Sunday, November 30, 2008

All Souls Procession 2008

A couple of weeks ago we participated in the 17th annual All Souls Procession in Tucson, Arizona. This amazing event attracts over 10,000 people in costume for a procession to honor the dead. It is held on the streets of downtown Tucson beginning at dusk. The procession route winds through downtown for about two miles. Thousands of people participate in the procession and thousands more line the streets to watch, many of them in costume, too.

We dressed up like fluorescent moths and brought the Seussian Pedal Tractor down for the event. The pedal tractor had blacklights mounted on it so we could all glow by flocking around it. The tractor performed well although, when we went through a tunnel under a road, we needed people to hang onto the back to slow it down. It's brakes don't work very well at all. In the photo you can see Nita walking at left, Robert and myself pedaling in the back of the tractor and Shelley pedaling and steering up front. I snagged this photo off the web. I don't know who took it.

The procession finishes at an area of loading docks where a performance by Flam Chen ensued. They had two huge cranes hoist performers 80 or 90 feet up in the air. The culmination of the event is the burning of the Urn. The Urn represents the dead and the burning of it represents a release of their spirits. There was music and smoke and fire and EVERYTHING! It was great!

This is one of my favorite events, mostly because it is so inclusive and participatory. Not only do people dress up to be in the procession, they also dress up to watch the procession. We burners love to dress up and play together so this is another fun opportunity to get together. There were a lot of spectacular costumes to see. You can see our friends, Betsy and Kristin, in costume at right.

This was our third year participating in the All Souls Procession. We love it!

Thanks to Clint and Janabanana for the photos.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Arcosanti - Behind the Scenes

A group of us went on a drive in the Cadwac yesterday. Destination: Arcosanti. This is an experimental urban design project started in 1970 by Italian architect Paolo Soleri. Soleri is a visionary architect. He has designed entire cities (none of them built) with the idea to concentrate human activities in massive structures which would provide more area for nature and agriculture.

Arcosanti currently takes up about 10 acres of an 860 acre site in the high desert of central Arizona. The plan was to build a concentrated urban community as an alternative to suburban sprawl. When complete, Arcosanti is supposed to house 3000 to 5000 residents. It's only about 5 percent complete and progress has slowed to a crawl in recent years due to lack of funding. Arcosanti manages to maintain itself at a minimal level by offering tours, selling ceramic and bronze bells, and hosting performance events. They also hold regular five-week intensive Arcology workshops where you get to live and work at the site while learning. Arcology is a word Soleri made up to describe the merging of architecture and ecology.

Thanks to our friend, Cabiria, we got a special tour of the back sides of the buildings, the insides of storage rooms, construction zones, and behind the scenes at the amphitheater. Maggie, another resident, gave us a special agricultural tour of the greenhouses, gardens, fields, chicken coops, and the funky experimental structures built over the years by the residents. We had a picnic down in camp and were joined by many of the residents who weren't working. The weather was beautiful and we had a wonderful and relaxing visit to a unique and interesting place.

There are several residents who live in the completed structures as well as in an area called "camp" down below the main site. Camp is an earthy, more organically grown area that was where everyone lived when building began on the bluff up above. Camp has fields, gardens, greenhouses, and various cubical residences made out of concrete slabs. There are also some nice indoor and outdoor gathering spaces.

Soleri's designs are sculpturally beautiful and the concept of combining ecology and architecture is a great idea. One of the potential problems I see is that there are a lot of people, maybe most people, who would not enjoy living in identical housing units crammed tightly together in huge multi-story structures. I believe human desires for intimate contact with nature, personal control over the appearance of their dwellings, and the desire for privacy and outdoor living spaces need more consideration when designing residential structures. For example, the feeling in "camp" is more vital and human than the feeling in the structures of Arcosanti which have a commercial feel to them.

Soleri is 89 years old. Who knows what will happen to the place when he is gone. It would be nice if it could be opened up for more creative participation and attract the funding needed to complete it in some form. For now, we will enjoy visiting an interesting place and fun people.

See more photos of our visit.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Further Adventures in East Jesus

I just got back from a three-day re-visit to East Jesus. East Jesus is a "suburb" of Slab City. Charlie Russell is the mayor of East Jesus - population: 1. He is building a live-in found-object art installation there and has made a lot of progress since I last visited about a year and a half ago. It's about five or six times as big. The sculpture garden has been expanded and it's getting more interesting all the time. I wanted to take a bunch of pictures and post them on the web but, unfortunately, my camera's battery was totally dead and I didn't bring the charger with me. oops!
You can, however, see a 15-minute video I made of my earlier visit called Adventures in East Jesus. I plan to visit again sometime in the next two or three months and I will make sure my camera is charged up and ready to go.

Below is a quote from Rabelais that Charlie has on his East Jesus web page. It's indicative of the spirit and philosophy that has informed and driven zone trippers and anarchical thinkers for centuries.

"All their life was spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose out of their beds when they thought good; they did eat, drink, labour, sleep, when they had a mind to it and were disposed for it. None did awake them, none did offer to constrain them to eat, drink, nor to do any other thing; for so had Gargantua established it. In all their rule and strictest tie of their order there was but this one clause to be observed, Do What Thou Wilt; because men that are free, well-born, well-bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them unto virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honour. Those same men, when by base subjection and constraint they are brought under and kept down, turn aside from that noble disposition by which they formerly were inclined to virtue, to shake off and break that bond of servitude wherein they are so tyrannously enslaved; for it is agreeable with the nature of man to long after things forbidden and to desire what is denied us." -- Fran├žois Rabelais,Gargantua and Pantagruel (16th C.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Be The Man" Burns

The "Be The Man" sculpture/structure is now just a tiny pile of ashes. The structure was assembled at Gateway Ranch on Friday in about four hours. it went very smoothly. Janabanana made a mask that people could put on when they climbed the tower. That way they could be The Man in Burning Man style.

The fire took a long time to catch hold. Thanks to Gary for tossing more fuel on the fire to get it going properly. In spite of the slow start I thought it burned beautifully. It's amazing how such a large structure could burn down into such a small pile of ashes. You could almost put all of it into a five gallon bucket.

See more photos of the whole process, from drawings to glowing embers.

The whole decompression weekend was a lot of fun. Lot's of dancing, laughing and hugging. We had a great time, even though it rained on Saturday afternoon. I am guessing about a hundred people attended.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Be The Man" Work Party Success

After what seemed like a fruitless search for used lumber, I finally found someone who had a big pile of 2x4's laying around in his yard. It was more wood than we needed for the project but the deal was too good to pass up. There were about 60 boards, almost all of them over 16 feet long. Some of them were redwood and most of them were in pretty good shape. I got the wood just in time for our first work party.

The mission was to build at least half of the structural sections of the sculpture. We did way better than that. We were able to get all of the structural sections completed for the Be The Man sculpture and we had time to start making decorative bits, too!

There were several people helping. When Joey showed up with the nail guns, the pace really picked up. Yay for nail guns! Thanks to Cat Herder, Tom, Pete, Ray, Joey, Pam, A.T., Crispy, Ashley, and Lindsey for helping put it all together. All we need to do now is make more burnable decorations and then assemble it at Decompression in two weeks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Be The Man - A Burnable Art Project

Be The Man will be a small decorated wooden building I designed that is both a tiny temple and a tower that you can climb. It will be about 17 feet tall and is 8-feet square at its base. It will be on display at the Arizona Decompression - an after-party of sorts for Arizonans who have gone to the Burning Man Festival.

The sculpture is collaborative. People are invited to participate in building it and designing and making the burnable decorations that go on it. When it's assembled at Decompression, participants can climb to the top of the tower and Be the Man! That is to say, they can imitate the Burning Man figure in miniature.

It will only be standing for about a day and a half. At the culmination of the Decompression event we will put a wooden figure on top and the whole structure will be lit on fire and burned to the ground while the crowd cheers. It's a testimony to beauty, spontaneity, and the temporariness of all things.

Many Arizona burners have contributed to make this happen. The more people that get involved, the more fun the whole process will be. Thanks to all who helped and who will help. It's all happening fast. Decompression is less than three weeks away!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Prescott Valley Kinetic Sculpture Race

Yesterday we entered the Seussian Pedal Tractor in the third annual Prescott Valley Kinetic Sculpture race. There were 10 entries, up from last year's 7 or 8 entries. There was also a much larger crowd of spectators than before. It's good to see the event growing. We need more wacky events. It's too much fun!

The Seussian Pedal Tractor performed flawlessly, piloted by Janabanana, A.T. and Cat Herder. Halfway through the race, I traded places with Cat Herder and rode the tractor to the finish. The only spot we couldn't get through without help was the mud bog. We needed a push from three or four people to get up the steep edge of the mud pit.

We finished dead last. This was by design actually. We wanted a leisurely ride. Why work hard? We rode the whole course, did not take any shortcuts, and had a great time. After all, kinetic sculpture racing is not about speed. It's about fun!

We won three trophies! That's three times as many as any other entry. We got trophies for The Most Artistic, The Craziest, and Racers' Choice. Two of the trophies were made by metal sculptor Rick Hartner. The other sculpture was made by my lovely wife, Nita, who also was a race judge (Judge Mental) Not only do we feel exceptionally honored to win the trophies, it's a special treat to have the trophies be sculptures by respected sculptors.

Special thanks to the following people:

Cynthia Jones for creating and managing this fun event.
Judge Mental and all the other judges for graciously accepting our bribes.
Janabanana, A.T. and Cat Herder for piloting the Pedal Tractor.
Ken and Nils for being our pit crew and helping us out of tricky spots in the race.
All our friends who came from far and wide to cheer us on.

After the race we spent the afternoon at Prescott Valley's World Arts Festival. We laid out a blanket at the back of one of the big performance tent and watched the musical performances. Between performances A.T. brought out her hula hoops and we entertained spectators and ourselves while still dressed in our racing outfits - tutus and striped tights.

Click the arrow in the middle of the picture below to see a short slide show.

Click here to see larger versions of the photos in this slide show.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Burning Man 2008

I have just returned from Black Rock City, the location of the Burning Man festival. This was my ninth year. Once again it was lots of fun. The Seussian Pedal Tractor was a success -- mostly. There was one problem that we just couldn't seem to fix. It still worked, though. There was a lot of great art and tons of fun people. There seemed to be a lot of tricycles this year. More than I have seen there before. The weather was mostly good. We had a severe dust storm on Monday and another on Saturday. The days between were perfect. I shot a lot of still photos and only about 2 hours of video. I will edit the video later. Right now I am still tired from the trip and from getting way too little sleep during the week. See photos

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Seussian Pedal Tractor is Done!


The canopy is on, the frame is mostly painted. All the mechanical parts are functional. We took a little test drive this morning and everything worked fine. I got some friends to pose in the three pilot positions on the contraption. It won't be fast but it will go!
The only thing left to do is a bit more paint, some lighting for night driving and a small battery powered sound system.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Big Wheels Get Paint

The Seussian Pedal Tractor is almost done. All the mechanical bits are finished. That's three derailleurs, five chains, two brake calipers, shifters and the cables that control everything. We did a three person test-ride last Friday and we couldn't stop laughing. We rode it out of the driveway, down the street aways and then peddled uphill back to the shop. It was hilarious and instructive. The big wheels needed a little bracing at the ends of the spokes. They bent ever so slightly during the test ride. The gearing will work fine. We were able to ride uphill with three people on it but only two people pedaling (the front pedals weren't installed yet). The bicycle chains may be a weak point. I will have to bring spare chain and a chain tool whenever we ride it anywhere.

This past weekend I primed the big wheels and the long bike frame. Yesterday I painted the big wheels with fluorescent spray paint. The plan is to mount UV lights on the canopy frame to illuminate the wheels for night travel.

Today I started bolting the shoes to the big wheels. I need only two more pair. The next post should be of the completely finished pedal tractor. I say this knowing that we will probably come up with wacky ideas for add-ons. It may never be really finished!

Monday, August 4, 2008

First Test Ride

I got the Seussian Pedal Tractor done enough to take a brief test ride. It's barely together though. Only one set of pedals is hooked up and I haven't connected the brakes yet. It picked up speed pretty quickly. Fortunately I had some friends there to stop me.
I made a big brake disk out of an old stone-cutting circular saw blade. I think it's about two feet in diameter. The beast is heavy so I don't know how well the brakes will work. I think the gearing will be fine. It might even go pretty fast with three people pedaling.
Today I scored a whole bunch of bicycle chain so I can hook up the other sets of pedals to the drivetrain.This coming weekend I plan to finish all the mechanical bits, do a more extensive test ride, and then get it ready for paint.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pedals on the Pedal Tractor

This weekend I put the pedals on the pedal tractor. I also figured out a way to take the sprockets off the crank sets and replace them with tiny, 15-tooth sprockets. It looks pretty silly but I need to gear down a lot in order to make the pedal tractor easy to ride. With these small sprockets on the front plus the gearing in the back, it should take almost four complete rotations of the pedals for each complete rotation of the six-foot diameter drive wheels.

Today, I took a little time away from real work to make a tray that sits between the rear seats. This tray can hold drinks, etc,. and it also protects the main shaft gears from the weather.

The next project is to remove the big wheels, rig rear brakes, put the gear on the main shaft and put it all back together. Once that is done, I can put the chains on and we might even be able to do a test drive at that point. I am still getting shoes for the big wheels. I think I only need four more pairs.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pedal Tractor Progress Report

The extended bicycle frame was welded to the main axle housing a couple of weeks ago. Last week I made the jack shaft and mounting brackets separately and then today I welded the assembly to the main axle housing. I designed adjustable seats out of two old plastic chairs. I mounted the seats and put the three bicycle freewheels and a small main drive gear on the jack shaft. The gears and freewheels aren't locked down yet. I need to make the pedal parts and then I can lock down all the gears after I line everything up.

Below is a photo of the jack shaft mounted to the main axle housing. The jack shaft is 3/4 inch diameter solid steel. The main axle is 1-inch diameter sold steel. The main axle housing is 2-inch schedule 40 pipe.

The main shaft is a solid axle from wheel to wheel. This is turning out to be a problem. It's really hard to turn the tractor with both big wheels locked to the shaft. I think I will have to cut the shaft and make it a one-wheel-drive pedal tractor. The other big wheel will just roll along. I am contemplating putting splines on the inside ends of the split axle and then making a spline sleeve that I can slide from the drive axle over the free axle in case I need two-wheel drive.

There is still a lot to do. There will probably be a lot of bracing needed. I won't know exactly where until we give it a test ride and see what's too flexible. I also want to weld on cup holders,
umbrellas and shade canopies for all riders, and maybe mounting brackets on the back for a sound system or maybe fire cannons?. Then will come paint, decorations, and maybe lighting for night travel.

I'm not the only person making strange pedal-powered tricycles. In fact mine is fairly tame compared to the ones made by a group of people who call themselves the Department of Spontaneous Combustion. They have made some three-wheeled pedal powered vehicles that shoot fire. Some of these have two big wheels in front and a single wheel in back. See a smaller one here.
And this is a link to a spectacular photo of one of their large ones.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lawn Chair Larry

Today is the anniversary of Lawn Chair Larry's famous flight.

On July 2, 1982 in San Pedro California, 33-year-old Vietnam veteran Larry Walters filled 45 weather balloons with helium and tied them to a lawn chair. He floated quickly up to about 16,000 feet. To descend, he shot some of the balloons with a pellet gun. He landed in some high-voltage power transmission lines but did not get electrocuted. After hanging there for awhile the fire department got him down. This is not an urban legend. It's true!
More info on Larry's flight

Larry inspired others to imitate his craziness. In 1984, pilot Kevin Walsh tied 57 helium balloons to a chair and floated above Massachusetts for awhile. When he was done sightseeing he cut his lines and parachuted to safety.

In 2007, 48 year-old Kent Couch tied 105 balloons to a chair and floated 193 miles across Oregon. He was trying to make it to Idaho He also landed safely.

In April of 2008 in Brazil Roman Catholic Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli tried the same trick. He tied hundreds of helium-filled party balloons to a chair and quickly ascended to almost 20,000 feet. It didn't work out for him. He is still missing. More info and photos.

These guys were definitely adventurers in the Zone. They aren't the only ones doing this either. Check out this website.

Below is a photo of Kent Couch floating somewhere over Bend, Oregon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pedal Tractor Progress

I got the big wheels welded up yesterday on the Seussian Pedal Tractor. They are six feet in diameter and there are two of them. They each have sixteen spokes. Each spoke will have a shoe attached to it. I also started building the main axle. Three chains from the pedals will go to freewheels on the jack shaft. Then a beefier chain runs from the jack shaft to the drive sprocket on the main shaft. The big unknown is the gearing. I am using a 20 tooth sprocket on the main shaft which will be driven by a 10 tooth sprocket on the jack shaft. This will gear down by half. I have left room in the differential for a 30 tooth gear in case the gear down is not enough. I want it to be relatively easy to pedal around. It probably won't be fast but that's fine with me.
The next step is to attach the extended bicycle frame to the axle housing and work out the seat placement and placement for the rear pedals.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tribal Celebration

In 1995 I, my roommate Jack, and my future wife Nita, decided to dress up in mock-tribal dress and camp out for the summer solstice weekend in a meadow on the property where I lived at the time in the mountains of central Arizona. This weekend became the first Tribal Celebration. We had a bonfire, drank Southern Comfort, and made music until late into the night. The next year we invited more friends and the attendance quadrupled to 12 people. It turned into an annual tradition that lasted until 2004. Attendance was by invitation only so the event stayed pretty small, which was just the way we wanted it. The most people we had was about 30. We stopped after that for various reasons.

This past weekend we revived the Tribal Celebration. It was our 10th wedding anniversary (we got married at the Tribal Celebration in 1998). We though it would be a good idea to get everyone together again to celebrate the solstice. It was lots of fun. We had many people who used to attend the earlier ones and several people that we had met between the last one in 2004 and this one. We enjoyed it immensely. The theme was the same as always - make up your own idea of tribal dress, have a fire, make music, and commune with nature. Below, Lynn, Pete, and Sharon sport their tropical paradise outfits along with drinks with umbrellas.

The kids made sculptures out of downed branches and we burned them on Saturday night. We decorated an old door, drank a bit, drummed a lot, ate good food, and laughed all the time. What a great group of people! We feel honored to be a part of it all.

We have become a tribe of sorts over the years and it is growing. I suppose there are 50 to 70 people who might consider themselves part of this tribe. Membership in it is by invitation and by choice. The love and sense of community grows every year.

The world today is very different than the one of a hundred years ago, especially to those who live in a technological society like ours. We can meet people that share our ideas and goals either online or by chance meeting at events and then create modern tribes. We are no longer trapped by geography. We can go anywhere. We can communicate electronically. I think it's great.

What's your tribe?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tsunami in Prescott

Yesterday the 10th annual Tsunami-On-The-Square performing arts festival concluded at the court house square in Prescott. This is one fun event. My wife and I are involved in helping it happen. She is on the board of directors and I help carry stuff around.

We had some guests come from out of town for the festival. We had Kate Pearson and her husband Greg. Kate is an artcar artist from Bisbee, Arizona. She created HexMex and Love23 and seven other cars. Her cars have been in magazines and artcar books. We also had another Kate, her husband Jeff, and their friend Joe. Kate and Joe are involved in theatre in Los Angeles. The photo above shows Joe, Kate, and Nita on the stage at Tsunami teaching the audience about MOOP - Matter Out Of Place. Basically that refers to litter and that everyone should participate in picking it up.

This, in my opinion, was the best Tsunami festival yet. The quality and diversity of the performers was awesome. The final two acts, Instruments of the Now - a fire performance group , and Archedream for Humanity - blacklight theater, were spectacular. I recommend you see either or both of these groups if they are ever near you.

It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. The love was strong between the performers, the volunteer staff, and the audience. It was great.

Meanwhile, our Texas friends stopped by the Cadillac Ranch on their way from Texas to Montana. He took the photo below.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pedal Tractor Construction Begins

I had a small collection of old bicycles at my shop so I began taking them apart and cutting them up for parts for the Seussian Pedal Tractor. I am using one of the beefier frames for the front of the tractor. I cut the rear triangle off. I removed the pedals and cranks from three of the bikes to use.

The finished item will be about 14 feet long so I extended the bike frame another seven feet. Below is a photo of the bike frame and, up on the table, the basic layout of one of the large rear wheels. This thing is going to be pretty silly. I'll be heading back to the shop this afternoon to continue working on it.

Meanwhile, there is a whale in our backyard. The Tsunami whale is the mascot for the Tsunami-on-the-Square performing arts festival which will be held next weekend. The whale has been re-skinned and re-decorated so it can lead the parade of performers to the courthouse square in Prescott, where the event takes place.
Starfish manufacturing is also going on right now in our backyard. These are also for the Tsunami festival.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Seussian Pedal Tractor

This Memorial Day weekend is the Kinetic Grand Championship in Arcata, CA. This is the largest and oldest kinetic sculpture race in the country. Since it started in 1969, several other races have cropped up across the country. These include The East Coast Championship in Baltimore, MD and about 6 others. One of the newest of these happens to be held in Prescott Valley, AZ - only 10 miles from my house.

The third annual Prescott Valley Kinetic Sculpture Race will be held on Sept 13th, 2008. Last year I was one of the judges. This year I will have an entry. It's working name is "The Seussian Pedal Tractor." I suspect I'll come up with a better name for it before it's done. Here is a drawing of what I will try to create out of steel and old bicycle parts. There are two seats in the back and one up front. All riders will be able to pedal. Note that the 6-foot diameter rear wheels do not have tires. They have shoes instead.
As fabrication proceeds I will post updates here. Wish me luck!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Toast 2008

The best Toast ever! That's what we thought of last weekend's Arizona regional burn called Toast. The weather was perfect. It was tons of fun. Above is a picture of people enjoying the Snake Pit. The Snake Pit consists of a 30-foot long handmade fabric snake named Juliet. She is stuffed with blankets, pillows, pool noodles, and whatever else we could come up with to make her full and soft. The Snake Pit was filled with stuffed animals to create a silly cuddle space.

Below is a 30-second video of Mr. God lighting his hair on fire while spinning poi. His hair got singed but his scalp did not.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Toaster Tune Up

The Toaster is a steel sculpture that also serves as an outdoor heater. It consists of three wood burning chimneys that come together at the top. The rising heat spins a propeller. It weighs about 1200 pounds but disassembles into 9 major pieces and a bunch of smaller ones so it's not too heavy to move.

I designed it a couple of years ago and it was built by members of the Arizona Burning Man community at a series of work parties at my shop. We built it so we could use it at our events, particularly Toast, which is an official regional Burning Man event. It's been to Burning Man a couple of times and gets used three or four times a year at various events.

When it is lit up, a large warm space is created in and around the chimneys. It gets burned so hot that the metal warps. It has proven to be a great place to hang out on a cold night. Every year it returns to Cosmic Steel for a tune up. We beat the warped metal back into shape, fix broken welds, and get it ready for the next season of usage.

Yesterday was 2008's Toaster Tune Up Party. Part of the work this time was to put sides on its designated trailer so it won't slide off on bumpy roads. Now the Toaster is all set for next weekend's Toast event and whatever else it gets used at.

Below is a picture of the Toaster set up at Toast two years ago.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Plastic Fun-tastic

After only a short time since returning from Texas, I entered another zone - the Plastic Fun-tastic zone. This was a party where everyone was supposed to wear plastic. Everything was plastic. It's amazing what people can do with discarded plastic stuff. There was a guy wearing a plastic barrel and several people wearing trash bags and other trash plastic. Below is another great plastic costume.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Texas Zone - Almost Done

All of our projects are as done as they are going to get before I leave. We finished fencing the garden, put up trellises for vines to climb on and built the steel post and beam wall that will be one side of Ty's shop. Lifting the I-beams was a bit scary but it all went together just fine. Ty and Wow are flying to the Bahamas tomorrow for a week's vacation from working on the ranchette. I will spend tomorrow getting all my stuff together in preparation for the big drive back to Arizona. I will be leaving the Texas Zone Friday morning early.

Below is a photo of an art installation I made at the end of one of the new trails. The bicycle is hanging from a tree branch and the circle below is made from rocks and twigs.

The Tybobwowsky ranchette is under construction and will be for a long time. There are lots of trails to make, buildings to build, art installations to create and install, and plants to plant in the garden(s). The fun never stops in the Texas Zone.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Texas Zone - Cowboy Culture

We went to Gruene Hall today (pronounced "green"). It's in a touristy little town south of San Marcos. Gruene Hall is a big old dance hall where lots of Texas musicians have played at one time or another including famous ones. Some of the people we saw at Gruene Hall were sporting the Texas cowboy look. I received instructions from Ty on what the Texas cowboy fashion consists of and then he pointed out specific individuals and commented on how well they fit the picture. Here's the layout:

First- cowboy boots. The women get to wear white ones with rhinestones. The men have to wear brown or black ones. The next article of clothing on the way up is jeans. It looks like Wrangler is the "in" brand. The jeans are secured by a belt with a big shiny metal buckle with some kind of cowboy or Texas image on it like a star, or a horse. Jeans should be worn tight. For men, the belly must hang out over the belt buckle. Next we have a cowboy shirt with pearly snap buttons and a kind of down pointing yoke shape to the flaps on the shirt pockets which is reflected in the stitching on the back of the shirt. The shirts can be plain, plaid or striped. Last but not least we have the wide brim cowboy hat in white, brown or black. There are a couple of styles to these.

Cultures change over time so I suspect the Texas cowboy look might be different ten or twenty years from now. Below is a picture of an improbable future Texas cowboy look.

Texas is one of very few of the fifty American states that has a pretty well-defined culture of its own. The Texas cowboy look has been exported all over the West. Texas has its own music and star musicians. Signature Texas music is a kind of folk/country thing. Austin is the heart of the music scene. Texas has its own cuisine - Texas Barbecue. A typical Texas barbecue meal has ribs, potato salad, beans, and beer. The fact that Texas is a BIG state contributes to the culture. Texas has the world's largest honky tonk (a word probably made up by Texans). You can buy really big coffee mugs as tourist gifts. It has Texas long horns, some of whose horns end up on the hoods of big Cadillacs.

Just in case you think I am picking on Texans, it's not true. Of all the Texans I have met so far none of them fit the negative stereotypes that have been ascribed to Texas over the years. They are as friendly, creative, intelligent, hardworking, and fun loving as good people everywhere. I've has a great time in the Texas Zone so far.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Texas Zone - Eye of the Dog

We went to a party at the Eye of the Dog Art Center last night. It's owned by our friends Beverly and Billy Ray who live next door to the Tybobwowsky ranchette. The first photo is of the arch you drive through as you enter their property.
The second photo is of a few of the buildings on their land. Their home and studios are filled with lots of fun folk art as well as their own whimsical ceramic, collage, and found-object sculptural pieces.

Today we went to Austin for our unusual brand of tourism. We visited junk shops, Habitat for Humanity, a metal sculptor by the name of Barry George (he wasn't home). We looked around for a tower of junk that was supposed to be in South Austin somewhere but we couldn't find it.
The old barrio/slum areas of Austin are getting a re-do as land prices rise. People are buying up the small old houses and replacing them with big modern things. Some of the neighborhoods are a really odd mix of the old and new. One of the extra cool features on the new houses are margarita decks put way up on the roof of three story houses.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Texas Zone - Finished Projects

We had a very satisfying afternoon. The weather was beautiful - clear, a light breeze, and 75 degrees. I was able to finish the garden gate and Ty and I installed it. Then we installed arch windows as a portal to a trail. The gate is made out of mostly found steel objects welded together.

The building of portals is becoming a passion. Nature is the ultimate artist. No human can even come close to the grandeur and beauty of nature. What I can do is to frame natural spaces by creating portals and windows that draw people's attention to the spaces beyond. If I have done my job well, my portals will invite people to appreciate the natural spaces within. The idea of a portal is that there is a different reality on the other side. Even though there is really no difference, the portal creates an opportunity for an attitude change or a heightened sense of wonder.

I am happy with these two new portals created at the Tybobwowski ranchette here in..... The Texas Zone.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Clouds and Rain

It's been cloudy for the last couple of days. The weather forecast yesterday said that today we could get from 2 to 4 inches of rain. The reality is that we got only .03 inches of rain. They were only off by about 100 times. Still, there are tornado warnings in a couple of counties just northeast of here. There could be more rain today but it looks like it's trying to clear up. It's 73 degrees and humid. I may even be able to get to some outdoor projects this afternoon. The current project - a garden gate made from found steel objects.

Speaking of counties, the counties here are all mostly square and all the same size. I know this is probably the norm over most of the country but, where I come from, counties are all irregularly shaped and different sizes. I guess it's so flat in most of Texas that there aren't any particular geographic features to define county boundaries by. Or maybe they just didn't care about geography and wanted to impose their rectangular grid on everything.

When I got here everything was brown. Now everything is turning green. The grass is coming up in the pastures. The trees are leafing out. Springtime is here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Projects at the Ranchette

Here's a picture of the trail we made. It connects the garden area to a little meadow where Ty will drop a large block of limestone which will serve as a pedestal for sculptures. The trail winds through the woods in a very friendly way.

We got to a good stopping point on the entry portal pagoda. We need to come up with a name for this thing. It's a drive-through gazebo, a motorportal, a little building that you have to drive through to get into the property. Anyway, this is as far as we are going to go on this thing for the time being. It is ready to have lots of stuff added to it. I imagine it will be an artistic work in progress for a long time.

Last night we visited a place called the Enchanted Forest in south Austin. It is three acres of trees and lots of junk and recycled/repurposed artworks. I don't have any photos of this.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Texas is Dangerous

I discovered two things about Texas yesterday - fire ants and greenbriar. Fire ants are really small and, if you happen to step on their ant hill, they climb up your leg and wait until there are at least 50 ants and then, all at once, they bite you. Ouch!
The other thing that got me yesterday was a greenbriar vine. It's like natural barbed wire. I hooked my foot in it and thought I could just break it loose. No. Now my left ankle is covered with bleeding scratches.

That's not all, the locals tell me. More fun creatures start coming out as the weather warms up - scorpions, centipedes, and assassin bugs. Wonderful.I hear there are snakes, too. Fortunately I like snakes. Arizona has them, too, so it's no big deal.

It's supposed to be 93 today. I worked all morning creating a trail through the woods to a future location for an art installation. I lopped branches, raked the ground, spread cedar chips along the path and then lined the path with rocks. Sweaty but satisfying work.

Below is a photo of Kevin, Ty and I working on the portal pagoda. We got the basic shape created out of rebar. The center has a vertical axle on bearings so a wind catching spinner can be mounted on top. The whole thing will be about 20 feet high when done.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It seems that there are a lot of artists in Central Texas. Maybe this is because I tend to be drawn toward other artists and happen to find them. The Tybobwowski ranchette has a long term goal of becoming a place of art installations and sculpture gardens. Right next door is the home and studio of Billy Ray and Beverly Mangham. They have been holding down the estimable position of wackiest artists in San Marcos for some time. Billy Ray is a consummate ceramist. He makes whimsical ceramic sculptures. Beverly works with found objects and collage. They both are in the process of turning their land into an art school called Eye of the Dog Art Center.

On land behind the Tybobwowsky ranchette is the home and studios of Kevin and Denise (I don't know their last names). They both sculpt with found and recycled objects. The other night we went over there and spent the evening casting our hands and feet out of hydrocal plaster. It was quite fun. We will probably do it again before I leave Texas.

The weather this week - on Monday it rained pretty hard in the morning and lightly all afternoon. On Tuesday it got sunny in the afternoon with a high in the upper 60's. Today it reached the mid 70's and is supposed to reach 90 by this weekend. The weather seems to be quite different every day - at least for the days I have been here so far.