Ai Weiwei and ATX sculptures, dazzling public art in Austin


I love seeing public artsculpture, murals, earthwork, any kind! — and often drag family members out to see new works.

Last evening, I headed downtown to the Waller Creek boathouse on Lady Bird Lake to view a trippy new work by Chinese artist and human-rights advocate Ai Weiwei. Forever Bicycles, a crystalline tower of 1,254 silver bicycles, seems to radiate into space like rays of light.


According to Waller Creek Conservancy, which is sponsoring the exhibition in partnership with The Contemporary Austin:

This sculpture takes as its subject the Forever brand bicycle, once ubiquitous on the streets of Beijing. A means of not only transportation but also social mobility and a coveted luxury item when the artist was growing up in China, in contemporary times the Forever bicycle has given way to aspirations of car ownership. Given this context, the installation here imparts poignant commentary through 1,200 of these nostalgic objects assembled into a gorgeous, dizzying sculpture, whose wheels are now frozen in perpetual cycle.


A path runs through the sculpture, allowing views from inside.


Wheels and sky


Austin is a biking town, and the sculpture overlooks the popular hike-and-bike trail around Lady Bird Lake.


Forever Bicycles is on long-term loan, as well as another of Weiwei’s works, Iron Tree Trunk, which is on display at Laguna Gloria’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park.


On the way home, we stopped at the Whole Foods at 5th and Lamar Blvd. to see the colorful atx — a popular abbreviation for Austin, TX — that appeared recently on the street corner.


Sponsored by Whole Foods and created by Ion Art, the rainbow-striped sculpture is already a popular spot for selfies and sharing Austin pride.


Which is exactly what we did.


Public art adds beauty, joy, wonder, and a feeling of creativity to our public places, and maybe even makes you think. I appreciate individuals, businesses, arts organizations, and cities that sponsor it.

Fellow Austinites, do you know of any other interesting public artworks that I should go visit this summer? And if anyone’s looking for cool works to go visit, here’s a link to public art I’ve written about in Austin and elsewhere.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Turning a neighborhood median strip into a garden


A few years ago I toured Colleen Jamison’s beautiful garden in central-west Austin, and a few days ago I had the pleasure of a revisit. It is still wonderful! But here’s what wowed me before I even stepped foot in her garden: a median strip down the middle of her street that she’s transformed, little by little, into a garden for her neighbors and passersby to enjoy.


Wow, just look at this lovely space, with staggered benches inviting one to rest under an allée of crepe myrtles. Colleen says she started planting the median years ago to block an unwelcome view of trucks parked directly across the street from her house. And then she just kept expanding it.


As you’d expect, the median lacks a water source for irrigation, so Colleen chose tough, mostly native plants that can thrive without regular watering once they’re established, like Mexican feathergrass and crepe myrtle, shown here, as well as retama, Texas mountain laurel, iris, blue mistflower, prickly pear, and agave. (Note: she does water new plants by hand until they’re established.)

Colleen’s eye for design is evident in the repetition and massing of relatively few species of plants, which also makes maintenance easier, and in the way she breaks up the bowling-alley effect of a long, narrow space by zigzagging benches along the length and creating a focal-point mound of blue mistflower in the center of the path.


The blue mistflower mound marks the end of the crepe myrtle allée and the start of a retama allée.


Turning around and looking back toward the middle, you get to enjoy the effect all over again.


So inviting! And so well maintained too.


The allée pathway widens in the midsection of the median to embrace both sides of the street, inviting access.


Directly across from Colleen’s garden, the median is more densely planted in cottage-garden style — the better to hide those trucks! Actually, the trucks may be long gone now, but this was the earliest section she planted, and it’s lush with Texas mountain laurel, prickly pear, iris, and agave. A metal sunflower makes a cheerful accent.


From the median, here’s the charming view of Colleen’s house and front garden. What a gift she’s given to the neighborhood with her own garden and the median garden.


For fun, here are a couple more images from Colleen’s garden, including a ruffled kalanchoe in a mint-green vase…


…and this peaceful side-yard garden with a classical fountain, a pillow-strewn bench for comfortable lounging, and masses of pretty shade-garden plants.

Don’t you wish you were Colleen’s neighbor?

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

Wildflower fields abloom at Wildseed Farms


A wildflower photo safari is my springtime ritual, and I especially like to drive out to the Texas Hill Country to photograph wildflowers against the rugged hills, rocks, and prickly pear. This spring, thanks to a mild winter, Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) are carpeting roadsides a few weeks early, so there was no time to lose if I wanted to see our state flower in its blue splendor.


Here’s what a field of bluebonnets looks like — sparkling blue heaven.


Unfortunately, while I saw plenty of bluebonnets along the roadsides from Spicewood to Llano, there was nowhere to safely pull over to photograph them, and I didn’t see any fields in bloom. Even scenic Willow City Loop off Highway 16 was downright sparse.


Happily, there’s always Wildseed Farms just east of Fredericksburg, where you can view farm fields of wildflowers, which they grow for their seed-selling operation. (Here’s my obligatory annual pickup truck-and-wildflowers picture.)


Right now Wildseed Farms has fields of bluebonnets and corn poppies in full flower.


Yesterday’s high winds made photographing the long-stemmed poppies challenging.


I always like spotting a few pink poppies amid the red ones.


I’ll leave you with a view of Enchanted Rock, which always deserves a detour if you’re driving Highway 16 north of Fredericksburg.

For my previous wildflower safaris, check out these blog posts:
Wildflower drive through the Texas Hill Country, March 2016
An Easter wildflower safari, April 2015
Wildflower safari in the Hill Country, April 2010
Texas wildflower Bloom Day, April 2010

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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