Barton Springs

Patrick Puckett, Barton Springs, 2012, © Patrick Puckett

Patrick Puckett, Barton Springs, 2012, © Patrick Puckett

When you visit Austin, TX (ATX), come take a dip here at Barton Springs. The fountain of Austin’s eternal youth. Some will recommend Hippy Hollow in the spirit of naked rollicking fun, but it’s a drive. If you want to dive into the heart of the city, this is your place.

Surrounded by Zilker Park and sky-spanning oaks, Barton Springs bubbles up from the aquifer at a beautiful 68° degrees year round. And year round you’ll find people swimming its luminous three acre length. With the salamanders and the occasional snake.

Tonkawa Indians bathed in the springs for sacred cleansing. The Spanish built a mission. Texas legislators cobbled compromises on its grassy slopes. You’re just as likely to meet a naiad here as the love of your life. And tops are optional.

I like this painting because it captures a timeless Barton Springs–the centuries layered under this paint. Reflects the sense of wonder that an actual place can melt into our skin. Touch a collective conscience as past memories lap against the bodies of today’s swimmers. A warrior cleansed, a convert baptized. Every bather’s released worries, friend’s wacky stories, and lovers’ stolen kisses; they all incarnate this spring. You can meditate laps or cannonball dive, either way refreshed to give soiled Life another go.

Citrusy colors capture the bright vibrant atmosphere. The creative diptych (two panels) calls out the quirky-fun vibe. Trees in solid motion cast shady pools and remind me of Japanese prints with elegant economy of line. There’s a splash of mid-century aesthetic, but its dripping modern all over.

And although you can’t own Austin’s limpid crowning jewel, this work is still available. A treasure sparkling down at the bottom of Barton Springs. Just a dive away.

(see the rest of Patrick’s work soon at Wally Workman gallery, ATX)

Bigger Splash

California Dreamin.’ No people here, though. Only smooth linearity and cool contrasts. If it weren’t for the live-edge, vivid color I’d turn away from these surgical lines. But there’s a mystery here so I’ll bite.

Sink down, down through the linear elements. The flat turquoise sky, faintly lined. The terracotta boxed house. The tan expanse of pool deck. The aquamarine pool. All stack on top of each other, neat blocks with no beginning or end. The right and left sides of the canvas push out infinite edges. Lest all this eternity disturb us, Hockney adds two vertical palms with quirky feathered tops. Rests our eyes. Another bristled stretch of grass to soften the lines. I notice the director’s chair, a silent judge sitting. A clue.

Everything static still. Listen to the heavy heat breathing and the cicadas’ distant chatter.  A yellow diving board slices diagonally through the water and something careens off, diving or cannonballing.  A big, big splash. A very large person or a not-person?

Watch the scale of the splash. It’s quite high, as high as the house or higher even. It appears larger because it’s closer to us and the house smaller because it’s farther away. But Hockney is playing with perspective. He  intentionally flattened it out with the linear elements, but now baits our depth perception with this gigantic splash.

The chair is sooo small, so far away. The splash, tsumnamic in proportion. Is the splash so close to us? Then pool and deck must be very long indeed. Yet they appear too thin in terms of width and we don’t seem close enough to the splash to get soaked. Terrible Hockney to tease us so.

I’m working up a sweat; my toes curl around the pool’s edge.  I’m gonna make a wave myself. Geronimo!


Alex Katz, Eleuthera (1984). Private Collection, Courtesy Galeria Javier Lopez, Madrid © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Alex Katz, Eleuthera (1984). Private Collection, Courtesy Galeria Javier Lopez, Madrid
© Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Sleek caps, bathing suits that suit to a tee. Gives me pause, tells me to cast a wary eye. Vibrating-colored gals ready to splash, but smiles have evaporated (except Miss Peach Fest Queen, 1989). Why? The dissonance is killing me. Here’s a 20 second soap for each pair.

First panel

Red swimsuit– athlete. Good too. Placed in last year’s local Danskin triathalon. Her friend, Green, clasps anxious hands. Red talked her into doing this year’s race and she’s afraid she’s not up to snuff. (But it’s on her bucket list) Worried Red won’t win because she’ll slow her down.  A forever slow poke.

Second panel

Leave it to grinning Ms Peachy Queen 1989 to strike a nail-perfect pose, as average mom Jan looks away. How can she compete?  A scoreboard ticky-tack tallies in both of their heads. Jan’s kids are smarter; husband drinks less. Peachy Queen’s girls have more tiaras; her husband’s a golf pro. Both uncertain winners in an unquiet friendship, silently nitpicking. Always game on.

Third panel

Mean girl in red hat does not like what she is seeing. At all. Hayley, that slut, sitting on her soon-to-be ex’s lap.  Blue holds her by the shoulders, pulling her back. Warns her to not do something she’ll regret. But she’s going to tell them off come hell or high water. What’s a little mosquito like regret to stand in the way of her lips ablaze?

Fourth panel

Mother and daughter.  Sadness stares out from the black suit. Seems she faces something unfaceable. Her daughter embraces her, an attempt to protect her from the whittling tides of illness and grief. She looks away, her eyes out searching — over the water for hope’s little horizon.

Alex Katz himself - see these at the Tate St. Ives right now

Alex Katz himself – see these at the Tate St. Ives right now