So what’s all the hubbub I’ve been hearing about Marfa, Texas? I mean, I grew up just a 4 ½ hour drive up the road, and I had never been there before. Now it seems that you can’t pick up a design magazine or read a blog these days that doesn’t mention Marfa.
Marfa is in the middle of nowhere, a 3 hour drive from the nearest airport, either El Paso or Midland. Marfa first got attention when someone discovered mysterious lights in the sky, now referred to as the “Marfa Lights”. Remember this image from the movie “Giant” featuring James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson– it was filmed just outside of Marfa back in the mid 50′s.
Well I recently went to Marfa, and I’m here to tell you, it lives up to all the hype! It is a very colorful and textured town, rich with history – where art, architecture, design, cuisine, progressive-thinking folks and real, live cowboys all converge in the dry, rugged and beautiful West Texas desert.
It’s a laid back town, a place where people sit on front porches, porches with nice color and design. This is the porch of Cafe Q, which is a great breakfast and lunch spot.
My favorite restaurants in Marfa, Cochineal and Maiya’s, both had fantastic food, ambiance and service. Food Shark is a food cart with amazing food, and after a little two-stepping at Padre’s, we had a late night snack at the Museum of Electronic Wonders and Late Night Grill Cheese Parlor.
Marfa is drawing young artists and designers, chefs, entrepreneurs and dreamers – it’s a place where you can create your own reality.
That’s what Camp and Buck (shown below) did when they moved to Marfa several years ago and opened the Wrong Store, which is in an old church that they bought and revamped. Buck Johnston is a designer and runs the gallery/store, and Camp Bosworth is an artist who’s studio is in one side of the church, and his amazing wood carved pieces are shown in the gallery side.
THIS, is El Cosmico. It looks like chuck wagons circled up on the range after a long cattle drive, only the “wagons” are vintage trailers with beautifully restored interiors. There are also teepees and yurts on the property as well as an amphitheater and greenhouse. El Cosmico captures the spirit of Marfa for me – the starry night sky, the bohemian vibe, the creative community.
We enjoyed sitting on the front porch (notice the COLOR of the door and the DESIGN of those killer chairs).
But the REAL reason we came to Marfa (we came to realize), and I’m guessing this is why everyone comes to Marfa, is to see Donald Judd’s boxes.
Donald Judd was a minimalist artist who believed that art should be viewed and installed in a permanent place. He envisioned creating work for this minimalist landscape, what he called, “the clean, empty desert”.
In 1979, with the help from Dia Art Foundation, Judd purchased a 340 tract of land in Marfa, which included the abandoned buildings on the former army base, Fort Russell. He envisioned, founded and created the Chinati Foundation that opened in 1986. It holds a permanent collection of installations by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain.
Judd’s goal at Chinati is to bring art, architecture and nature together to form a coherent whole. And he has done this very well. These are the concrete boxes, installed outside of the artillery hanger that houses the 100 mill-aluminum boxes, which we came to see.
These photos can’t even begin to capture what it was like being in that room with the boxes. Sure, there was a stark beauty in the design elements like space relationships, repetitive shapes and exquisite craftsmanship.
But what was most powerful to me about this installation, was how I FELT when I stood still and just absorbed. It was a very visceral experience, to stand quietly amongst these boxes, felt like meditation. I had a pulsating sensation, that put me in a sort of hypnotic state. Illusions of space and light began to emerge, and I felt like I got it.
And I feel like I get Marfa now too.