Reenergizing in Austin

January 22, 2020

Cildo Meireles’ Mission/Missions (How to Build Cathedrals), 1987.

Last week, I visited one of my best friends in Austin to take a break before diving back into lab work, grading, and classes. Taking it easy over the weekend, we spent a lot of time catching up, reading, visiting local restaurants, touring whiskey distilleries, and playing with her dog. We even spent time at the University of Texas’ Blanton Museum of Art, which turned out to me one of my favorite moments of the trip.

The Blanton is one of the largest university art museums in the US. It also serves as the primary art collection for the entire city of Austin, containing art across the ages. I have never seen a school museum like this before. It was just as comprehensive and big as stand-alone museums!

My favorite piece inside was a Cildo Meireles installation called Mission/Missions (How to Build Cathedrals). Taking up the entire room, this piece functions as a critique of the missions established during colonial times to control the indigenous peoples of Brazil and convert them. Evoking ideas of life and death, the symbolic materials reveal the complicit relationship between material power (coins), spiritual power (communion wafers), and tragedy (cow bones). It was solemn, yet beautiful at the same time.

Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, 2018.

I also really enjoyed Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, which is a giant stone building with gorgeous colored glass windows. It was incredible to see a modern structure that resembled the many cathedrals and churches in centuries past. I loved how it serves as a site for joy and contemplation without any ties to any religion. I hope to bring my family here someday to experience the beautiful light shining through the rainbow windows!

Published on January 22nd, 2020

Last updated on April 1st, 2021