Sunday, April 12, 2015

From Barbara McGuire - Keep Marfa Weird

"Keep Marfa Weird" 

This was the message on a little roadside sign as we entered Marfa, TX, which is a LONG way from anything else. We expected the usual wind-scoured west Texas community, with it's cow town, wild-west history, but fortunately there was so much more to be seen beneath the dusty veneer.

Marfa did indeed once serve as a railroad water stop, then became a site for an Army airfield (Fort Russell), with up to 10,000 trainees. After 1945, with the departure of the military and closing of a German POW camp, many thought it would simply shrivel up and blow away. A few Hollywood westerns, such as "High Lonesome and "Giant", sparked some short-lived excitement. A nighttime phenomenon known as the "Marfa Lights" (floating distant bright lights of uncertain origin, dating from the 1880's) attracted a few visitors, but little income and fewer newcomers, to this patch of Chihuahuan desert. 

The area's fortunes changed in the early 1970's when avant-garde sculptor, Donald Judd, moved his studio and some staff to the town to set up on a locale where his large pieces could be permanently installed and displayed. Many describe him as a "minimalist", while he saw himself as an "empiricist". His original degree was in philosophy. Long story short, with assistance from the Dia Foundation, Judd purchased land and "re-purposed" airplane hangars and other army facilities into art spaces and staff housing, creating the Chinati Foundation. Though Judd died in 1994, many artists and several other foundations have moved to Marfa, boosted the economy, and made it THE modern art destination, Santa Fe and Taos, notwithstanding. 

One of the Chinati Foundation Buildings

With all this "newness" came much innovation, creativity and "weirdness", to ask some. After "experiencing" several art venues, we benefitted from local knowledge, to visit one of Marfa's tastiest restaurants, the "Food Shark", complete with outdoor and indoor dining areas. The food was good!
The Food Shark Restaurant
The Food Shark Dining Car

Having had our minds expanded by cutting-edge modern art, we thought "Why stop with our puny solar system?" Therefore, we ascended to the highest point in Texas to take in the McDonald Observatory, with several optical telescopes and one spectroscopic telescope. An astronomer oriented visitors to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), and a video, narrated by Sandy Woody (of NPR StarDate fame), provided more history of the other scopes.

Entryway to McDonald Observatory Facility

Astronomer Presentation

There was a little something for everyone around Marfa, Alpine & Ft. Davis, TX.
Barbara & Paul

1 comment:

  1. While Barbara and Paul were enjoying the wonders of Marfa, Susan and I spent the day in Big Bend National Park. It turns out that Alpine is the "gateway" to this large area, and April-May is "high season". The desert wildflowers were in full bloom, and the cactus were even out when we got down to the Rio Grande river. It was interesting to watch the local Mexicans wade the river to set up (then check on) their hand-made walking sticks and trinkets on the U.S. side. Hmmm...