Acres Of Bliss:
Benini Foundation, Sculpture Ranch
A Hill Country Dream To Share

By Lauren Itz

A world of imagination exists at a ranch just outside of Johnson City.

Italian artist Benini and his wife/career manager Lorraine Benini offer “140 acres of bliss” at The Benini Foundation and Sculpture Ranch located on property formerly owned by the late president Lyndon B. Johnson.

Born in Italy in 1941, Benini has a classical background. His father was a tax man for the town and he was the one who instilled curiosity of the unusual in his son. His father’s vast library was filled with books that broadened Benini’s range of thoughts and ideas, the artist said.

When Benini was almost 15 years old he left home and made a living painting oils and landscapes. He had an elderly man who would constantly correct him and help improve his skills.

A few years after he left home, he joined the military. After completing three years of military service, Benini began his exhibition career in 1961, displaying his work in galleries.

He spent years touring different countries and eventually made his home in Freeport, Bahamas. There his exhibition career grew.

“I started to exhibit internationally,” Benini said. “I would have to fly my paintings overseas in a sports bag so that I could be sure that they got there safely.”

Benini soon found that his art was taking him in another direction.

“Galleries are important in a career building process, but it was not the career for me,” he said. “It did however play a huge part in the journey to discovering myself.”

From there, Benini chose to exhibit primarily in public institutions.

In 1977, he packed up his bags and made the move to the United States. He lived in Florida (where he met his wife, Lorraine), Arkansas and in 1999 he decided to make Texas his home.

Now, 160 one-man exhibitions later and five years in the making, Benini has built his home and his business in the Texas Hill Country. He said that he and his wife really enjoy the “hilly, Mediterranean-like” feel that the land portrays. There he hopes to celebrate creativity in the arts.

“I’ve learned that the audience always supports something that is different,” Benini said. “That in turn results in more recognition.”

In the 14,000-square-foot building where former President Johnson once stored farm equipment, Benini displays paintings that are the fruit of years of work. His most current projects include the “Courting Kaos” and “Shaping Kaos” series.

With close to 40 pieces in the series, the colorful, abstract art reflects Benini’s interest in the unknown. Ranging between 25”x30” and 130”x147” in size, the paintings grab the viewers’ attention and let them explore their own imagination.

Along with original Benini paintings, guest Italian artists are also featured. While some artwork is for sale, others are used for exhibition purposes only.

“We also have a couple of offices in the same building as the gallery, and an expanding fine arts library which we really encourage students to come look at,” Mrs. Benini said.

Outside of the studio, placed randomly throughout the property, are 21 contemporary sculptures (standing at a minimum height of 12 feet) by 10 different sculptors.

“The sculptors come and walk the land and then pick the site where they choose to display their sculpture,” Mrs. Benini said.

One of the sculptors is local resident Marshall Cunningham, M.D.

Cunningham is a plastic surgeon who also works as a sculptor. His most recent project displayed at the ranch is an eight-piece collection of steel sculptures called “The Gathering”.

“The Gathering” forms a circle around a campfire site where visitors are able to gather around together and enjoy the evening.

A favorite sculpture of Benini and his wife is “The Blessing Counter”, made of welded steel. The sculpture stands at the top of a hill alongside the Beninis’ house and overlooks the ranch.

“Every time it rings, it is counting blessings,” Mrs. Benini said.

COUNTING BLESSINGS every time it rings is one of Benini's original pieces "The Blessing Counter" (above). Loren Impson's "Aspiration" stands at 13 feet in height (near right). Lorraine Benini (standing at right in far right photo) shows reporter Lauren Itz a steel sculpture from Marshall Cunningham's eight-piece collection "The Gathering". -- Standard-Radio Post Photos by Lisa Treiber-Walter

The Benini Galleries
& Sculpture Ranch
377 Shiloh Road
Johnson City, Texas USA 78636

830-868-5244 Studios Building
830-868-5224 Studios Building


Artist Loren Impson takes a deep look into the meanings of “Aspiration” and “Determination”. His creation of two giant hands, one standing at 13 feet in height, and the other at 18 feet in length, capture the force that drives people in today’s society. The hands are made of steel framework covered by ferro cement.

Throughout the ranch, massive pieces of artwork stand tall and offer a unique insight into a different realm of imagination.

The first woman sculptor will be featured at the ranch in the fall, bringing in a kinetic piece from California.

With a symbolic showcase of the years of hard work and imagination that Benini and his peers have shaped, the sculpture ranch is constantly growing with more creative surprises.  

“This is Texas,” Benini said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Benini and his wife enthusiastically welcome visitors to the ranch to experience the beauty of combining art with nature.

Already they’ve had several visitors from the art classes at various Fredericksburg schools, McMurry University, and other schools come and observe the artwork. Other artists have also visited the exhibition as have organizations such as Foretravel Motorcade.

The Benini Foundation and Sculpture Ranch is open by appointment and is free of charge. Special events are also welcomed at the ranch as are educational and travel tour trips.

To book a tour call 830-868-5244.

(far left) Benini with "Union" painting in the Shaping Kaos series.

(left) "The Snake" of The Gathering