Posts Tagged ‘river junk’

crushed plastic jack-o-lantern, Oct. 2013

For a few hours more it’s Halloween in Kentuckiana.  With a tornado watch in the air and rain for certain, it’s not boding very well for the actual observance. Sorry about that kids.  It does seem to me that the actual going door to door and collecting candy is not the same prized occasion it used to be.  It seems these days (and here’s where I start sounding old) every holiday has candy and it’s not as special as it used to be.  Halloween is becoming more of an indoor activity with parties replacing the ceremonial wearing out of the shoe leather.  Still there are decorations and costumes to carry on the tradition.  While making my rounds at the Falls of the Ohio State Park…I keep my camera and collecting bag ready for any Halloween related or other spooky items.  Among the more common Halloween finds are these plastic jack-o-lanterns.  The bigger ones are used for actual candy collecting and the smaller pieces are novelties for the table.  Here are a couple more the river has washed up.

smashed plastic jack-o-lantern container, Oct. 2013

destroyed plastic jack-o-lantern, Oct. 2013

Of course, all these novelties are made from discarded plastic which may turn out to be the scariest thing of all.   Walking near the river’s edge, I will often be startled by sights of a spectral nature.  The ghosts of objects and functions past hang mournfully from the branches of the willow trees.  Observe these two ghostly images…if you dare.

plastic "ghost" on a willow branch, Oct. 2013

plastic "apparition" at the Falls, Oct. 2013

During one recent high water moment along the river’s edge…I spotted what appeared to be “something” hanging upside down from a tree branch.  It was animated, black, and hairy and after snapping a quick photo…I got out of there.  In the back of my mind the words “cat demon” formed.  I didn’t want to hang around and find out more.  The hairs on arms were standing straight up!  Judge for yourself.

upside down "black cat demon", Oct. 2013

Today we had a Halloween party at the art program that I manage.  Needing a costume I had to do some quick overnight thinking and making…which often produces interesting results.  How many times has having a deadline served you well?  Looking at the river junk I have saved at my house…I created this head-gear? or weird sculptural hat to fill the bill.  Here’s my “costume” photographed against a black cloth that makes it look like an art object.  Imagine wearing this on top of your head!

Al's Halloween Styro-hat, Oct. 2013

The foundation is the Styrofoam shell of an old bicycle helmet.  The effigy head is actually recycled from an old, now destroyed sculpture I made and left on site at the river.  After the rest of the body fell apart…I wandered bye and salvaged the head since it was still in good shape.  I had no idea what I would do with this head…until this opportunity  presented itself.  The eyes are plastic bottle caps from old dish washing detergent bottles.  The red mouth is more waste plastic as is the yellow hand on top.  The arms, nose, and ears are wood bits.  The neck (which you can’t see very well in this image) is a polystyrene mushroom.  The bungy cord which forms a chin strap, is the only element that did not come from the river.  I have a beaver-chewed willow stick running through the head and into the base.  A little glue holds it all together.  If one can “prize” finding discarded Styrofoam…then I confess to liking the shells from old bicycle helmets.  I have used several over the years to make various turtle and tortoises.  Here’s an example that became the basis for my Cottonwood Turtle story from a few years back.

Albertus Gorman's "Cottonwood Turtle", found Styrofoam and wood, Falls of the Ohio

Well, it’s time to call it a day.  Just a few intrepid souls in costumes made it to the door on this dismal night.  They were well rewarded with chocolate and bubble gum.  To close, here’s one final image from the river…what would Halloween be without witches and here’s one of the best.  Trick or Treat from the Falls of the Ohio.

plastic witch cup, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2013

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Soap Bubble Wand Collection, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

Consolidating some of my river finds revealed this fun collection of soap-bubble wands all found within the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  This is many years worth of walking the riverbank and sampling choice bits of plastic and other displaced objects.  All the bubble wands I’ve found thus far are made of plastic.  Most of these wands were sold inside plastic bottles filled with prepared soap-bubble solution.

Detail, Soap Bubble Wand Collection, Sept. 2013

Simply dip the wand into the soap bottle. Remove the wand allowing a film to form over the loop.  Then gently blow air through the soap film and bubbles should result. With this found wand lot however, the bubbles probably wouldn’t be very big or long-lasting.  The soap-bubble wands you can fashion at home with common materials (along with creating your own bubble mix) can produce spectacular results.  These wands were more than likely lost by kids playing near the river.  I’m frequently amazed by the variety of design solutions intended for such a throw away item.  I mean who holds on to these wands to reuse once the bottle is empty?  I did find some novelty items in the mix.  Check these examples out.

Mini Wedding Novelty Soap Bubble wands , Sept. 2013

Here are two mini soap-bubble nuptial wands.  These are usually in tiny plastic bottles left on the guests’ tables.  Blowing bubbles on the newlyweds frequently substitutes for the traditional rice throwing send off.

soap bubble plastic pipes, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

I also found these two soap-bubble pipes.  Personally, I’ve never had much luck making bubbles with pipes.

Plastic Ice Cream Cone bubble wand and bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

Plastic Ice Cream Cone Soap Bubble wand and bottle, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

This novelty didn’t look good in the frame, but it is one of the nicer soap bottle with wand items I’ve found.  This fake ice cream cone also has that black river patina suggesting it was out floating around for years before I came across it on these fable Falls shores.

Detail, Star Wand, Sept. 2013

I have a couple of wands that aren’t soap-bubble wands, but since they are wands nevertheless…I keep them in the collection.  The Star Wand is more than likely from a princess costume or magician’s outfit.  The other wand is perhaps more of a plastic scepter.  Originally, the handle lit up with a colored light.  Again, more disposable plastic items.  I’ll keep walking the riverbank a little while longer and I’ll bet I find a few more of these objects to add to the river collection.

found pink plastic bubble wand, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

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I confess that I like the word “plush”.  In my mind it evokes a sense of luxury and well-being.  I roll the word around my mouth like a fine wine and I also get overtones of comfort, safety, warmth, softness, and abundance.  I feel similarly about the word “verdant”, but that’s the subject of another post.  Returning to “plush”…it is also a word used to describe a variety of soft, sewn toys usually made with polyester fibers.  This includes most of the teddy bears and stuffed animals that one is likely to come across today.  In my own family, plush toys are and were among our most beloved and trusted playthings and misplacing or losing one was like losing a member of the family itself.  Which brings me to this portfolio of images taken with found plush toys in situ that I stumbled upon at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Each toy was probably loved by some child and if these images hold any power it probably derives from feelings of separation and loss.  I’m also interested in them as aspects of our material culture that manifest themselves as more junk for the environment to try to absorb.  All these plush toys were deposited by the Ohio River and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some of these objects probably floated hundreds of miles to reach my camera’s lens.  Here are some of my “favorite” images in this “genre” and I’ll start with the object I’m holding in the first picture.

Once upon a time this was an impressive toy.  I think this is “Pink” from the famous Pink Panther cartoon series.  Lifting it from the mud took some effort because its stuffing has been replaced with impacted mud.  This toy had effectively merged with its muddy matrix.

I also found this cute plush dinosaur embedded in the mud.  Later I set him up on a log and took his portrait in the context of where he was found.  He’s a friendly tyrannosaur photographed against a fossil landscape that predates the real dinosaurs by millions of years.

This was an unusual find.  Later I identified this as a  child’s slipper featuring a Rug-rats character, but it fits my plush category nevertheless!  Now let’s look at some teddy bears.

This was once a member of the Care Bear clan.  Here’s a different kind of bear minus his stuffing.

I came across this unfortunate bear in the sand.  Somehow he lost all his stuffing and was essentially just a hollow skin which I salvaged and used as a costume for one of my Styrofoam figures I later entitled “Cubby”.

This bear was still in the process of arriving by water when I came across him.  The black background is coal gravel and dust while the white dots are the remains of broken clam shells.  I’m sure you will recognize my next find.

My eldest son has the exact sized Pooh bear that he has treasured all his life.  Even though he’s now a teenager, I noticed that Pooh still occupies a prominent place in his room.  Here’s one last bear and its a little different and may not “technically” qualify as a plush toy.  Nevertheless, I found it appealing and I include it with the others.

Let’s try a change of pace and include a few rather small stuffed toy objects I’ve found over the last couple of years.

This looks to be some kind of flamingo head.

I’m not really sure what this might represent…it could be a moon or a vegetable?

Here’s another object I had trouble identifying.  I like how the cockle burrs are hitching a ride on its knitted surface.  Here are few toys that either are or were inspired by Beanie Babies.

The purple reindeer was photographed against the blackness of coal dust and gravel.

I believe this is another beanie baby-styled toy in the form of a purple cow?

I believe this tiny plush toy is meant to represent a killer whale.  Here’s an image that came out of the floods from two years a go.

This guy is clearly an elephant.  When I was a child I had a Dumbo character soft animal toy.

Another hard for me to identify figure, but the destroyed aluminum can help give you a sense of how large this plush toy is.  Could this be some type of Halloween toy?

Over the years I have found many surprises buried in the sand.  When I spotted the above object…I had no idea what it was until I lifted it up.  This is what I found.  I remember staring at the blue eye!

To my surprise emerged the form of this friendly and shaggy green parrot.  I placed him upon a branch for others to find and moved on.  We are getting close to being done!  Here are a few more found figures.

A sharp-eyed observer identified this as the Magician character from the Frosty the Snowman cartoon.  Makes sense to me because I found him right after Christmas of that year.  Could have been some child’s gift that wasn’t properly appreciated and in to the river you go?

I don’t know why I remember this now, but I believe this figure was once used to advertise a barbecue restaurant?  Could have had additional info on the back of the shirt, but I also could be completely wrong about this.  It might simply be a birthday wish novelty.  I think you will recognize this next one.

This isn’t the original Raggedy Ann doll, but a similar conception.  I found it face down in the sand and flipped it over for this photo.

I live in a basketball crazy region, but this is the first time I’ve encountered this object.  I know it references basketball, but what else is it intended to do?  What purpose do the white cords serve?   It definitely has plush elements.

This is me standing in my beat up Falls shoes next to a found plush “dog bone”.    My dog makes short work of any plush toys she comes across.  She knows how to get her teeth around their seams and split their contents open.  This makes me wary to think that this orange bone might be a dog’s toy…but what else could it be?  The Ohio River is always presenting me with such conundrums, however, I enjoy putting on my thinking cap and trying to puzzle them out.  I hope you liked some of the images and I will leave you with this final one of the parrot in the place where I left him for others to find.

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