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Western Land

January 21, 2009






Marfa, Texas.

Prior to this last trip, the last time I was in Marfa was when I was in school. I had driven west to explore Big Bend and had taken a quick pass through the small town, a town famous for it’s petroleum past as well as it’s dance with the Hollywood elite.

But, other than the occasional movie poster, there was little reference to the outside world. Marfa was, and still is, about the landscape, and what people do on that landscape, namely ranching. Unbeknownst to me, modern-art was also a part of this place.

With the arrival of Donald Judd, the face of Marfa was etched with new lines, those of world-class, minimal art, and the shock waves of the creative set began to emminate from this tiny, rural community.

Judd Foundation

The roots of Judd began to take hold, as did his footprint on the community. The landscape took on new objects, those beyond the cow and oil pumps, as the ferocious, West Texas wind now blew past enormous, outdoor art installations. Buildings once used as government offices and barracks were now massive warehouses for permanent Judd installations.

I’m not sure how the locals felt but I would imagine they were somewhat shocked by it all.

Being in Marfa today is a little different. Again, I had not been for many years, but it was somewhat odd to see ramshackle homes sitting next to brand new, contemporary art galleries. I wondered how the locals felt about the art world coming to town.

We arrived late on a Sunday and in Marfa’s case, the art community is closed on Monday and Tuesday, as is much of the town.

Finding food can be difficult, unless you are like me and like nothing in this world more than a gas station delicacy of some sort.

Frankly, I found the energy in Marfa to be a little…offset shall we say. I wondered if the art world was tolerated due to the money they bring to the community or does it go beyond? Do the locals turn out for the openings? Is there truth to this merger , or has the town become just another “must see,” on the hipster map of the United States?

I don’t have any answers. As usual, I was on the move, only staying in town for a little more than a day, but I wonder just how things play out. I wonder why Marfa? And will this idea continue, or should it? There is a vastness to West Texas that just sucks you in, but a part of that vastness that is so important is the lack of humans.

You won’t find two groups of people more different, ranchers and artists, but perhaps, in the end, that is what will save this place.

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