Us Texans know what Marfa is famous for. I use that term, Texans, loosely considering I’m an ex-pat living in Idaho. But there’s something about the vastness and spirit of that state that holds sway. I’m not even going to mention what Marfa, Texas, is known for but Texans who have traveled to the Big Bend country know, oh they know. And those that haven’t I’m pretty sure you know too.
First off, Marfa is in the middle of nowhere. At least a two hour drive to get to any airport if you are going to make travel plans to visit. So how does a town of 2,000 people become a center for art rivaling Austin, Dallas, and maybe Houston? There ain’t nothing to do out there. What else are people going to do but make some art and get the 1,999 residents to look at it. Evidently, joking aside, the stark minimalistic high desert vibe has drawn many well-regarded artists to move to Marfa and call it home. Donald Judd, Robert Irwin, and Julie Speed are just a handful of artists that re-located to Marfa setting up installations and galleries for the world to ooh and ogle at.
Donald Judd bought an abandoned army base where German prisoners of war were detained in the 70’s. That’s not good English there. The German prisoners of war were there most likely 1941-1945 timeframe. Maybe a few of them liked it so much they stayed into the 70’s but I doubt it. What did Judd do with the old tank hangars on his newly purchased property? Well, here’s Judd below and what he did.
And Robert Irwin is an architect of international fame, also drawn to Marfa.
But probably most interesting of all is Julie Speed. She moved to Marfa along with the Fabulous Thunderbirds drummer Fran Christina and they went to work to set up a home/studio/gallery. Of course in renovating the old building they knocked out a wall and discovered a human leg bone inside. How did they know it was human? Well it still had a boot on it. That doesn’t get more far west Texas than that.
Of course Julie Speed is most famous for the Shawn Colvin album artwork. At least in my non-cultures mind it’s that way. Yeah, you know Shawn Colvin from “Sunny Came Home.” Something about how Sunny came home with a mission and burned the house down and all.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and don’t judge BFE Texas by what you think you may find there. Keep an open mind and you just might be surprised.
Go to Marfa on the way to Big Bend. Marfa, Texas, it’s a good thing. I mean they have a Target and a Prada store. What’s not to like?