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Austin Art Yards Keep This City Weird


artyards04-17-11.jpgLast weekend was the 2011 Austin Art Yards Tour, and of course I had to attend. I offered my sons a chance to escape weekend chores and join me, and they found much to interest them, entertain them, and even creep them out. Yes, Austin is weird, and I have proof.

artyardt04-17-11.jpgAnd I'll add this -- it was hot and bright. So in addition to thanking all the kind folks who opened their yards (and sometimes even homes) to visitors, I'd like to thank Vince of the Cathedral of Junk for the lemonade and the others who offered water to my kids. Very kind and much appreciated!

artyardzc04-17-11.jpgThis is a compilation of the 2011 tour -- a scattering of images throughout the fun and funky weekend, from wheelbarrow altars and art...


to servings of Justice-League heroes...

artyardd04-17-11.jpgto bottle-lined labyrinths that weave you through a peaceful veggie garden.

artyardb04-17-11.jpgSeveral art yards touted the classic yard art, the flamingo, typically pink but not always.

artyardc04-17-11.jpgOthers offered variations, including the rare tire flamingo...


And the elusive mosaic flamingo:


Barbie-eating monsters,


a samurai warrior...


and a rather menacing cat statue added to the interest of the day.

artyardzg04-17-11.jpgIf none of this appeals to you yet, how about a banana phone-toting gorilla?


A giant praying mantis, perhaps?

artyardzh04-17-11.jpgSeveral houses had bottle-lined garden beds and pathways, while others used bowling balls to create a colorful edge. I'm pretty sure that I saw enough bowling balls over the weekend to fill three bowling alleys.


And we mustn't forget the ever-popular bottle trees and bottle... flowers?


Doll heads and body parts were another popular theme, and this is where the creepy comes in.

artyardq04-17-11.jpgOne or two doll heads, not so creepy.

artyardzn04-17-11.jpgBut a yard full of them = creeeeeeeepy.

artyardl04-17-11.jpg artyardr04-17-11.jpgEven my teenager got a little weirded out, saying "I do not want to be in the garden of someone who could think this up." My youngest son instead says, "It is awesome."

artyardm04-17-11.jpgOne of my favorite artistic creations was a chimney-displayed cicada, made of an old ironing board, lamp fixtures, iron plates, and other reused metal parts.

artyardi04-17-11.jpgAt the Museum of Ephemerata, we enjoyed bathtub ponds and waterfalls, along with a tour of curios and oddities held in collection by the home-based museum, including hair from Elvis Presley, a gigantic bean pod, a Marilyn Monroe ciggie butt, and... err... animals in different states of preservation. Definitely a fun place to visit, and their museum helps bring the weird to our weird city.

artyardj04-17-11.jpgAt the Faist Plaist, a sloping firepit under a giant, open disco-ball adorned bamboo teepee really shows a spark of genius, if you will.


Happily our Austin icon, the Cathedral of Junk, is open again, having made structural changes and gone through legal who-knows-what to appease city code officials and neighbors. Here's the new sign at the backyard entrance:


The Cathedral still has much of its flavor and appeal, minus some of the sheer mass it once bore.artyardo04-17-11.jpg artyardza04-17-11.jpgFor a look back at the Cathedral at its zenith, as the sign says, please visit my previous Cathedral post.


artyardzl04-17-11.jpg Several professional artists invited tour-goers to their yard art/galleries.

artyardu04-17-11.jpg artyardv04-17-11.jpg artyardz04-17-11.jpg

One mosaic artist has taken on the task of beautifying Austin streets, starting with the bridge beside her home.

artyardzi04-17-11.jpgIn another neighborhood, this impressive wall at Sparky Park hides a less-attractive electrical sub-station.

artyardzd04-17-11.jpgA few other images from throughout the day:


artyardzj04-17-11.jpg artyardx04-17-11.jpg artyardzk04-17-11.jpg artyardy04-17-11.jpg artyardzm04-17-11.jpg artyardzo04-17-11.jpgI think one of the best things about this tour was how you really had to sharpen your observation skills or you'd miss some of the best art and fun. Unless of course, you're looking at a giant chicken. That one's hard to miss!


Thanks, Austin!

And Now For Something Really Different


Exhausted from our school's habitat Dig Day, we nevertheless got up the next morning to begin another busy day. Birthday brunch at the in-laws, followed by taking our dogs to hunt for doggy-treat-filled Easter eggs at the Austin Begg Hunt, followed by a visit to the Zilker Garden Festival, followed by a tour of an Austin landmark, followed by seeing a movie. Did we do anything after that? If we did, I seriously blocked it out. I'm not even sure I ate dinner that night.

While I have pictures from throughout the day, what I really want to show you is the Austin landmark we visited. Known as the Cathedral of Junk, this pile of objects from former days of glory forms a 3-story arrangement of rooms and look-out points. The South Austin residence and artistic structure is owned by Vince Hanneman, who began building a creation of junk in 1988, and visitors have helped it grow substantially ever since.

junkp03-28-10.jpgUpon arrival, visitors get a taste of the weird from the very front of the residence. There are interesting objects in the front yard, including a collection of cycling trophies above the front door, but the real fun begins when one enters the backyard. I was amused by the Praying Mantis (I think that's what it is) eating the Wildlife Habitat sign.

junkh03-28-10.jpgThe chickens in their coop kept a close eye on our dogs. I wonder if at night they are released as guard birds.


Earlier in the day, I greatly admired an arbor covered in thousands of gorgeous yellow flowers at the Zilker Botanical Garden. I couldn't believe it when I saw an arbor covered in the same yellow flowers right there at the Cathedral of Junk of all places. I wonder if this is the same flower that Rock Rose has, Lady Banks.

junkl03-28-10.jpgBeside the flowers, a surfboard stands adorned with the signatures of countless visitors to the Cathedral of Junk. Had I had any sort of pen, I'd have signed it, too.

junkm03-28-10.jpgAnd from there one begins to explore the cathedral itself. It's quite an impressive contraption, wired and welded and cemented strategically. To some it might look potentially dangerous, but I felt quite confident that its builders had built the structure quite soundly.


There are a variety of rooms and passageways, with hanging discs and other objects to bring colorful light inside.

junkw03-28-10.jpgA few ladders and steps allow visitors to reach various vantage points and different levels.

junkx03-28-10.jpgI think one could visit the Cathedral of Junk 100 times and always see something different, and it's one of the qualities I find particularly appealing.

junkn03-28-10.jpg junkt03-28-10.jpgObjects range from the odd...



junkg03-28-10.jpg(I really don't want to know what the squirrel in this next image is doing...)

junkc03-28-10.jpgto the strangely endearing...



junkf03-28-10.jpgto the downright creepy.



My husband pointed out that this receiver was once a really nice one back in the day.

junko03-28-10.jpgMy son enjoyed being the King of Junk for a moment.

junkr03-28-10.jpgWe climbed a ladder to a second-story room...

junku03-28-10.jpg and found a bedroom of sorts.

junks03-28-10.jpgFrom the back of the cathedral, one really gets an idea of the true scale of the structure.

junkz03-28-10.jpg junkza03-28-10.jpgThere's also an altar of sorts in the back created as a memorial to those only there in spirit. Nearby is about the only good use for ligustrum I've seen... as a table.


One of the things I liked was that my son got to see some objects I remembered from my youth. He got to type on an old typewriter (ok, the typewriter was actually way older than me), and he even got to ride a little horse (I warned him I'd take a picture for the blog if he dared to get on it!).

junky03-28-10.jpgOn the way out, this giant bird looming over us through bamboo seemed to be watching us a little too closely.

junki03-28-10.jpgAs we exited, we left a small donation for the owner. It absolutely is an awesome place to visit. 

While I was incredibly impressed by careful and artistic arrangement of objects at the Cathedral of Junk, apparently one visitor from awhile back did not think so, for a complaint to the city officials has led to some urgent adjustments to get the Cathedral up to code to avoid dismantling. It's this reason we visited this particular weekend -- knowing the possibility that the Cathedral might be shut down for good, we knew we wanted to see it right away.

But Cathedral of Junk fans are working every day to make the necessary changes to get the Cathedral up to code, and other groups are showing their support in a variety of ways. They know that there's substantial value (not necessarily of the monetary kind) to this pile of junk, and if ever there is a place that Keeps Austin Weird, this is it.


Meredith O'Reilly happily
gardens for wildlife in
Austin, TX. She enjoys
educating people of all ages
about native flora, fauna,
and healthy environments.

Nature Blog Network


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