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.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Different Culture?

Everyone has a tractor in Texas. Some people have small ones and some have big ones. More tractor photos later.

There is only one grocery store in San Marcos even though it's not a small town. The grocery store is named H.E.B. I am told this stands for Harry E. Butts - the founder of HEB. The grocery checker says, "How y'all doin?" when you come up to the counter. Everyone says, "y'all" here. 

Since we are near Austin, there is a lot of good music on the radio. The South by Southwest Festival begins this week with hundreds of bands playing in hundreds of venues all around the city. We are going out to hear some music tonight.

The Tybobwowsky ranchette is in the middle of a kind of enclave of artists who work with ceramics and found objects. This will be the subject of the next blog post. Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Texas Zone

I am in Texas for the month of March. I arrived last Tuesday in San Marcos, which is about in the center of the state. Did you know that Texas was a separate country for 9 years? There is a rural area near to downtown San Marcos where several artists have their wacky compounds. I am staying at the Tybobwowski ranchette. We are building an entry pagoda over their driveway as a portal into their zone. There will be sculpture gardens and pathways through the woods to special places when all the building gets done. It will probably never be done, though. It is an ongoing project on 20 acres. The photo shows Ty mixing concrete for one of the corner posts for the driveway entry.