Yesterday was a gorgeous fall day. A good day for gleaning the banks of the Ohio River for found objects and other detritus that can be found on the edges of an old city. Ok, old is relative, but Cincinnati does have some history dating back a ways and bits of it can be found in odd spots along the river in make shift dumps from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. A fellow artist, Amy Wallace, showed me her favorite haunt and I came away with some good finds. A few buttons, made of slate and shell, a piece of a print block, a jack, an intact vase and all kinds of pottery shards that have been stained by time and the river’s own special blend of patina.
I have no idea what I will actually “do” with any of these things. More than likely they will serve as an abstract impetus to an idea of some kind, artistically speaking. What I find fascinating is that most of these objects were held in someone’s hand long ago and may have been important to them, or at least useful. I wonder about the stories of the lives of the people who owned and utilized this stuff before it was broken and cast away into the dump.
Having spent a good deal of time paddling the waters of Ohio, particularly the Ohio River, I find myself curious about the subtle histories that can be gleaned from poking along the riverbank. On one trip a number of weeks ago, Tony and I launched from a place called Chilo. For awhile Chilo was a bustling town centered around lock 34, part of the dam system that kept the river from getting too dry or flooded to prevent commerce. There is a really great park with a visitor’s center near the boat launch where you can go in and learn all about what Chilo and Lock 34 once were before being replaced with a more modern set up sometime in the 1950’s. Chilo is now pretty much a park and just a ghost of a town. I am guessing that there are many little towns dotting the Ohio River that have interesting and potentially ever fading histories.
For years now I have been fascinated by the idea of maps. Many of the bits of pottery I found on the river bank are cracked and stained and if looked at closely, resemble maps in a way. I think these are really beautiful and could very well be translated as such, at least abstractly. I intend to spend more time on the river in weeks and months to come, continuing my exploration of it’s quiet history and landscape.
However, today it’s raining. I’ve made a pie, and I plan to plant some lettuce (while dodging rain drops). Then I’ll start to read these maps of mine and see if they might lead to a painting or two at the wax table…