Day Trips: Toilet Seat Art Museum, San Antonio
Hundreds of commode covers become canvases for 97-year-old artist
Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio needs more toilet seats – embellished or unadorned – to add to its collection of hundreds of decorated commode covers.
At 97 years old, Smith is enjoying the celebrity of being a national folk art hero. Hundreds of fans showed up at the garage behind his home in Alamo Heights to wish him a happy birthday in May and buy the new book about his art, King of the Commode, by Daedelus Hoffman and Lindsay Starr, with photographs by Angel Coggins. Chris Mullins and his teenage children, Sarah and Matthew, drove 22 hours from West Virginia to be part of the celebration.
It has been a long roll of toilet paper to get here, but Smith's art project began with a pair of deer horns mounted on a toilet seat as a joke. Somewhere along the route, Smith finagled a shipment of inoperative toilet seats from a wholesaler. The white enamel lids became the canvases for his creative energies.
Over the years Smith held a variety of jobs including plumber, maintenance supervisor, graphic artist, and chaplain. After retirement he did landscape paintings that he sold on the River Walk for extra cash. The city's zoning rules had a problem with him inviting customers to the garage studio behind his house. In 1992, to skirt the law, he turned his art collection into a museum with none of the pieces for sale.
Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum is at 239 Abiso Ave. in San Antonio. Hours are limited and by reservation by calling 210/824-7791. The book is available at finer bookstores or from Cattywampus Press, at www.cattywampuspress.com.
1,402nd in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.