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An Eye for the Unusual

Louisville's Gorman uses
river debris to create eclectic artwork

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (June 2010) – Artist Al Gorman is concerned with caring for the environment. Through his artwork, he strives to interpret feelings and a sense of place using natural objects that are not ordinarily thought of as artistic materials.

Al Gorman

Photo provided

Sculptor Al Gorman crafts fanciful
creatures out of river debris such as
driftwood, Styrofoam, shells and coal.

Gorman has collected discarded trash and debris from the Falls of the Ohio area for the last seven years. He even started his own blog about this project titled, “Artist At Exit 0, Riverblog,” where he posts his river art and images from the Falls area.
With the debris he crafts fanciful creatures out of Styrofoam, driftwood, bone, mussel shells, coal, aluminum and a variety of other media found along the river environment.
His goal is to “create a collaboration with the river,” said Gorman, 52. He can often be found strolling along the river bank with nothing more than a pocketknife, collecting bag, camera and his imagination.
“Most of the time when I make a sculpture, I leave it at the river,” he said. The largest one measured more than 12 feet tall, and most sculptures left behind eventually disappear or wash away. He feels his sculptures “relate to life in a very direct way.”
Ten of his river sculptures and six large digital prints are featured in a display at the Oldham County History Center in La Grange in conjunction with the Life at the River’s Edge exhibit. Accompanying his work is a display of multimedia art pieces local individuals have contributed for a multimedia art contest. The River’s Edge Exhibit runs through Aug. 1 and also displays the folksy artwork of local Westport artist Breck Morgan.

Al Gorman art

Photo by Helen E. McKinney

Al Gorman’s “Styro Buffalo at the
Falls of the Ohio” is on display at
the Oldham County History Center.

“Gorman’s work adds to our theme “Life at the River’s Edge” where we explore the Ohio River as an important cultural and natural resource to our county,” said Nancy Theiss, Executive Director of the Oldham County History Center. An opening reception for Gorman’s exhibit was held May 6.
“The statement of his sculptures implies several things,” said Theiss. While his sculptures are whimsical and funny, “the underlying message demonstrates that many people do not respect the heritage and importance that the river holds as an ecological-sensitive resource that sustains and benefits our health and well being.”
“My work deals with a material culture viewed in a different context,” said Gorman, who has lived in Louisville for more than 20 years. He has had formal training as a artist, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree from Murray State University, and both a Master’s and Associate in Science degree from the University of Cincinnati.
Gorman chose to focus on sculpture because of its three-dimensional aspect. “You have to walk around my work to enjoy it fully,” he said.
In addition to being an artist, Gorman has also been a curator, juror and writer. For the past year, Gorman has been the Director of Studio Arts for the Zoom Group, a program that provides services to individuals with mental and developmental disabilities who wish to further their visual arts skills.
Gorman said Theiss has “done a great job” of assembling work from the Ohio River region. “She has put together a compelling exhibit,” he said. The exhibit contains a Living Stream Touch Table that is similar to an aquarium with creatures one would find in the local fresh water environment.
Theiss discovered Gorman’s artwork several years ago through a newspaper article. “When you view Gorman’s work, it shows great creativity and imagination.” She said the work of a good artist “provides the viewer retrospective about the piece that is viewed and the message that underlies that art.”
In Gorman’s case, “You feel his love of the river ecosystem and his subtle scorn of people’s disregard for the ecosystem by using the river as a garbage receptacle,” said Theiss.
Most of Al Gorman’s river sculptures are for sale. His Riverblog can be viewed at http://ArtistsAtExit0.wordpress.com.

• The Oldham County History Center is located at 106 N. Second Ave., La Grange. For information, call (502) 0826.

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