Having just returned from Barcelona where Gaudí’s architectural creations are front and center, I immediately recognized the inspiration for Tim Sullivan’s Ranchito Cascabel—definitely Gaudí. Words—non-linear, fanciful, colorful, original, childlike, playful, detailed, artistic—don’t do justice to this one-of-a-kind complex architectural creation on four acres. This is where pictures and, perhaps, our watercolor paintings and pastels convey more than the most carefully crafted sentences can.
You know that you have entered another world when giant rattlesnakes (cascabels) “greet”, or perhaps, more likely, “want to eat” you as you walk past. Early in this now multi-decade project, the herpetological art of Texas artist, William Montgomery, was an inspiration for the theme of rattlesnakes. Steve Kornher of Flying Concrete and one of his maestros, Martin, along with the construction crew created these giant and very life-like rattlesnakes. Tim is considering adding more serpents—Rancho Cascabel is very much a fluid and still work-in-progress project.
This larger than life sculpture by Czech artist Katerina Piñosová, Katka for short, titled “The Sirens” greets you if you make it past the rattlesnakes. I recognized her art having seen several examples in a previously sketched San Miguel garden. To build these huge concrete garden sculptures, Katka uses a traditional technique of re-bar and wire mesh armature. She does add PVA or PP fibers to the concrete to prevent it from cracking finally coating the figure with a silicon sealer.
So how does the work of a Czech artist end up in multiple gardens in San Miguel? First, a little backtracking—one of Tim’s neighbors is Steve Kornher owner of Flying Concrete. They have been collaborating on Tim’s project from the beginning when Tim saw and liked the “roundie-curvie” houses that Steve was building. I’ll let Steve, in a few sentences from his website, tell you about the collaboration:
“Both Tim and I are interested in stretching the
possibilities of concrete. It has been an evolutionary, spontaneous,
design-as-you-go type project. We do work from modeling clay models but often
make them in the morning for work to be done in the afternoon.”
“I’ve been responsible for the basic forms, working from Tim’s “footprints”. He has been doing the colors and a lot of the finish work. We have worked together on most all designs.”
So continuing with the answer to how does the work of a Czech artist end up in multiple San Miguel gardens—Katka studied with Steve Kornher here in San Miguel and word got around.
Tim has incorporated the work of many outstanding artists and craftsmen from near and far away. The careful and creative details of window design and trencadís style tile work definitely remind me of Gaudí. Even the walls are wildly creative—here is a privacy wall sprouting mushrooms.
Linda painted in this area but faced a different direction and included details of the privacy wall as it morphs into a door as well as some of the mature plants that with their shades of green create smooth transitions between the arresting sculptures and whimsical buildings.
Blog readers seem to enjoy the back-stories about the gardens so here is a little history to give some context. Tim grew up in Dallas, Texas, and was in the telecommunications industry before moving to San Miguel about 26 years ago—a brave move for a young family with a six-year-old and three-year-old twins. They settled in Centro and soon Tim started looking for rural property for weekend use. Robert Haas convinced Tim to buy the four acres next to his six acres. At the time there was a pig farm across the road and Bob preferred anything but another pig farm in the neighborhood.
Tim had a young family and a great appreciation for Gaudi’s work and when he met neighbor, Steve Kornher, who built creative concrete structures a partnership was born. Over the years there have been large and small projects…the undulating wall, a maze, a theater for performances, a bocce ball court, and gingerbread-like houses. During this one visit, we could only capture with our art a few of the many photo or art worthy creations.
We heartily thank Tim for inviting us to visit, enjoy, and paint in this spectacularly creative place. Still a work in progress, I’m sure there are more surprises in store in the future.
Often the first question from others is, “Can I visit Ranchito Cascabel?” Yes and no. This is private property that is not open to the public except for tours arranged in advance by Mexico Magico Tours http://www.mexicomagicotours.com/museoartepopular.html
Steve Kornher has detailed photos of most of the collaborative projects at Ranchito Cascabel on his website or just google Ranchito Cascabel to see more images.