It's Friday, late afternoon and mid rush hour. A seemingly endless sea of motor vehicles jam the city streets & highways. A plan is already in motion to escape all of this nonsense.. for just a short while anyway. We head west & drive hundreds of miles into the desolate Texas desert. No cell phone service. No Internet. Our routine, everyday afflictions gradually fade away behind us, like an AM radio frequency. 7 hours later we arrive in Marfa. Finally.
We spend the night gazing into the infinite cosmos in every direction. The desert skies have a way of amplifying the scenery in such a vivid way. If ever there were a sprawling view of the immense universe that could make you feel minuscule and insignificant, then this is it. In the distance, mysterious orbs of light dance on the horizon, just like my dad had described some decades ago. Vast silence and a slight touch of the supernatural, make for a perfect introduction to the weekend.
By daylight this old ranch town's distinguishable charm begins to emerge. Buildings from the early 20th century line the dusty streets, reminiscent of those from old western movies. Some empty with old signage still visible like the ghost of a business that once was. Some restored with new and old businesses still operating inside. We curiously wander up & down each street.
This is a unique place where old fashioned Texas culture and certain elements of a big modern city coexist in almost perfect harmony. We enjoy breakfast in a quaint little Mexican eatery similar to those in many Texas towns. We then eat lunch in a quirky taco shop run by, who we guess are younger city folk who've brought the "hip food truck" dining format to this tiny town. After all, Marfa has a history of drawing in creative types who bring their own ideas and ambitions. Maybe it's the allure of a secluded lifestyle. Maybe it's the plethora of natural light beaming all around. Maybe it's the wide open spaces that allow much freedom to create. And maybe we're just here to witness a little magic ourselves. Whatever it is, there is no mistaking that there's something peculiar in the air out here.
In the 1970s' a well known artist named Donald Judd migrated here from New York City. Since then Marfa has become an international hub for contemporary art. A stranger getting coffee in the little cafe near the town square might be a local rancher, or he could be an international art curator from Europe. Who knows. The eclectic blend of people out here in the middle of nowhere is fascinating.
We spend the afternoon walking around a 340 acre former military base where large scale permanent art installations stretch across the land. Inside the many buildings on the property, are various minimalist works by Judd and a few other artists, most notably the fluorescent light installations by Dan Flavin. It quickly becomes apparent that work of this scale can only exist exclusively in a place like Marfa, a now unlikely art utopia that's located hundreds of miles from any major airport.
We continue our impromptu, self-guided tour of this enchanting snippet of planet earth. Further down the road, we pay a visit to the most publicized attraction in the region. Prada Marfa is a Pop Art installation by European artists Elmgreen & Dragset. The obvious irony of this work speaks volumes, as the first initial reaction for some people is something like, "What the Fuck?!?". The permanent design/sculpture project is stocked with actual items from the 2005 Prada collection, which could easily mystify some as to whether this is a real store or some sort of wacky, artsy fartsy stunt.
Inside the almost impenetrable structure we notice dust and dead bugs accumulating from years gone by. I read that the initial intention was to never repair this artwork, but to let it degrade back into the natural landscape over time. It's anyone's guess how long that would take or if it's even true. Thought provoking nonetheless.
As our short trip winds down, we return the edge of town where we'll stay for one last night. These accommodations are unlike anything we've ever seen. Of course, right? Because this is Marfa. Why wouldn't there be several vintage trailer homes parked on a campsite? Do they have teepees and safari tents for visitor lodging too? Ya damn right!
The sun sets in dramatic fashion as we settle into our rented Teepee. Our palettes full & spirits high, as we enjoy one last frosty beverage under the stars. This is the part where we reflect on the short time spent here. This is where inspiration, among other feelings & emotions begin to manifest inside of us. This is why we are here. This is Marfa.