Nasher Sculpture Garden

Been wanting to visit the Nasher since it opened in Dallas next door to the DMOA but have not had an opportunity to catch it open - until yesterday. A beautiful spring day, not too many people, and it did not disappoint. The building by Renzo Piano is terrific enough, with all the subtle classical / contemporary beauty and subdued natural lighting of Kahn's Kimball in Ft.Worth. Not as astounding to me personally as Ando's Ft. Worth Modern but still I really appreciated the restraint and deference of the building to the collection. The grounds are pristine; some of the varieties of trees are sculpture in themselves. A boardwalk under a huge weeping willow is its own environment. I'm partial to bamboo anyway and long screens of manicured bamboo in gray river rock beds are to drool over.
I especially wanted to see Turrel's commissioned skyspace. Basically just a small room with a hole in the roof. But what a hole. He's done quite a few of these now and the premise is that a paper thinned edge reveals a patch of sky from below as a plane on the ceiling. Unless there are some reference points like clouds, a plane passing by, etc. it is impossible to tie down exactly what it is you are seeing. It doesn't look like blue sky but some strange new velvety material you've never seen. The execution is almost - but not quite - perfect. Unfortunately, conceptual things like this need to be perfect to even have a reason to exist. The sky yesterday was an average bright, light blue. The edges of the hole are thin but still visible, open joints in the interior of the minimalist room necessary for rainwater drainage and subtle holes for security cameras are small but still are distracting in Hi-rez real life reality. Later in the day as the sky color deepens and in "golden minutes of opportunity" it must be really memorable. In actuality it photographs beautifully even by hacks like me with a point and shoot camera. Maybe losing the 3rd dimension heightens the way that a simple hole in the roof reads as a whole 'nother entity. It requires a shift of perception to appreciate. Genius or stupidity depending on your point of view. Worth another visit to see in different conditions.

The thing that impressed me the most about the visit was that it is obvious that millions were spent on the site, the building, and the collection yet the art is extremely accessible. No rope barriers surround the pieces. Guards were posted all over but were friendly. Walking on the grass and through the negative spaces of several of the larger sculptures is actually encouraged. Signs said no food and drink or flash photography but still photos and sketching of the pieces by students are welcome. Families with small kids were all over and as I left a large group of small kids showed up and were met with smiles by the staff instead of expressions of terror. A temporary piece is of a virtual solid curtain of floating stainless steel text hanging by thin lines that completely cut the building down the middle; there was no way to get to the other side without pushing your way through the piece like a walk through wind chime. To me, the concept of the piece by a south american artist was highbrow and irrelevant. The fact that visitors and children could actually touch it, make it tinkle and were basically forced to interact with it was really refreshing. Small signs discouraged touching of the bronzes for obvious tarnishing reasons and I'm sure climbing on anything by little heathens would be quickly dealt with too but all in all the center has a nicely laid back presentation.
Out in the garden I was appreciating an up-close look at a Richard Serra pair of arcing steel slabs, wondering how in the hell slabs of steel so massive can be formed, handled, shipped cross-country and then placed so delicately in balance with each other. I especially liked the fact that tong marks along the top edge of the bent plates are evidence of it's foundry birth and were left in place. The logistics of things like that will totally escape 95% of people. I was starting to walk through the narrow space between the steel walls when two little girls ran up wide-eyed and asked "Can we go in there?!" I said, "Oh yea, your supposed to!" pointing out the gravel walkway between. Being familiar with the acoustics inherent in his sculptures (the piece in Ft. Worth has amazing reverberant echos) I added "When you get to the middle you have to yell real loud." They gave me a leery eye but ran full throttle through the void squealing. Their parents met them at the other end with their mouths hanging open. The two little rats pointed me out; "You have to be real loud, HE said your sposed to!" Ahh... yes. I just shrugged my shoulders and laughed.
Note to artists: Please cut through all the crap, no art should take itself too serious if it is ever going to be really appreciated with joy. Check it out.



Framed up the mantle (already collecting junk) & hearth for a woodstove using antique brick from the Hubbard / Hill Cemetery at Hills Prairie on the floor. Quartz rocks and petrified wood from the claim will be the backdrop.

The screened porch with electrical and water heater closet is taking shape, destined to be our favorite room in the house.


building a better bottle wall

Have always admired bottle built walls and windows, a time honored folk art way of laying bottles up as masonry with grout. Poor man's stained glass. The bottle village in California is even on the national register of historic places. I've seen whiskey bottles used, beer bottles, coke bottles, wine bottles, even embalming fluid bottles in an old ghost town in Arizona. A bottle house in nearby Wimberley built entirely of coke bottles laid in patterns is a beautiful example. I had the idea to build a large window into the bathroom out of bottles and jars over the tub; it would form one long side of the shower and can shed water as well as glass block. The tub may actually end up perpendicular to it now because of a plumbing situation with the composting toilet we've selected but it will still serve the same purpose. Started with a healthy frame of full 2x material for weight and adequate depth well anchored to the 2x6 stud exterior wall. The bottles are laid up with a bed of mortar leaving exposed ends inside and out that will then be grouted with tile grout after we get all the bottles in. The inherent problem with bottle wall construction is if a full bottle is used then one side or the other is going to have an open neck. I've seen them alternated, with the necks pointing in, or the necks pointing out which makes for the prettiest exposure through the butts from the inside but makes for a great place for bugs, dirt, and moisture to accumulate. If one were able to cut them in half, turn two ends together so that there is a butt inside and out it will solve the open end problem and admit the maximum amount of light in the process but it means using twice as many bottles and lots of cutting. The benefits are worth the trouble though, the resulting "brick" is not argon filled low-e by any means but a 7-1/2" deep dead air space is pretty damn good insulation. Trial and error (and error) gave us an efficient process for making consistent clean cuts. Ronco sold a miracle bottle cutter over the TV when I was a kid, it was a piece of junk and didn't yield us a cabinet full of free drinking glasses, windchimes on the porch or flower vases for Mom but I seem to remember I had fun with it for a day or two. It was basically a jig to hold a glass cutter head a certain distance up from the base of the bottle, spinning the bottle with practice makes a nice even score around the bottle , a bent wire tapper inserted down the neck will finish the break. Sandpaper the sharp edges and Voila! - you just made an ugly drinking glass. I made a plywood jig half the height of the depth of the wall, attached a new glass cutter with screws and with practice it yields a very straight cut. Forget the tapping; the ringing of a bottle is of a deafening frequency and the break lines tended to wander. I have cut bottles before with an alcohol soaked string tied around the jar: light it and let it burn out to heat the glass at a precise line followed by a quick dunk in cold water. The temperature shock shatters the glass in a surprisingly clean line. Neat trick but no good for mass production. We tried holding the score over a candle and dunking in water; meh. Mixed results. More heat! More cold! Yin and yang, fire and ice. Spinning the score line over the low flame of a propane torch followed by a spin on an ice cube snaps that sucker right off. Any broken edges can be cleaned up with nippers. The halves are matched up for size, cleaned, left to dry and then taped together using adhesive stainless steel tape used for duct sealing, one of my new favorite essential materials after duct tape, baling wire and queso. The subsequent sealed joint is buried within the depth of the mortar bed. Mixing colors from end to end - half brown, half clear - gives us more of a color range to work with. Old Evian bottles from our stock at the gazebo are a great turquoise blue, the cobalt blue milk of magnesia, square ice blue gin bottles, lime green rolling rock and olive green wine bottles, and oversized brown Clorox bottles mix nicely. The light transmission is better than hoped for. We have no shortage of jars and bottles yet plus my beer selection of late has leaned towards the bottle color over brand in anticipation of this project. The son-in-laws have filled in the gaps with lots of green, clear and brown beer bottles. Road kill provided us with a large wine bottle and a stop at a BBQ joint turned up gallon jalapeno pepper jars that will let in a lot of light. Random sized round bottle ends form an intended visual connection with the mesquite log ends we will be laying the bathroom floor with. Now we have the family gathering bottle caps to grout down as a tiled vanity top for a similar theme at a smaller scale.