Thursday, March 18, 2010

Benini Sculpture Ranch

Yesterday we drove over to the Benini Galleries and Sculpture Ranch. We'd heard from others in the park that it's a good nearby place to explore, so off we went.

Just a short distance west of Johnson City we took CR-204 south from US-290. CR-204 is macadam, but increasingly narrow and minimalist the further south we went. The Sculpture Ranch is about 5 miles down this road.

It's common in these parts to build tertiary roads right down and through creek beds with no bridge or culvert to carry water under the roadway. When heavy rains fill the creek, it flows right over the road through the dip created for this purpose. Often, a flood gauge is provided (1 ft., 2 ft., 3 ft., etc.) so drivers have some idea how deep the water is. But this is Texas and most Texans don't bother with the flood gauge, I'm told, and just blast their big pick-up trucks right through any amount of water that happens to be covering the road -- no dang creek is going to stop a Texan. There are a couple of these dips through creek beds along CR-204, but no water on the road today --  a good thing for explorers with a low-clearance Ford Focus.

So, who is Benini? Originally from Italy, he found his way to the USA in the 70's and to Texas in the late 90's. [For more information, click here.] He and his wife Lorraine purchased these 140 acres in the Texas Hill Country in 1999 and now make this their home. Besides their home, they have an indoor art gallery for paintings and sculpture as well as the outdoor sculpture ranch. Admission is free, and it's open to the public Thursday through Sunday every week.

We started by wandering through the indoor galleries, perusing the works of Benini and many other artist that display their pieces here. But most of our time was spent walking through the hills and open spaces of the sculpture ranch, playing hide and seek with the big outdoor sculptures of dozens of artists. One of the highlights was the view from the top of the highest hill on the property. Additional sculptures pepper the hilltop and amuse while you take in the broad vistas of the surrounding countryside below. This spot is also where Benini and Lorraine have their home. [to view other pieces in the Sculpture Ranch, click here.]

As a strong left-brained person, I'm sure I didn't understand or appreciate this art as completely as others might. But we sure enjoyed the long walk through the Hill Country and being surprised by what we found on the other side of almost every hill. And the incongruity of these brightly colored and modernistic sculptures sprinkled around rough and tumble cowboy country made me smile.

Dar has other photos from the day in an online photo album. Enjoy!

Thom

p.s.  I found a link to a list of sculpture parks in Wikipedia and was surprised to find there are many more than I thought. Most States in the USA have more than one. Are there any near you?