Marfa had long been on my list of “must sees” (Prada Marfa!) and I decided that it would be a good place to spend some time so that I’m not constantly on the move. I found a great little campground, Tumble In RV Park, about a quarter of a mile outside of town that would be my home for the month of April.
Marfa is a small town with a lot of art! There’s only one traffic light but there are fourteen art galleries including a museum set up by minimalist artist Donald Judd. Incredible when you think about it, as there are only two thousand residents and the nearest city, El Paso, is three hours away.
Whether or not you realized it, you may have seen images of Marfa and the surrounding area in film: Giant, There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men and if you’re a fan of Larry Clark, Marfa Girl.
I got off to a good start here…on my second day I signed up for an all day tour of The Chinati (the museum set up by Donald Judd). The tours are by appointment and I was accompanied by eight others who were in town for the weekend. Through the course of the day we became fast friends and over the course of the next few days we attended other galleries together and had meals and drinks together.
The museum tour included two large hangar type pavilions that contained one hundred large milled aluminum works by Donald Judd. Judd’s theory was that art has a place…a permanent place and he was against the idea of temporary exhibitions and rotating collections. So here he installed these 100 pieces to remain. He also had invited some other artists to exhibit here, most notably Dan Flavin whose fluorescent tube light installation occupies six barracks (the site of the museum was a former army base). No photography allowed but I managed to sneak one in.
That evening I went to one of the local hotels, The Paisano, where Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean stayed while filming Giant, and had a drink at the bar. There I met a woman, Marianne, who was travelling from NYC to San Francisco (relocating for work) and had decided to spend three weeks driving cross-country. We hit it off and ended up having a meal after which we drove out to a viewing area ten miles out of town to try to see the Marfa Lights. We didn’t.
The next day we toured around a bit and Marianne came out to see the Airstream, compare our trucks and enjoy a refreshing adult beverage. That evening we met for dinner again and met up with another solo traveller, Jeremy, who was in town to do a write up for his online men’s lifestyle magazine called Bearings. We all had dinner together and did some bar hopping and then ended up at the Museum of Electronic Wonders and Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlour, which was exactly as the name implies.
One of the highlights of my time in Marfa was getting to attend a free concert by the UK band The xx. I’d long been a fan and had seen them exactly one year earlier in Sydney. They were putting on a free concert at The Chinati and then staying in Marfa for a few weeks to write and record new songs for their next album.
Things quieted down after these visitors moved on and left town…and I caught a cold (too much excitement?). I was feeling much better later in the week and was able to attend a few events organized for the Viva Big Bend Food Festival. I visited a local dairy which makes goats cheese, attended a chicken fried steak master class, sampled tequila and mescal at a tasting and a spirits tasting in a feed shed and tried my hand at a DIY vodka infusion class. Come to think of it, there wasn’t much food at the events I attended.
The next couple of weeks here were quiet…I attended a couple of Judd Foundation tours of Judd’s residence and studios and also walked amongst the concrete forms outdoors at the Chinati. Much quieter than the previous two weeks and noticeably fewer people in town to mingle with. The fact is, I was starting to get bored and decided that while the visit to Marfa was great, it was probably time to move on. I cut my month long stay short by six days and moved on to Big Bend National Park.
More on Big Bend later…