SOC: The ATX Farewell Tour - Part II: Austin = Art

Sea Turtle
[Seeking title & artist]
If you've been checking things out so far, you've already read my "short" profile of Austin in a previous post. The Summer of Color (SOC) continues, then, with the main event for my final Austin revelries: touring art and history in Austin with my mom.

This part of the Austin Farewell Tour began with Mom's entrance via plane. She arrived, as always: pink outfit, purple (magenta, really) hair, and Supernatural-themed jewelry. Yep, this one belongs to me. I got my ticket claim right here.

After collecting bags and mandatory trips to the bathroom, we jetted outside to meet Jaya. I can't stress enough my appreciation to both my friends, BMFD - who allowed the use of his truck for us to jet around town - and Jaya - my dear brother who chauffeured us about. Without them, we could not have done nearly the amount of sight-seeing that we did. Mad love to you both, brothers.

The rest of the day passed in a whirlwind. We ran past where I'd been staying the last couple months, grabbing all my stuff and hot-footing it, through excruciating afternoon traffic, to our home for the next week: Chez Z (not to be confused with Chez Zee, the restaurant). The fun was just beginning...

Art Days in Austin

Enjoying Texas History

Having fun on my last day
Wednesday dawned bright and early, and mom and I high-tailed it to the bus to rush over to the Capitol for my last day of work. I wanted mom to get a chance to see my tour, and to explore the building. She's also a huge history buff, what with having got her degree in Anthropology. Upon our arrival, there was a feast waiting for us. It seemed that there were a couple of us leaving, and they wanted to celebrate all at once. I introduced my mom to everyone, and then we had some time to chat and relax before the tour. It was a good one, and I had lots of fun.

Afterwards, I gave Mom some additional tour time, pointing out some of my favorites and little-knowns that just don't fit into a regular tour. I think she enjoyed it pretty well. Just a couple shots:

Mom at the skylight after the tour

Back view of the Capitol

A view of the Capitol from the outdoor rotunda

Detail of recently installed
Texas African American History Memorial

Texas African American History Memorial
with view of Capitol in background

Later, Mom and I bid farewell to the ol' Capitol and headed up to the Bob Bullock Museum, another cornerstone of Texas history. The Bullock, as it's commonly known, is the State of Texas' historical museum, and it houses one of the most interesting finds: the La Belle. If you're a history buff, I highly recommend checking this one out. 

The Blanton

The next day, Mom and I went to the Blanton Art Museum. Again, we bussed our way over (I ride a motorcycle, so, yeah). I have mixed feelings about the Blanton. It's a fairly respectable place, as museums go. However, I have to note that the Houston Museum of Art is more extensive in eras, offerings, and themes. Mom pointed out that there is an overabundance of Christian imagery at the Blanton, something I had noticed myself. It is not surprising considering the locale, and it provides one with a snapshot of Texas: its culture and how it views the rest of the world.

That said, I do really like this place. It has a nice blend of most eras, and they embrace the community, offering up numerous showings (including free evenings on Thursdays), yoga in some of the areas, small performances, and regularly rotating installations. There were a couple that we saw that day, including Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian. An excerpt from her page: 
The process is the same in every case: I sort through a collection of books, pull particular titles, and eventually group the books into clusters so that the titles can be read in sequence. The final results are shown either as photographs of the book clusters or as the actual stacks themselves, often shown on the shelves of the library they came from. Taken as a whole, the clusters are a cross-section of that library's holdings that reflect that particular library's focus, idiosyncrasies, and inconsistencies. They sometimes also function as a portrait of the particular book owner.
In addition to photographs of her pieces, they had set up some books for people to play with and create their own stacks to be photographed, or left behind for the next person to observe, absorb, and then make into their own. This is a very cool type of art. Its transience is the defining feature, forcing us to take it in in the moment, much like a theatrical performance that changes each night with audience & performer mindsets, embodying the beauty of the mildly chaotic and giving you something fresh.  Here's one that I did:

My little contribution
There were, of course, offerings of the classic and modern variety:

Found this guy in a room with a bunch of other "non-displayed" sculptures

This wall installation runs along the stairs, and replaced
an older installation that had been in place for some years.
It gives the illusion of water.

Greek Relief

This piece hangs from the ceiling in the main lobby.
It reminds me of  Delia Deetz's artwork from Beetlejuice.
[Shot from below]

We finished up at the museum, but the art tour of Austin was not over...

There is more art on streets and buildings, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your museums...

Street Art in Austin 

Ironically, Austin's best art is not in its museums. That stuff is good, but the truly amazing stuff is outside of galleries and mausoleums. Austin is one of those cities that is known for its street art (stay tuned over the coming weeks/months for another city that has taken street art to a new level), and it was our pleasure (me, Jaya and my friend "D") to introduce Mom to some of the not-so-hidden gems of our fair city. Make sure to take a tour of Central & Eastside Austin when you visit to see some of the coolest pieces. Here are just a few that I got (this is not even representative of the sheer volume of street art you can find in Austin):

Seeking title & artist

Seeking title & artist

Seeking title & artist

Seeking title & artist

HOPE Outdoor Gallery / Graffiti Park

For me, street art has to contain an element of the subversive. It is the very nature of this form to embody that which is "taboo", seeping from hidden recesses, or proclaiming itself boldly upon the entire side of a building or train without permission. The very fact that the art could be covered at any moment - painted over by another artist or whitewashed out of existence - also leads to a kind of fleeting impermanence, an immediacy that requires you to stay present and to come back often. 

Nowhere, I feel, is this more embodied in Austin than at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery (a.k.a. - Graffiti Park at Castle Hill). Jaya and I couldn't believe we'd never been here in the 13+ years we'd been living in Austin. I consider that a crime. Thankfully, D suggested it and supplied us with some paints to play with when we went. Jaya, D, Mom & I all had some contributions to make to the ever-evolving mural. I may post some of that at a later time.

Graffiti Park at Castle Hill
Panorama of HOPE Outdoor Gallery / Graffiti Park at Castle Hill
[Click for larger view]

Art Everywhere

Austin embraces art like it's a vital organ (it is), and with a motto like "Keep Austin Weird," you'd really have to. Aside from its more classic and subversive offerings, Austin seems to want to give you eye candy everywhere you go, with colorful and inventive pieces integrated into businesses, landmarks, and even city institutions.

Every business should have this cool of a sign

Santa Maria Mosaic - side of gas station

Flower Sculpture at The Domain

Metal Art Sculpture at The Domain

Steampunk octopus
Steampunk octopus

Even the airport gets in on it; these pieces I found at the walkway across from the parking garage: 



Nature as Art

Finally, we come to one of my favorite forms of art in Austin. You guessed it. The beautiful green of nature. Austin definitely seems to love green (and no, that's not a joke about the city's pronounced love of and advocacy for cannabis). Years ago, Central Texas tree coverage was rather sparse. It would take the bringing in of multiple types of trees by settlers, immigrants, and the city itself to get to the near-oasis level of forestation that blankets Austin now. They love their trees, their plants, and their gardens. So we had to make sure and hit up the Zilker Botanical Garden. Here are just a few of those:

Pond at entrance to Zilker Botanical Gardens

Zilker has multiple "Gardens", including a Japanese-style garden.

Lotus and lily pads

Lone Koi fish
Lone Koi fish

Later, we went spent some time at SoCo, enjoying the mad Saturday crowd, and then it was back to Chez Z to relax and, well, frankly, collapse. In fact, collapsing is what we did at the end of each day, and I'm so thankful to those lovely folks for allowing us use of the house. It made the week so special.

Stay tuned later today for the last part of the ATX Farewell Tour: Final Farewells

Been to Austin or want to go? Share you thoughts just below! (A little Suessian, don't you think?)

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