s very effective and simple.  The colorful scarf leads the eye right to the details that form the face.  I like the way twigs are used to suggest whiskers.

This bear sculpture by Tyler Park is one of my favorites.  I walked by it at night and there were also Christmas lights behind it!  Again, the use of twigs provides just the right amount of detail in the form of claws on the paws.  I think the eyes might be walnuts?  In this piece, the snow arms work.

Resting sphinx-like in front of an apartment building is what I presume is a reindeer or stag.  If it weren’t for the small branches suggesting antlers, I would have guessed this is a dog.  The lack of any other materials makes me believe this is the unplanned work of a child.  It has a smudge for a nose.

Perhaps the oddest piece I encountered was this modest sized figure.  What set it apart aside from the more extensive use of clothing, is the mask covering the face.  I did a double take on this one because the white mask didn’t fully register until I was right next to it.

I like that there is a time limit to a snowman’s existence.  For as long as the weather remains cold, and people leave it alone, then the work will be around to bring a little joy to all who see it.  For many adults, it is a pleasant reminder of childhood winters with its promise of missed school days.  Around here, the temperatures are dropping into the single digits overnight and there is more snow on the way.  For the time being, the city’s snowmen are safe and in good company.

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platform shoe

I’ve started another collection of images courtesy of you and the Ohio River.  Here’s the latest in found footwear located within the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Although I have noticed lost shoes for years, I have only recently started taking pictures of them.  So, in many respects this represents the height of riverine fashions.  To see more, look under my “About” section on the right.  You might come across something you once wore on an outing to the beach.  My sons think their Mom will like this selection of images!

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Fish Sand Drawing, 8/09

With the power plant behind us, I retrace my steps in the sand along Goose Island.  At the moment, there is shade.  Once we venture back onto the fossil beds we may get momentary cover from a passing cloud.   I stopped along the sand bank and made one more Styrofoam figure from materials found along the way.  He’s a simple guy with one very apparent attribute.  He has a bright yellow belly button.

Figure with Big Nose, 8/09

He’s made from found Styrofoam, sticks, various plastics, bark, and nuts.  I decide to take him with me and work him into other images.  I briefly watched a cormorant swimming near my position.  One moment his head was up in the air and then the next he was in underwater pursuit of some fish.  Continuing my walk, I’m heading towards the fossil beds and the remains of a 19thcentury dike.  I like some of the views of the skyline of Louisville from here.  With the water being so low, the exposed rocks create an other worldly sight.  Walking on the rocks it’s easy to imagine you are walking on an alien and ancient surface because it is!

Louisville skyline from dike at the Falls of the Ohio, 8/09

Figure on the Dike, 8/09

Here are two views from the Goose Island Dike.  You can see how this barrier divides the fossil beds from the Prairie Grass Habitat on the right.  This is where I left this figure…with his legs wedged in the crack of a broken rock.  I left him for someone else to find and enjoy.

Louisville skyline as seen from the Falls of the Ohio, 8/09

Moving down from the dike and onto to the fossil beds, I’m going to follow the river’s edge.  A small and noisey flock of Killdeer plovers scatters in front of me.  From here you can see how the water has sculpted this limestone into a pock marked wave.  It’s not the easiest surface to walk on and it’s very slippery when wet.  I have always liked this view and feel it’s worth the trek.  It’s like looking at a cross section of the history of life.  It’s ancient rocks represent a moment long ago when life was tropical and the water tasted salty.  Now, we are at a different latitude and the environment has shifted over deep time.  Fresh water now governs this landscape and we cling to it down to its very edge.  The tourist in me is saying my camera’s memory card is full for today and so this marks the end of this particular trip over the fossil beds.  I hope to return soon.  Perhaps the early fall when the sycamore and willow tree leaves start to turn yellow and ducks are in the air.

View of Louisville from the Falls of the Ohio, 8/09

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Father and Child, 8/09

Having arrived at the “Falls” of the Falls of the Ohio State Park, I took materials I found along the way and made these two figures.  There is less debris to pick from on this side of the fossil beds.  Sometimes you just don’t find that right twig or element that you think will set the work off.  I remember being in this spot two years before and received a good look at a snowy egret.  The bird had beautiful plumes with yellow feet on black legs. 

Father and Son at the Falls, 8/09

Father and Child at the Falls, 8/09

Although the scale of this cascade is modest the sound of running water provides a soothing background.  Because the figures I’ve made are small it helps give the impression that the falls are bigger than they are.  I’m not sure what I’ve got going here with these figures?  I don’t have any elaborate narrative that I am trying to illustrate.  I think it might have something to do with being tourists and being awed by the local sights?  I have seen the vintage photographs of people posing at the Falls before the dam when it was a greater natural wonder.

Bird sand drawing, 8/09

You can walk to Goose Island when the fossil beds are exposed.  It’s just a short walk from the Falls and leads to our end point…the Lower Tainter Gates.  Walking through the sand I made a few contour drawings with a long thin stick.  Noisy flocks of Killdeer mixed with Semi-palmated plovers flank the river’s edge.  The island is sand held together by the roots of willow and cottonwood trees. 

Sight near lower tainter gates, 8/09

A sight along the beach on Goose Island is this small stand of dead trees that has captured a barrel.  The island is regularly inundated  by water and features are covered and uncovered by the flow of the sand.  An even louder roar of water is present as background noise.  In view is the western limit of where we can go on this side of the park.  A few fishermen are trying their luck in the tail-waters of the power plant.  This is a good place to fish and a pair of present ospreys can vouch for this.

Lower Tainter Gates, 8/09

I have been out here for hours and haven’t exchanged a word with anyone.  I’ve arrived at the place where the Ohio River’s waters help generate electricity.  You can see fish trying to swim against the force of the tail waters.  The town of Shippingport, KY used to occupy the location where the power plant now stands.  The corps of engineers bulldozed and scraped the remnants of the town away.  In it’s day Shippingport had its own identity and pride separate from the City of Louisville and now it’s history.  The Lower Tainter Gates are an impressive sight, but I always felt something was missing.  It occurred to me that what’s needed are a few colossal sculptures that could emulate something like the power seen in the Ramses sculptures in old Egypt.  To me, these gates have a temple-like presence to them.  After paying my homage to this spot, I turned and headed back.  Walking over the fossil beds during the heat of the day can fry your bacon.   I’m going to take a slightly different route home to take advantage of some nice panoramic views of Louisville’s skyline.  I did find something interesting on the walk home.  Lying in the sand was this film cartridge for an Instamatic camera.  If the light hasn’t ruined it, I may get some found images from  having it developed.  I better do that soon before they discontinue the use of chemistry in photography.  In my next post, I’ll finish up this hike on the fossil beds.

instamatic film cartridge, 8/09

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gasoline container at the Falls

I have just posted a new collection of images that can be found in my Pages section.  This selection is of gasoline containers found in context at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  All theses containers reached here by floating down or with the Ohio River.  I find there is a certain level of irony represented in these images since they underscore how important fossil fuels are to us and that a container used to specifically hold this precious liquid should happen to wash up at a site that is famous for its fossils.  Civilizations rise and fall with their ability to harness energy and we have decided to hang our star on fossil fuels.  For now, I’ll leave it at that and let it join my other eccentric collections that are gifts and lessons from the river.

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deer materials, 7/09

I got soaked to the bone on this day.  A realization I had in the middle of the downpour was that I couldn’t get any wetter than this and so I just relaxed.  I had the whole place to myself, since people smart enough to get out of the rain had done so!  The above image are the materials I laid out for the piece I wanted to make…although I did change this in mid process.

Rain Deer, 7/09

I put the finishing touches on this “Rain Deer” right as the wind picked up and the rain came down in earnest.  All day long I had been dodging small showers and the willow leaves and branches were a good enough umbrella…until then.  Once I located what would become the head, I realized that the Styrofoam “body” I had picked out for it was too small.  I instead used this larger piece of “blue foam”…I’m not sure what exactly it is, but I find enough of it.  It doesn’t seem like polystyrene and has a stiffer texture.  I think I have seen this material used for bow-hunting targets before.  It’s dense enough to stop an arrow.  While I was making this sculpture, a Cooper’s Hawk glided through the trees doing some silent hunting of its own.  I saw the barred-tail fan out as it took a left turn out of view.

Running Rain Deer, 7/09

I guess I have been thinking of deer lately.  More and more, I come across their tracks in the sand and mud.  I haven’t seen a live one within the park’s limits, but over the years, I have found plenty of dead ones.  The most memorable experience occurred early on…really years before I started this project in earnest.  A friend and I were hiking around the willow habitat and we could smell something dead nearby.  Searching around we couldn’t locate the source.  For whatever reason, I remember looking up and seeing a dead deer about 10 or 12 feet up lodged in the tree branches.  A  recent flood had deposited the deer there and receded.  At the time, it was a good ground eyes’ view of how high the river could get.

Rain Deer at water hole, 7/09

The passing shower left lots of opportunities to play with reflections and the idea of wildlife coming down to waterholes…which is a staple shot in nature films.  The way this piece is standing, it appears like it has three front legs or is in motion!  I made the head so that the Rain Deer can either look  forward or over its shoulder.  The nose is a split butternut and the eyes are old buckeyes.

Rain Deer at waterhole, 7/09

Rain Deer looking back, 7/09

Our white-tailed deer population is exploding with dramatic consequences.  The number of human injuries from deer collisions with  motorists is up.  More and more deer are appearing in the outlying neighborhoods were they feast on the various gardens and make nuisances of themselves.  Deer are literally eating themselves out of their habitat and damaging the ecosystems other animals rely upon.  For the first time, I’m coming across ticks and I’m attributing their appearance here with the deer they parasitize.

Rain Deer at Waterhole, 7/09

Deer are a good indicator species for the health of the ecosystem.  As we open up the forests we create the kind of habitat deer thrive in.  Deer have taken advantage of this…deer population is much higher now than when the Pilgrims first arrived here.  Although I couldn’t do it, I can see why hunting  them is necessary to control their populations.  Too many deer in one place degrades the habitat also needed by other ground dwelling animals.  But then again, why should we hold the deer accountable for the conditions we created and promoted? The deer is just being true to its nature…can the same be said of us?

Rain Deer head, 7/09

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Falls of the Ohio, 7/09

The river is low and the fossil beds are exposed.  I still can’t get over how this is the bedrock of the river.  Bowls of water pockmark the scalloped surface as the retreating liquid pools where it can.  It will take a good rain to wash the dirt away revealing details from Devonian times.  Still, some people are disappointed because you can’t find dinosaurs here.  The terrible lizards are still millions and millions of years into the future.

Black vultures, 7/09

Today the fishing was good if you are a Black vulture.  For us it’s a different story.  Although there were lots of people trying, I didn’t see anyone catching anything.  The weather has been odd for July.  It’s so cool outside you would think you were in Michigan instead of Kentuckiana.  The television says it has something to do with high pressure coming down from the north.

shelf fungus with chains, 7/09

I took a longer walk today than usual before making something.  Along the way I came across a decaying log with an old chain embedded in it.  Wood and bark grew over this wound when the tree was alive.   Now it’s at the Falls turning into humus as the fungi break down the wood.  I’m keeping an eye out for how long it will take to free this chain from it’s matrix of cellulose. 

"treehog", 7/09

Ever see a “treehog” before?  Today I came across this guy sitting on top of a tree that snapped in two during a thunder storm.  I’m looking downhill and the woodchuck is about eight or nine feet above the ground.  On a number of occasions I’ve watched them climb trees to obtain tender leaves to eat.  This one appeared to be just hanging out, watching life go by.  Once it spotted me, it ran down the tree and into the brush.

driftwood and inridescent water, 7/09

In the driftwood zone are small rivulets where the water trickles over the sand and under the silvery wood.  An iridescent sheen from minerals leached underground creates an oily rainbow slick.  I’ve begun to pay attention to this prismatic effect by photographing it several times.  The colors move with the water and contrast with the solidity of the driftwood.

Abstract man w/yellow sprayer, 7/09

I made this figure today.  I call him “Abstract Man with Spray Bottle” which is not an imaginative title, but a descriptive one.  Because of the profile view, this was the most different of the lot.  This piece seemed to work in multiple environments.  In my next post, I will show you images of this figure shot at various locations around the park.  I waited for the sunshine to burn off the cloud cover before I went home, but that didn’t happen while I was there.  I stopped by the lilies again and shot this view with the fossil beds in the distance.  There is a lot of compressed time here.

Day lilies and fossil beds, 7/09

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plastic ball, 6/09

Another collection of images has been added to my Pages section.  Check out some of the balls I have come across at the Falls of the Ohio.  This is another in a series of unusual collections of images and objects courtesy of man and the Ohio River.

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Floating tire

What would a river clean-up be without discarded automotive tires?  They seem as ubiquitous as the driftwood in the water.  You get so used to seeing them that in effect…you don’t see them anymore. 

Tire and driftwood

That’s where having a camera can be of assistance…it breaks that circuit that prevents us from remembering that these objects should never find a home here. 

Circle in the water

Finding a floating circle in the water always grabs my attention.  It’s no longer just a tire, but the pattern of perfection, the symbol of civilization.

Beached tire

How did we become so indifferent towards them?  Isn’t the wheel the same great device it was when it was first invented?  It was once a big deal…is it no less marvelous and worthy of being disposed of properly?

Discarded tire

One of the nice things about being a parent of young children is that you can remember some of the wonder of the world through their experiences.

Sinking tire

I guess that’s also what makes photography so effective a medium…it gives the viewer an opportunity in a split second, to experience vicariously, what the photographer saw.

Sunken tire in the sand

I worry as a parent that we won’t leave this place in as good a shape as we found it.  It’s become a vicious cycle that needs fixing.

Tire Drawing

I don’t know if “art” can be the tool to make the repair?  But if we can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, which art can do, we might just recapture some of the lost wonder in the world.

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