Posts Tagged ‘winter’

First snow at the park, Jan. 12, 2016

The new year is off to an auspicious start.  First we had a bit of minor flooding that rearranged the park and the new and improved Interpretive Center has successfully opened.  I was curious to see what the river had left behind and make my first foray upon the riverbank and fossil beds.  On the day I had prepared to venture forth, well, it snowed the night before and covered many areas with a light dusting of what looks like confectioner’s sugar upon the landscape.

Artist at Exit 0 in winter gear, Jan. 12, 2016, Falls of the Ohio

I come prepared…mostly.  Even covered up, I could feel the wind and the cold which was blowing hard enough that it made my eyes water.  Reaching into my trusty Dutch field jacket, I pull out my vintage “Wind-Dodger” goggles and put them on.  I came across these goggles still new in their 1950’s box at a favorite junk store that is now gone.  They were manufactured by the Kono Manufacturing Co., of Woodside, N.Y.  I think the graphics on the side of the box sold me as to their value.  Printed in red ink it read:

“The scientific construction of the Wind-Dodger fits the natural contours of the features-providing maximum exclusion of wind and rain and all foreign particles in the air.  The elastic tape holds the Wind-Dodger firmly in place under every condition of work and play in all kinds of weather.”  I am a big believer in the value of science.

Further more, printed on the side of the box, was added they were suitable “For Work” and “For Play” and would be useful to railroad men, farmers, mechanics, construction workers, as they engage in sailing, hunting, fishing, flying, skiing, and driving.  It was a natural leap for me to assume that they would also be perfect for a river junk artist like yours truly.  One thing that the Kono Manufacturing Co. forgot to say is that they also steam up inside the goggles and require frequent drying.  Still, they prove to be better than nothing.

The scarf I’m wearing is the oldest piece of clothing I own.  It was given to me by a friend and artistic mentor back in the mid 1970’s and somehow I have held on to it over the years.  I realize that with a lot of the clothing I own…I can be ridiculously sentimental.

Snow on driftwood, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

The biting wind and cold are a concern, but so is the footing.  The snow covers up a multitude of sins that cannot be seen.  It is still slippery out here and in places the mud hasn’t completely frozen.  Much of what I think I can find out here will remain hidden until warmer weather returns.  But, I’m out here anyway and so I make a quick walk around some familiar places and record what I can with my camera phone.

Bent over willow tree, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

I discover that a favorite willow tree is now almost completely bent over and resting on the ground.  A huge log that the river deposited on top of this tree has shattered one of its main branches.  I suspect that it is not long for the world.  Spring flooding will repeat this battering process and I assume the tree’s prognosis is not good.  Of course, there are other things that present themselves in this frigid landscape that rode in with the high waters.

Purple plastic rocking toy, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

My eye is immediately drawn to this purple plastic “dragon” rocking toy.  I find another giant reptile reference on the rocks nearest the river and here it is.

Plastic dinosaur, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

This plastic sauropod arrived in a fresh water wave.  I believe this species was formerly called “Brontosaurus”, but has been renamed “Apatosaurus” since it was discovered that an earlier scientific find gave the new name priority over the older, more familiar name.  I briefly allow myself to soak in the irony of finding an object made from ancient petroleum that washed up on these even older fossil beds that references this prehistoric animal.  Heady stuff indeed!  Nearby, was my next find that continued this line of thinking.

Plastic, Shoveler duck decoy, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

And, what happened to some of the dinosaurs?  It is believed that they evolved into birds.  Right on cue, I find this plastic duck decoy!  It represents the male Northern Shoveler, (Anas clypeata).  I have found many other plastic duck decoys out here, but this is the first for this pretty species.  The winter river at the Falls of the Ohio is a good place to see different duck species.  In fact, winter may be the only time of year to see many of them.  The river is steaming because the actual water temperature is warmer that the surrounding air, but the wind is a little fiercer too.  I decide to keep walking and soon come across an old project I did from last year.

Site specific, green plastic bottle assemblage, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

Site specific, green plastic bottle project, Jan. 12, 2016

snow-covered, green plastic bottles, Jan. 12, 2016

I created this site specific piece using green plastic bottles after last year’s flooding.  It was sited high upon a big mound of driftwood that was too big for this recent minor flooding to affect much.  Originally, I had filled the underside of what I think is the remains of a boat dock with the green bottles.  Time has shifted the bottles to the bottom of the wood form.

snow-covered vines, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

While the snow is beautiful and transforming as these snow-covered vines can attest to….it is also getting ridiculously cold!  The fingers on my right hand hurt and sting from the cold because I have to take my glove off to operate my camera.  Soon images of a hot cup of coffee began to intrude upon my winter reverie.  It’s time to go home, but there was yet one more very pleasant surprise waiting in store for me.

Styro-Snowman in snow, Falls of the Ohio, jan. 2016

Styro-Snowman, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

As I was heading back to the parking lot…I came across an old friend whom I was happy to see!  We first met at the Falls on an absurdly warm day in December when the temperatures were in the low 70 degree range!  I had photographed him as he was decorating river trees in advance of the holiday season.  My old Styro-Snowman buddy was just beaming!  At last, he was in his element and I’m so happy that his patience was rewarded.  Not wanting to intrude too much in his special moment, I bid farewell and took this parting shot as I left the river.  Stay warm everybody…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Styro-Snowman in his element, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016


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Today is the first day in a week that I haven’t run a fever.  I don’t get sick very often, but when I do…I usually get my money’s worth.  I missed a week of work and probably worried the folks closest to me, but now I’m thankfully on the mend.  Now, there’s a lot of catching up to do and I look forward to reading what my blogging friends have been up to and to share a bit of my world by the river.  The following story and images were part of my last expedition to the Falls of the Ohio and made the day before the microbes laid me low.  To begin, I’ll start with the first image in this post.  There are changes afoot in the park proper.  High on the riverbank, the road and parking areas are being expanded and made more accessible.  I naturally am a bit troubled by this since I don’t think this unique place needs to be “loved” anymore than it already is.  I remember the Falls of the Ohio before its state park designation and the building of the Interpretive Center.  I can’t say that I enjoy this space anymore than I did before the building boom began.  Change, as “they” say is the only constant and at the Falls of the Ohio, the rocks bear witness to over 375 million years worth of changes.  So what’s a few more?

I spent more time scrambling up and down the fossil rocks than I usually do and came across this image.  I noticed that the fossil coral on the rock to the left of the tire bore some resemblance to the tire’s tread and created this reciprocal relationship in my pre-fevered brain.  Beyond shape and pattern, I’m struck by our dependence on ancient life to advance our own contemporary concerns.  The Ohio River buried this tire in this ice age gravel many years a go and here it stays.

I have passed by this scene for a while now, but for some reason just decided to check it out more closely.  People often ask me where the larger chunks of Styrofoam I use come from and I reply …”I think they are from floating boat docks”.  Now, I actually have proof of this instead of just relying upon conjecture and intuition.  The larger object to the right of the wooden slatted form is separate from it and actually deposited by the river prior to the dock’s arrival. 

Something unnaturally white seen past the bleaching wood caught my notice and here was my proof.  This boat dock or swimming platform was kept afloat by several monolithic sections of polystyrene.  As the wood decays and breaks apart, the entrapped Styrofoam is released into the river to continue its journey downstream.

Returning to the rocks, I was poking around when I noticed something verdant.  It’s the middle of winter and there isn’t much of anything green to be found anywhere around here.  Looking more carefully, I see that some other Falls beachcomber has found a basket of artificial flowers and propped them on this large fallen tree trunk.  Here is a different view of that basket.

Although I’m no fan of artificial flowers and ivy (my Dutch grandmother actually forbid them in her house) I find I “like” this picture.  Perhaps it’s the illusion of greener times ahead or the considered placement by the basket’s original finder, but it makes me see this place in a way I wasn’t expecting.  On site, I remember thinking that this was put here as a gift.

Walking past a recent project I discovered that the small Styrofoam figure I made was still present…but had blown over by the wind.

So, I set him right and moved on to my next project.  That will be the subject of my next post barring a relapse of my viral funk.  For now, I’m glad to be gaining my strength back and I’m looking forward to returning to work in all its forms. 

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For me, the toughest part of the winter is getting through all the grayness.  Spring is a month and a half away.  Thanks a lot groundhog.  Family and work  obligations coupled with the crummy weather are keeping me closer to home than usual.

When I look at my Falls images from this winter, the park has an almost exhausted feel to it.  The river spent itself washing wood and our material culture upon this shoreline.  The large object my son named “The Plug from the Bottom of the River” has been around for months…but I love the sense of theatre it presents in this landscape! What is this thing really and what is it doing here?  Before it disappears in the next flood, I should stage some Styro-spectacle on it.

The parade of found river objects will never cease.  I tell myself that I should use this time to organize all the loose ends (objects and images) that an investigation of this scope produces.  Of late, I have had a few more inquiries about presenting aspects of this project in one form or another.  It all sounds good, but I know some things are presented more as trial balloons, but that’s also a part of the creative process.  It’s about stuff bumping into each other and seeing what connections are created.  The last time I was out to the river I stopped by and photographed some earlier works from last year.  For the most part, I think they hold up fairly well considering their construction as well as many of the parts used are ephemeral.

In a world where we all live speeded up lives, it is easy to forget that we also need a chance to be fallow.  That’s what winter is best for…incubating ideas and marshalling energy.  I may have to go down into my basement and take care of business there.  The physical evidence of this project is spilling out of bags and boxes.  I think I may be able to substitute my wish to go outside with rediscovering and reorganizing what I have already found.  There’s sure to be a few gems hidden among that driftwood.  Well, I’m telling myself that…until the sun shines again!

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Not much remains of the season’s first snow at the Falls of the Ohio…except for these images.  I shot these last weekend as well as another figure that I’m unveiling today.  I call him (or her?) the Skater and originally posed this figure on ice before moving on to investigate other locations.

Skater’s head is made from some odd bit of insulating material covered in black paper.  The facial features join a variety of materials including found plastic, wood, a clam shell, and a small acorn.  I had to chip a tiny hole in the ice in order for this figure to stand up.  I zigged-zagged across the park imagining this small guy visiting the sights with me.  Here are a few of the other scenes we came across.

I’m always on the look out for bird life.  During this time of the year duck watching can be very productive.  Although on this day, all I came across were these Mallards, it’s not unusual to see during winter other species including Common Goldeneyes, White-winged Scoters, and Canvasbacks.  Ring-billed Gulls, Great Blue Herons, Carolina Wrens, Song Sparrows, Canada Geese, and Northern Cardinals were among the other year-round residents seen on this day.

The temperatures are somewhere in the high teens, but luckily there is no wind to really make things cold!  After checking out the water’s edge with its ice formations, I moved back inland to check on my studio site and the few sculptures that are still in place.  Skater trudged along with me to say hello.

Among the past projects we came across were Pot Belly and Cross-legged Lorraine holding their positions.  Since the really cold weather, there haven’t been as many people out here to potentially mess with them.  A quick look around the snow didn’t show any human footprints.  There were, however, loads of various kinds of animal tracks now generalized by the elements.  Next I visited my Styrofoam cache, but couldn’t see much of it due to the snow.  Three figures from this past year were still on guard.

After a couple hours, I started to get hungry and the thought of a fresh cup of coffee seemed blissful.  I headed back to my car enjoying the sound of icy snow underfoot.  Skater decided to stay at the outdoor studio and I went ahead without him (or her).  I walked past that mysterious object that my son Adam dubbed in the spring, “…that giant plug at the bottom of the river”.  It will take a mighty flood to float this thing away.  I wonder who will eventually inherit it?

I still have some nice ice images to share with you from this day and perhaps I will put that post together in a day or so.  As I was walking home, I saw this object sticking out of the snow and it amused me and so, I’ll end this winterland adventure with it.  Might go good with coffee and pie!

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