Glittery fairies are illuminated in hand-painted glass bottles dangling from mesquite and emery oak tree limbs. Pastel-colored tea tables and chairs dot the edges of a stone-studded path. A butterfly made of pink, purple, orange and yellow hair curlers attached to a metal rod protrudes from the ground, one of approximately 50 art pieces spread over 4 acres of desert near Oracle.
The scene is not the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland; it is the theme at the western cattle ranch turned mixed media art installation venue.
Triangle L Ranch stretches over 50 acres of land and is owned by multi-media artist, Sharon Holnback, who has transformed the ranch from its historic western background into a modern day fairytale.
As early as the 1800’s, the land once inhabited by Apaches who have left marks such as hieroglyphs on rocks and pottery shards still found on the property. In the 1880’s, the ranch was named the “Boot Ranch” after its leather-making operation. After the Ladd family of Boston bought the property it became a cattle ranch frequented by many infamous guests such as “Buffalo Bill.” In 1924 the ranch became one of Arizona’s earliest dude ranches, Holnback says. Since then, the ranch has become one of the most unique bed and breakfasts in southern Arizona. Triangle L Ranch hosts weddings, parties, zen-retreats and art shows.
Holnback lives in the main house, which was built in the 1890’s and still holds many of the treasures from its past such as a day bed that is 100 years old. Besides Holnback, four other people live on the ranch in their own houses on the property. There are 12 houses total, four of which are rented out to visitors.
Jim Pollack, co-manager of the ranch, designs the interior of the houses and landscapes the exterior. His favorite part about the scenery is the patch of maroon amaranth plants that he planted in the front of the main house to serve as a haven for butterflies and birds.
“It looks gorgeous when it’s blooming,” Pollack says. “There’s always activity with the wildlife that’s attracted to the amaranth, primarily birds and butterflies. It’s perfect to sit on the porch and just watch it all happen.”
Suzie Daigneault, another member of the ranch’s team, spearheaded a project that will aim to help native bees prosper by providing them with a habitat where they can pollinate and populate. The native bee pavilion was built from a branch of an old 50-foot pine that had been chopped down and placed in the middle of the ground. Copper plates the size of a dime will stud the trunk, attracting the native bees to the habitat.
This new project will be part of Triangle L Ranch’s upcoming venture named the Triangle L Ranch Land. Holnback and her crew are currently working on building a full time sculpture park that will feature more developed art galleries, sculpture paths and even more works of art created by friends and local artists such as Simon Donovan, David Flinn, Steven Derks and Karen Braddy.
Today, spectators who wish to see all of the multi-media art installations that spread over the property frequently visit the ranch by appointment. The annual Glow event is one of many opportunities for people to visit the ranch and its oddities such as Simon Donovan’s sculpture titled, The Poet. The piece was a main attraction for some who attend the University of Arizona and have seen the sculpture at the Poetry Center near campus.
“It was pretty awesome,” said Mark Marshall, an attendee of this year’s Glow event. “I felt like I was tripping the whole time watching all the crazy stuff that was going on. One of my favorites was the giant head sculpture in the middle of the ground. It was pretty creepy and different.”
The sculpture was given to Holnback as a gift. The head, made of styrofoam, is now covered in stucco to endure harsh weather conditions.
Pollack says it is like stepping out of time and back into history, which isn’t exactly an exaggeration given the ranch’s vintage features and antiquated characteristics.
Since the houses were built in the 1920’s, the rooms feature 1920’s style furniture and design. A small writing desk is placed across from a queen-sized bed with an elegant headboard. Lace curtains rippling in the open windows accentuate the timelessness of the room.
The barn was built in the 1890’s back when the property was a cattle ranch. Today the barn is the much sought after location for weddings, parties, concerts and other festivities. During the Glow event, a band played on the deck that was their stage.
Holnback said she hopes the park will draw in more people and allow them to visit and see all the interesting sights the ranch has to offer.
Whitney Burgoyne is a reporter at Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at email@example.com