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Austin's Cathedral of Junk, constructed by artist Vince Canneman in a south Austin neighborhood (Photograph by Dennis Cox, Alamy)

Austin’s Outsider Art

The Texas capital’s many music clubs host live performances every night of the year—and multiple times an evening during March’s annual South by Southwest festival. But Austin’s HOPE Outdoor Gallery showcases a very different creative output: artists legally spray-painting on a three-story abandoned construction site.

Dragons, anime heroines, and the occasional “Will you marry me?” cover concrete foundations that sprawl down the hillside. “The way the park looks can change every 48 hours,” says Andi Scull Cheatham, a local artist who spearheaded the concept.

Folksy visuals are at home in other corners of this proudly weird city, including Yard Dog Art, a 20-year-old gallery trafficking in outsider pieces, such as local painter Brian Salvi‘s haunting oil-on-plywood portraits of Native American leaders, and rocker Jon Langford‘s textured paintings of musicians. (During SXSW, Yard Dog hosts daytime concerts and barbecue bashes.)

But the quirkiest masterpiece in Austin might be the Cathedral of Junk, an appointment-only installation in artist Vince Hannemann’s backyard. Old tires, rubber ducks, and box springs unite in a sci-fi movielike “garden,” a space that’s both gritty and pretty, much like Austin itself.

This piece, written by Jennifer Barger, first appeared in Traveler magazine’s February 2015 issue. 

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