Texas Icons

Houston and San Antonio, by Brian Aldaco

With an initial rocky start of forgetting to pick up Brian from Willis, and having to turn back at Conroe which caused a delay of 25 minutes to our trip, we finally headed for Big Bend. To mark the first day of our West Texas Tour, we joined Mark Burns in Houston’s Hermann Park. What brings us to Hermann Park when our destination is Big Bend Canyon, you ask? In the middle of the entrance rotunda of the park, as some may remember from our previous Hermann Park visit, stands a statue of a horse-mounted General Sam Houston (created by Enrico Carracchio) that greets all visitors into the park.

Sam Houston, Mark Burns, SHSU, Hermann Park, Houston TX, LEAP Ambassadors

To honor the statue of this great Texas hero, Mr. Burns decided to photograph its grandeur.

Standing a few feet behind the camera-wielding Burns, we captured his photographic process through still and motion photography.

Sam Houston, Mark Burns, SHSU, Hermann Park, Houston TX, LEAP Ambassadors

This we will do along the trip as we continue to record Mr. Burns at his craft for his documentary.

Sam Houston, Mark Burns, SHSU, Hermann Park, Houston TX, LEAP Ambassadors

During his photo session, he explained to us how he framed the shot, pointing out different factors in the scene that could beautify his subject.

Sam Houston, Mark Burns, SHSU, Hermann Park, Houston TX, LEAP Ambassadors

He also mentioned how he was waiting for the perfect lighting conditions in the cloudy sky.

Sam Houston, Mark Burns, SHSU, Hermann Park, Houston TX, LEAP Ambassadors

After a few shots, we cleared the area, but not before taking some striking footage of Mark Burns. Mr. Burns soon finished his photoshoot in Hermann Park, and after showing some of his impressive photographic instruments, we climbed into our vans and headed towards San Antonio.

Along the way, however, we decided to soothe our grumbling stomachs with a short stop in Columbus, Texas. This quiet, quaint town, located about an hour west of Houston, is home to Keyser Market. Among other things, it is also home to an architecturally impressive courthouse. Even though we were unable to explore much of the town, we did enjoy a delicious sausage and chicken meal from Keyser. With our hunger satisfied, we got back on the road.

Soon, the country-land of vast pastures gave way to a network of highways; we had made it into San Antonio. On our first stop was the McNay Art Museum, located on the northeastern side of town.

McNay Museum, San Antonio TX, George Rickey, LEAP Center, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors

Before we began our trip, we learned that the McNay had recently acquired a Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture. Excited, we entered the museum with the plan to pose by this LEAP favorite artwork. But more on that later.

As always, we went through the museum’s exhibits identifying artists that we were familiar with. In the first room of artworks we were amazed with an art piece by Alexander Calder. Snake on a Table, is a bronze, snake-like sculpture designed by Calder that balances on a table top while standing upright. The physics that makes this possible are incomprehensible to us as the snake balanced precariously on the edge of the round table. Nonetheless, the beauty in balance was just as inspiring. In the room, we also noticed pieces from other LEAP favorites such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Diego Rivera.

McNay Museum, San Antonio TX, LEAP Center, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, Diego Rivera

We also saw work by a recent LEAP favorite, Jim Love…

McNay Museum, San Antonio TX, LEAP Center, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, Jim Love

…a Houston artist introduced to us by Betty Moody.

Moving on to the next room, we noticed two Pablo Picassos, Crouching Woman and Portrait of Sylvette. Acknowledging the impressive pieces, we decided to commemorate the artworks by LEAPosing for a photograph.

McNay Museum, San Antonio TX, LEAP Center, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, Picasso

Every artwork had its own beauty, but the two that called our attention were a Pablo Picasso from his “blue period” and a non-minimalist Piet Mondrian. These artworks that differed immensely from their typical paintings, demonstrated the versatility of the artists. As LEAP offers eclectic opportunities to its students, we like to think that we are also versatile. Weather our varying talents include photography, you will have to judge our photos throughout the trip to answer this question.

In the meantime, we continued to explore the museum’s awe-inspiring collection. Before heading off to the sculpture garden on the grounds, we took a quick look at the south-western exhibit. We found the warm colors in the pieces to be soothing. Within the exhibit, we also marveled at a few artworks by Georgia O’Keeffe.

With the indoors artwork all viewed, we wondered onto the sculpture garden in search of LOVE, or at least Robert Indiana’s sculpture of LOVE. We explored the grounds and noticed some impressive sculptures that captivated our imagination. One sculpture by Joel Shapiro captured our attention with its gravity-defying qualities. However, we still had not found the sculpture that prompted our visit to the museum. It was with great dismay that after walking through the entire garden and coming back to where we started, we found a rectangular cover made up of panels. With trepidation, we neared the plaque at the foot of the enclosure. The plaque read “Robert Indiana, LOVE.” We learned that the museum is in the process of installing a new exhibit. To prevent certain sculptures from being damaged during the installation, some outdoor artworks had been covered, consequently denying the view of the public. With sadness, and feeling little love, we still posed in front of the covered sculpture with the determination to leave with a photo.

McNay Museum, San Antonio TX, LEAP Center, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, Robert Indiana, LOVE
LEAP Ambassadors, Saddened by the McNay’s Presentation of Robert Indiana’s “LOVE”

As we were sure that no one was left behind (including Brian), we climbed into our van, eager to continue our adventure.

The Alamo, The Saga, and Mi Tierra, by Christina

After exploring some San Antonio art and scouting out potential photography areas–including the Alam0…

San Antonio, SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, The Alamo

…we headed to dinner at the Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia. Since there were many Hispanic/Mexican among the group, we wanted to make it as authentic as possible. That is how we ended up in the Mexican Historic Downtown Market. As we walked into Mi Tierra, we could see colorful piñatas hanging from the ceiling and with each room that we passed the walls differed in colors. It was hard to decide on what to eat because everything sounded delicious. Brian ordered The Sonora Special, which included beef tips with ranchero salsa smothered on top. Brian is (or so he likes to think) our authentic Mexican food specialist. The others chose a wide variety of Mexican dishes including the Mole and guisado. While we waited for the food, we even had some mariachi sing the “Caminos of Guanajuato”, For dessert, we all shared some exquisite flan and it was scrumptious!

After dinner, we arrived at the San Fernando cathedral for “The Saga”, which is a light show that electrified the audience with its mesmerizing scenes. It told the story of San Antonio from the Alamo to the present day. To accompany the lights in the storytelling, there was also a collage of songs to represent the different changes of time.

San Antonio, SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, The Saga

The show lasted about 25 minutes. We decided to walk off our food and since Beatriz had never been to the river walk, we decided to take a stroll along the river walk.  Finally, after getting lost a couple of times, we headed back home for some rest and to get ready for the early start tomorrow.

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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