Art imitating nature

Lots of places have a distinctive art form or repeating feature in architecture. Think wrought iron balconies in New Orleans, adobe buildings in Santa Fe, the brick of Annapolis, and maybe skyways (?!?) in MSP.  

Footbridge, Brackenridge Park in December.

Anyway, here in San Antone, there’s an abundance of “faux bois” or “imitation/fake wood.” It is basically concrete that is fashioned to look like wood or other natural material and it’s been used for artistic bus stops, bridges, benches, tree houses – you name it. Some of these sculptures are major landmarks like the footbridge in Brackenridge Park, designed by the foremost faux bois-er, Dionicio Rodriguez. He came to San Antonio (via Mexico and Laredo, TX) in 1924 and produced many of the city’s most famous imitation wood sculptures in the 1930s and 40s, dying in 1955.

His great-nephew Carlos Cortés has carried on this artistic legacy, perhaps most famously with the Grotto located on the Museum Reach of the San Antonio Riverwalk. This delightful feature is a mix of Little Mermaid meets sandcastle meets Catholic reverence. A little less wood, a little more magic.

The Grotto by Carlos Cortes

My day of peak faux bois began as I was walking in the jewel that is Brackenridge Park. I parked near the famed footbridge and headed onto the nature paths, where I passed an imitation wood shelter.

Not wood.

Then toward the end of my walk I stumbled on Glorieta. To be fair, this isn’t the same technique used in the other sculptures, but rather this installation is cast iron that looks like slices of a tree trunk.

Glorieta by Anne Wallace

While I love this sculpture I found myself giggling that this must be the forest where all the faux bois comes from.   

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