Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Benini Sculpture Ranch

We arrived at the Benini Studio and Sculpture Ranch near Johnson City after our backroads wildflower tour.  There are lots of ranches in Texas, but this ranch is very different.

For one thing the cattle are made of chrome and rusty metal.

This is "Paladin" by Texas artist Bettye Hamblen Turner

In 1999 Italian artist Benini and his wife Lorraine moved to Texas and began installing sculptures by artists from around the world on their ranch just outside Johnson City.

The tour begins at the beautiful on-site art gallery where the works of Benini and guest artists are on display.

I could have stood here and looked at this door all day

Beyond the door and into the gallery, we both loved this beautiful building and the artwork on display

After signing in visitors are invited to drive or walk the roads around the ranch to see the outdoor sculptures on display.

Some works are monumental like these hands named "Aspiration and Determination"

"Etruscan Warrior" is 21-feet tall

Other installations were delicate like "Dancers".  I think these would be perfect in my buffalo grass and wildflower lawn.  According to the website there were more dancers in this field, but some of them have been sold.  All the sculptures on display are available for purchase except those in the Benini personal collection.

A few paid homage to the Texas ranch setting

A very Texas "Bluebonnet" and behind the trees is "Five Bucks, One Blue".

Another view of "Five Bucks, One Blue"

"Texas Landscape"

Some pieces reflected typical Texas yard art style. This is "Ranching Memories" near the entrance

I was amused to find these painted roof vents which are a common theme in Texas yard art.  This is "Wee Three Kings" by Benini.

Many sculptures are kinetic, and the gentle breezes this day provided nice, slow paced movements.  Flowers and garden inspired pieces were a very high end version of yard art stuff we find at our favorite garden centers.

Most of the kinetic art is by La Paso who has completed a number of commissions in the area including some in San Antonio.  This one looked like a butterfly.

Contemporary pieces of cut metal play beautifully with our native oaks.

Some mimic our native limestone rocks

The road leads up to the residence high at the top of a hill

Visitors are welcome to walk around the yard to see the sculptures on display and enjoy the view.  This is one of several sculptures by Texas artist Ho Baron which were among my favorites on the ranch.

A horse sculpture by Bettye Hamblen Turner is stunning.  This one is "HI-Ho".  Hi-Ho Silver?  Or a possible reference to the work of fellow Texan Ho Baron nearby?

Bronzes overlooking the valley

 Contemporary steel on a pedestal against a background of trees


Behind the house is this chair sculpture "Waiting for Blue Moon" by Benini.

A view back at the hilltop near the house
Bring a picnic and enjoy lunch by the pond surrounded by world-class sculpture.  This is "Head Games" by Ho Baron.

Nearby is this mirror mosaic likeness of Benini

The Pod Series

"Table for One"


A detailed look at "Paladin" before we head out.

  Bull's eye!


More pieces along the road to the main gate

 Agaves by La Paso

The Benini Studio and Sculpture Ranch is currently for sale and will close permanently after Labor Day this year so the next few months will be the last chance to see this unique bit of Texas art history.  Update:  The Benini Sculpture Ranch did not close as scheduled in 2012 and remains open.

When we left the ranch we headed toward Johnson City and took advantage of a few more sights along the way.  This agave bloom by one of the gates to The Preserve at Walnut Springs next door reflects the steel agave bloom sculptures we had just seen along the gate road.

Real longhorns in the shade.

A bull sculpture by Bettye Hamblen Turner marks the turn at Hwy 290 near Johnson City.  This one was purchased and moved to this spot so it will remain on permanent display here at the entrance to The Preserve at Walnut Springs which is currently under development.

The Benini Ranch sculptures mix Texas Hill Country natural beauty with art that often mimics the landscape.


  1. Incredible sculptures and context for each. *Now* I remember a large part of the reason I wanted to visit your area this summer, and it had to happen before fall...could not remember why until this post! While "Paladin" grabs me the most, all seem nice how they are placed on that terrain. The heavy, humid-looking air really adds to the effect.

    1. We met some visitors from the coast who did complain about the weather, but we thoroughly enjoyed the unseasonable coolness and the great backdrop for photos.

  2. Very good tour. Some (in my opinion) good stuff...some not so much. Sometimes things live up to the old saw...'Art is in the eye of the beholder.'
    I do like 'Paladin' the most. But then, Longhorns in any form are art to me. :)
    I've seen the sculpture out on 290. It's a beauty.
    Thanks for the tour. Another place to put on our list to visit.

    1. It's not too far from you Linda so worth a side trip this summer although I would manage it gets quite hot out there in July!

  3. Wow! I've never heard of this ranch, but how interesting! I love the dancers!!! Sad that it will be closing permanently so soon!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the tour, I noted that you have just visited Cadillac Ranch and posted on your blog.

  4. Wonder where the other dancers are dancing today?

    1. Thanks for the question Diana, I have discovered there is an installation of dancers I can see right here in San Antonio.


  5. Fascinating! Some are so jarring against the landscape, but they really pull you in.

    1. The context is a major part of the draw and they are meant as a display of available work so not all work well in the setting.

  6. I enjoyed this tour a lot. My favorite was the dancers. I was surprised that Heather Jansch's sculptures were not here. The horse sculpture looks very much like her gorgeous work in driftwood.

    1. Heather Jansch's work with driftwood is very similar. Her driftwood sculptures are beautiful, soft, and appealing.

  7. Wow, something of everything. What a great ranch. I especially liked the 'Dancers' sculpture.

  8. Hi Shirley~ Thanks for visiting Johnson City and including the Preserve at Walnut Springs in your blog post. The Preserve is a 2,030 acre private community committed to preserving natural resources, rural character and Hill Country Heritage. With only 66 homesteads placed throughout 2,000+ acres, the Preserve offers a home in the Hill Country without disturbing the natural integrity of this beautiful land. We hope you will visit again, despite the Sculpture ranch closing. Our longhorn herd enjoys their picture taken and Flat Creek road is full of wildflowers in the spring time. Sadly the agave bloom is dying off now, but dozens of hummingbirds cherished the plant in its final days. www.walnut-springs.com
    Marketing Manager, Jasmin Arpin

  9. I think I would give just about anything to keep this beautiful treasure alive.


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