Cathedral of Junk

One of my other Austin friends, Scott — who has his own art environment — took me to visit his friend Vince who is the creator of the Cathedral of Junk.

Because Scott and Vince have been friends for so long, we got to visit for a long time (and Scott had called him earlier in the week about coming over for a while). But before I get too far ahead, it’s absolutely imperative that visitors call before they visit — Vince’s number is 512-299-7413 and he’s pretty adamant about people having appointments. He’s kind, but he’s serious about a minimum of disruption to the neighborhood. When a couple of cars full of people showed up to see him while Scott and I were visiting, he sent them away, even though they explained they were only in town for a day or two and were from different states. Besides Vince’s sanity, there’s another reason for that…

He’s been working on the cathedral since the late 80s, and then around 2010, there were complaints. City inspectors came in and made a big deal about safety and permits, neighbors were apparently complaining about the parking situation and total strangers showing up whenever in the neighborhood.

Vince had to start taking the cathedral down — volunteers came out and helped. At one point, he was just sick of the whole thing. But finally the city relented, no doubt due in large part to community outrage that part of what helps Keep Austin Weird was being stomped on.

From The Statesman in June 2010:

Hanneman said he is happy that the structure will remain an Austin landmark but said working through the city bureaucracy was unnecessarily complicated. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he said. “It was like a cross between a divorce and a death.”

There are several different ways around, ways up to the top, and pathways with colorways

A must-do in Austin. You could spend an hour or a few hours and of course you’re never going to see it all. Fab.

Big, big, big thanks to Scott for arranging my visit and to Vince for being so kind and hanging out while showing us his work. xoxo!

Kara Walker’s Upcoming Installation For NOLA’s Prospect.4 Biennial, And Uncomfortable Art

The NYT had a feature on Kara Walker’s installation for New Orleans’ Prospect 4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp triennial later this year.

Ms. Walker’s contribution will be at Algiers Point, where a ferry will take visitors to an installation she created for a riverboat calliope — a pipe organ evocative of old circuses and steamboats — with the MacArthur-winning jazz pianist Jason Moran.

The piece only mentions four other works, those by Yoko Ono, the late Louis Armstrong (collages), Derrick Adams, and Mark Dion.

There will be a total of 73 artists taking part at 17 different venues around the city. Thirty of the works will be original for the triennial.

Here, a series of Kara’s works I photographed at the 21c Hotel Museum in Bentonville

and though her pieces are in the collections of several different museums, my favorite thus far is of her Freedom Fighters for the Society of Forgotten Knowledge, Northern Domestic Scene at the Menil in Houston.

At today’s NYT, Kara Walker is quoted on the Dana Schutz painting of Emmett Till’s coffin, “Open Casket” at the Whitney Biennial — actually the NYT article is on that and the Sam Durant “Scaffold” sculpture.

Kara Walker noted that “the history of painting is full of graphic violence and narratives that don’t necessarily belong to the artists own life,” but may inspire “deeper inquiries and better art. It can only do this when it is seen.”

(There are always things that will make people feel uncomfortable, and taking out all that juicy uncomfortable-ness would make a world full of…I don’t know…boring Thomas Kinkade in which we’re all just blankly staring slack-jawed at paintings of snow-capped mountain peaks. Pope.L’s “Claim”, at the Whitney Biennial in which he used slices of (real, stinky, pork maybe? prob?) bologna nailed to walls with b&w pictures of people atop to represent the percentage of Jews in New York (whyyyyyy?)makes me uncomfortable. And yet The Root thought it was pretty awesome. So what makes some of us cringe makes others applaud. Thus, art.)

Speaking of rotten food in an exhibit: Spencer Shoults “Cupcakes!” at Space One Eleven several years ago

Ingredients: acetic acid, acrylic tubing, baking powder, bolts, distilled water, eggs, eye bolts, flour, food coloring, glass, glue, grain alcohol, graphite, honey, hose clamps, hydrogen peroxide, icing, masonite, milk, motor oil, nails, paint, plastic caps, pvc tubing, salt, screws, shortening, silicone, silicone tape, sprinkles, sugar, teflon tape, valves, vanilla extract, white wine, wire, wood”

21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, And Finally Some Graeter’s

The last night of our Kentucky/Ohio trip, we stayed at the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati. Like the 21c in Louisville, this one is also downtown. Out front, this Werner Reiterer brass chandelier:

Inside, like the other 21Cs that we’ve been to, there’s lots of artspace to explore. this is the Norbert Brunner ‘You are Enchanting’
Norbert Brunner, You Are Enchanting, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Grimanesa Amoros’ Uros
Grimanesa Amoros, Uros, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Astrid Korgh’s Lightmail
Astrid Krogh, Lightmail, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Astrid Krogh, Lightmail, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Paul Rucker’s September 15, 1963 Birmingham, Alabama
Paul Rucker, September 15 1963 Birmingham Alabama, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Paul Rucker, September 15 1963 Birmingham Alabama, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Walter Oltmann’s Shel
Walter Oltmann, Shel, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Brian Knep’s Healing Tiles were fun to walk on to see the shapes morph
Brian Knep, Healing Tiles, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Our room — like the other 21Cs, it was rather plain and functional — not especially luxurious
Hotel Room, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Hotel Room, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Bathroom, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

the shower had body-part tiles
Bathroom, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

…and we got to play with the penguins, which in Cincinnati are yellow
Shugie and Me and Yellow Penguin, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Shugie and Yellow Penguin, 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati OH//

Now that we’ve stayed at the Bentonville, Lexington, and Cincinnati 21c hotels, we’d like to visit the others — Durham, Louisville, OKC, Nashville (the newest), and soon, Kansas City. 
We had something to celebrate, so we went to supper at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, which is very close to the hotel. It’s ‘modeled after the 1940’s-era French Art Deco Steakhouses of New York City‘ and there was someone singing in the bar area. We were seated in this area:

Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, Cincinnati OH//

butter, and truffle garlic butter for the bread

Shugie had the crab bisque, which he loved

Av had a perfect, perfect, perfect steak
Steak, Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, Cincinnati OH//

We all shared the Potatoes Anna which is absolutely so pretty (so pretty that we saw it served at another table and had to ask what it was so we could have one)
Potatoes Anna at Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, Cincinnati OH//

I just wasn’t in the mood for a steak or salad, so had a hamburger (which I rarely order anywhere) which was so incredibly good
Hamburger and French Fries, chJeff Ruby's Steakhouse, Cincinnati OH//

We had just a lovely, lovely supper and walked back to the hotel to take in more art before bed.

Oh — and since we were in Cincinnati, we found a Graeter’s for a little ice cream the next day

Back to the hotel: Pableaux Johnson wrote for the NYT Come for the Guest Rooms. Stay for the Art Galleries. about the small 21c hotel collection:

The multiple locations significantly increase operational complexity, because different historic venues impose structural limitations on which works can be shown, and exhibitions are often reinterpreted as they move between locations. A show that works well on the former factory floor in Oklahoma City might not lend itself to Lexington’s taller spaces.

Mr. Wilson, Ms. Brown and Ms. Stites also travel with acquisition in mind; exhibition inventories frequently change, and the collection evolves. “We’re always on the lookout for new work that will welcome, intrigue and inspire,” Ms. Stites said. “Contemporary art is getting more global in nature, and we want to find a way to integrate it into daily life. We can’t really understand our times until we look back, so we need artists to help us look ahead.”

…and Conde Nast Traveler on Why Nashville’s Hotel Scene Is Hotter Than Ever mentions the new 21c there *and* another I’d really like to give a try: the Thompson

The New 21c Museum Hotel: Lexington, Kentucky

On our last trip to Kentucky, we stayed at the 21c Museum Hotel in Lexington. It’s right downtown, walkable to everything, and only turned a year old last month.

Upon entrance: this SOFTlab Spectralline light sculpture

Softline: Spectraline at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

this seating area features a Tord Boonjte ice branch chandelier
Tord Boonjte: Ice Branch Chandelier at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

Nice Cave Soundsuit
Nick Cave: Soundsuit (2007) at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

Nick Cave: Soundsuit, at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

Our room — comfortable but not plush, and for whatever reason didn’t come across as quite as much fun or quirky as our 21c room in Bentonville

There were TCHO chocolates on the bed, and Malin and Goetz bath products

Shugie was with us on this trip, and he got to move the blue penguins around — here on the elevator

and another was thoughtfully delivered to our room by a staffer so we played around for a while

view from our room

We explored all the art spaces. A small fraction posted here (and they change exhibits often), but on this visit:

a Mariu Palacios

Yinko Shonibare
Yinka Shonibare's Coffin Sculptures at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

…these are Ebony G Patterson coffin sculptures
Yinka Shonibare's Coffin Sculptures at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

Yinka Shonibare: The Age of Enlightenment, at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

more Ebony G Patterson works:
Ebony G Patterson works, at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

Ebony G Patterson works, at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

blue penguins were stationed in the galleries to admire the art
Blue Penguins Admiring Art, at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

Blue Penguins Admiring Art, at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

Here, the hotel’s Lockbox restaurant
Lockbox Restaurant at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

Lockbox Restaurant at Lexington KY 21c Museum Hotel//

…and out front, a Pieke Bergman ‘Totally in Love’ light sculpture (I think I see another of his sculptures going up in downtown Huntsville, Alabama, but haven’t gotten close enough to be certain)
Pieke Bergman: Totally in Love at 21c Museum Hotel in Lexington KY//

Howard Finster and Paradise Gardens

We made it to Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens! It was wonderful!

Howard Finster was born and grew up in Alabama, but he moved to Pennville, Georgia as an adult and transformed what used to be a dump into his own evangelical art environment.  Well, I’m getting ahead of myself.  His schooling ended when he finished sixth grade and as a teenager he became a traveling preacher, and that eventually took him to Georgia.  In his thirties, he started making his own miniature buildings and religious assemblages, and when he moved to Pennville he took those and that was the start of Paradise Gardens, which he at that time called ‘Plant Farm Museum’.

Below is a pic of the World’s Folk Art Church – some people call it the chapel, and Finster used to perform weddings there.  It started out as a ‘regular’ church, and he bought it with money he received from a NEA grant.  He added to it after getting a vision of it having extra floors and a big steeple…

This is a *great* video of Finster on the Johnny Carson show:

Reverend George Kornegay – House of Apocalypse

One of the least-mentioned art/visionary environments here in Alabama is the one made by Rev. George Kornegay, the “House of the Apocalypse”.

He’s a preacher affiliating with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and received a message from G-d in 1960 to make his art in order to communicate his message more clearly. Along with his home, the environment he built is called “House of the Apocalypse”. It is in Brent, Alabama.

It’s really a shame, because today so many of his pieces are broken or just missing. It looks like at least 75% of what used to be there is just gone. The whole place has been neglected.

There used to be one piece called “electric chair” or “capital punishment”, which was made up of an electric stove with a figure representing a man rested on the burners. It was nowhere to be found.

The Reverend’s daughter Annie lives at the house now. I tried to carry on a conversation with her, that I knew a little about her family and how the Reverend was her father and had given her this place and that I thought it was wonderful & blah blah blah, but hoo-wee! She does not enjoy company. People who build environments in their front yard 99% of the time want to interact with visitors but Annie is very protective of what her father had built (forget that it has been neglected to the -nth degree) and does not want people coming up to view it. Perhaps she comes across as angry when it is that she is afraid that visitors will take what is left, and her feelings may be rightfully so from what I saw. Such a shame.

Dreamland, Doe’s, and Lots of Kentuck

I had never been to the original Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, so before we went to Kentuck, Av drove us over.

Interior, Dreamland in Tuscaloosa (the original)

There are other Dreamlands – Birmingham, Huntsville, Northport, Mobile, Montgomery – and now there are two in Georgia (Peachtree Corners and Roswell)! The ones in other locations serve chicken and sides – this original Dreamland location in Tuscaloosa serves just ribs and bread, Golden Flake chips, and ‘nana puddin.

Elvis and Nixon Pic on Wall at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa AL
The King definitely would have liked Dreamland.

Ribs & Bread, Dreamland in Tuscaloosa

When the football season started, we heard on the radio broadcasts that Doe’s Eat Place was going to be in Tuscaloosa (Doe’s was sponsoring some play, or something….like how Verizon does the ‘best call’….something like that).

Av and I just looked at each other the first time we heard that – we were like….Doe’s….in T-town?….can it be?

Well, sure enough, there *is* going to be a Doe’s Eat Place in Tuscaloosa.

I went to Doe’s website, and I knew there was one in Little Rock and Lafayette, but there are others now – in College Station, Tulsa, Hot Springs, Fayette, Fort Smith, and Bentonville.

We didn’t go into the one in Lafayette when we were there in August, but I saw when we drove by that they had white tablecloths….

At the *original* Doe’s, you eat in ancient chairs at ancient rickety tables, you order from memory – we always split a porterhouse, Av gets fries, and we share tamales. As you walk in the door, the steaks are cooking *right there next to you*, if you go in the room just past the front entrance, the waitresses are making salads *right next to you*.

The steaks are amazing (everything is amazing), everybody is super-nice, and everybody talks about football – what more could a person ask for? If G-d told you an hour before you were going to die that you could go anywhere you wanted for a final meal, you’d say “first, can I have more than an hour? Because I need to get over to Doe’s.”

Anyway. That’s my love sonnet to Doe’s.

We’ll be in Greenville later this month or in early November, so I’ll take some pics and post them then.

So we finally got to Kentuck! Yay! Here are pics:

This is Holden McCurry‘s booth – his tower sculptures are really great.

This booth above was Jack Beverland. He does these bumpy pieces that glow in the dark. This one is of cotton pickers.

The pic above and the two below are the work of Jimmy Descant. We are always totally wowed by his art.

Below: microphone lamp. Cool.


Myrtice West at Kentuck Festival of the Arts, Northport AL

This pic above and the couple below are of Myrtice West and her art – she is just *amazing*. A lot of her art includes Jesus, but we found and bought one of Moses on Mt. Sinai receiving the ten commandments (mitzvot). I am just so enamored with her art.

This pic above is from Tom Haney‘s booth. You *have* to go to his website to see his automated pieces.

This pic above is of Ab the Flagman’s booth.

Project Alabama at Kentuck Festival of the Arts, Northport AL

This pic above is of the Project Alabama booth (I heart Project Alabama – they were nominated for the 2005 Fashion Design Award from New York’s Cooper-Hewitt museum, named finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award, and UPS sponsored their first-ever runway show this year), but thing is – see that dress that the people above are looking at? – it’s $16000. And it seemed like every person that left that booth turned to the person they were with as if to say, “did you see that dress? yes. $16000.”

This pic above is of a piece that we almost bought. It’s by Kreg Yingst, and it’s this great piece about Hank Williams. Oh, I wanted that one.

Art car (and art) by Chris Hubbard

Yvonne Wells

Yvonne Wells and her quilts

Av bought a piece from Lonnie Holley a couple of years ago, and Lonnie stood there for five or ten minutes turning it over and telling Av all the symbolism of the piece. He’s a total genius.

York Show Prints at Kentuck Festival of the Arts, Northport AL
Above, York Show Prints – we got one print for a show that Kathryn Tucker Windham did, and another that had Sambo Mockbee’s “proceed and be bold” statement on it that had been done for the Rural Studio. When we bought the prints, we were invited to make our own print on the machine.  Oh – one more thing – YeeHaw Industries from Chattanooga was at Kentuck, and we got four small pieces of theirs. I’ll take pics and post those later. We had a wonderful time!

Ave Maria Grotto, The Most Wonderful Religious Folk Art, in Cullman AL

Colisseum in Miniature at Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman AL//

My interest in religious folk art started when I first visited the amazing works of Brother Joseph Zoettl in my hometown – I’ve probably been there thirty times or more. His works have been written about countless times; people come from all over the country – all over the world – to see his creations. 

There are so many great folk art displays here in the South….I’ll post pics of more places soon.

In super-wonderful news, I got an email last week from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art – my fav museum – in New Orleans that everything is okay; there really wasn’t a flooding problem where they’re located and they weren’t broken into. Yay!

BTW, pics I’ve taken of Margaret’s Grocery are here; pics of William C. Rice’s Cross Garden are here; I’ll post pics of Palestine Gardens soon.

Ave Maria Grotto is on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey (it’s “bernerd”, not “Ber-nard”, like Bernard Parrish or the Saint Bernard dog) in Cullman, AL. All the pieces in the Grotto are the works of Brother Joseph Zoettl, a monk at the abbey, who had a hunchback due to an accident he had as a child. Luckily, this injury made it more comfortable for him to work on miniatures, which he started as a hobby. As the interest in his creations grew, the abbey dedicated space for him to be able to make and display even more of his works.

People would send him all kinds of things help build his models, and he used everything – marbles to dishes to shells and even toilet floats. A truly great folk artist.

Brother Zoettl died in 1961 after completing about 125 works.

It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to walk through the Grotto; the distance is actually pretty short, but there’s so much to look at you’ll want to stop and view everything. Admission is $5 for adults (if you have a AAA card, it’s $4).

All of the pics from Ave Maria Grotto are in a set here on Flickr.