Originally published 13 February, 2014
Bill at the Chinati Foundation picking Laurie up after her tour!
Today was a bit of a free form day. Laurie went to the Chinati Foundation and went on a guided tour of the art installations. I'll let her tell you what she thought of it.....but suffice to say, she liked it very much. I got a chance to wander a bit and do some film photography!
El Cosmico-Time warp of old campers
I started out by dropping Laurie off for her tour. I went straight to the coffee shop and got a latte. I started talking to a kid in there (he was 25, not really a kid...but when they're the age of my kids....they're a kid) who was traveling and staying in a tent. He was from New York state and was a nice guy....his name was Collin. He was staying at a place called El Cosmico. It's not really a campground.....it's the place I may have mentioned with the Teepees and old trailers. I have pics of it today. You can stay in old 50's era trailers or teepees.....it's kinda funky and unusual.
WANT! I love Scouts!
We talked a bit more..and he had recently stayed with a friend in Cookeville! And his friend recently moved to Cookeville and is a potter! Small world. We talked a bit more and I bid him adieu and went off to do some film photos.
I set up and shot the grain elevator. I thought it was a good pic against a rabidly blue sky...which is common here. Film work, especially medium format work like I play with, is not point and shoot. There's set up, framing, hand held light metering, tripods, etc. A big day shooting medium format is maybe 8 shots.....and I can burn a couple of hours doing it. I did my shots, and decided that I would prowl about town a bit before I had to pick Laurie up.
The wind picked up after I dropped Laurie off. The whistling winds brought forth a Texas stereotype....the tumbleweed! They're bushes, that have died and dried out. They break off at the ground and the wind moves them around like a giant beach ball. When the wind blows out here....the tumbleweeds follow.
I learned a couple of things about Marfa. One is, the town is not what you see......it's the stuff they pack in the cracks. There are places that look closed that aren't. There are places that say they are open, and aren't. It sometimes feels like the whole town is just a random occurrence. Be aware that posted hours and days don't seem to mean much around here, but we're assured that everything is open on the weekend....when we're going to be gone.
The one business that seems to keep the hours they say they will are the restaurants. A bunch are owned by the Food Shark guy and they seem to always be open when they say they will. If it's an arts related thing.....the hours and days open on the door are just for show. They'll be open when they feel like it. The town is a bit of a puzzle.
I picked Laurie up and stopped by one of the stores I found. It was a cool hippie/health food market that I thought she'd like. It was called "The Get Go". They had all the cool hippie foods that she and Heather love. The prices, however, were a bit on the steep side. We discussed the possibility of going to the local bank and taking out a loan to buy a box of cereal. We passed....and headed to find a lunch place.
Mando's restaurant- a must do!
In my wandering and recon of the area, I narrowed it down to two places...both locals joints. One was Alice's cafe.....so local that they don't even have a sign. The other was a place called Mando's. Both had local trucks, border patrol vehicles, and such parked outside......obvious to all that this is where the locals dine. We wound up in Mando's. It was a good choice. I had tacos that where quite good, and Laurie had a pork dish in red chili sauce that was to die for. Wow.....it was fantastic.
After this, Laurie wanted to walk the outside grounds at the Chinati foundation, and I walked with her for a bit. It is on an old army base, that used to be a cavalry base...and I don't mean air cav.....I mean chasing Pancho Villa on horses cavalry. It was also used during WW II. There were old watering troughs for the cavalry horses still there. A lot of the barracks and buildings are still there and used by the artists and such. Laurie will talk about those in her comments. I liked the old base......I like exploring things from the past. I told Laurie that I liked the place because, due to my life's work and lifelong study of history, I understood the buildings and their history. She understands the art they contain.
We left after exploring and rode to Fort Davis, TX, just in time for everything to close. It was a nice ride though and we enjoyed the scenery. We returned to the motor home and had dinner.....and planned our next move. Tomorrow is moving day...and we're headed further west. Next stop......New Mexico!
Quote of the day:
"Some cities, like wrapped boxes under Christmas trees, conceal unexpected gifts, secret delights. Some cities will always remain wrapped boxes, containers of riddles never to be solved, nor even to be seen by vacationing visitors, or, for that matter, the most inquisitive, persistent travelers." -Truman Capote
Song of the day: Tumbling Tumbleweeds-Sons of the Pioneers
Base buildings now used as offices for the foundation
And now.....Laurie's report on the Chinati Foundation
So............today I went to the Chinati foundation and did their short tour. This consisted of the works of Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain. Donald Judd started the Chinati Foundation with his own money and Dia foundation money. There are 12 artists installations in all. Apparently they haven't added any more artists for the 12 years since Judd died, because the board hasn't found anyone they feel lives up to the ones there. Seems a little snooty but the art world can be like that. Also the whole thing is only really available by guided tours which can be pricey. For $100 you can go at sunset or sunrise. Staff, interns and maybe foundation members have more access. It is also only open Wed -Sun for 4 hours. But, it was worth the trip for me and I would recommend it.
Judd moved from NYC to Marfa in 1977 and began construction of the installation in 1979. It is housed on an old WWII army base and is massive. Judd's works are in the ammunition storage buildings. He built the curved roofs and put the windows in the sides, but otherwise did not change the buildings themselves. The works inside are 100 unique aluminium cubes. Each cube was meticulously placed in a specific location with one complex interior next to a simple one and all are aligned. His mission, or goal, was to create art that is an integral part of the environment.
The impact of this installation is difficult to describe. Each cube creates its own environment, while simultaneously related to its neighbors and the installation as a whole. The reflections on the cube surfaces and interiors change as you circle them and with the change of the position of the sun during the day. The surfaces are subtle, the effect of the reflections are sometimes like watercolors depending on what they are reflecting from the environment. Other times they are only shades of grey, using just form and reflection to create simple and complex carving of space to create further forms.
Shadow and form
The outside cubes are impressive in their size and relation to each other. They depend on shadows to create their forms. I would love to have been able to come back to see all these pieces at different times of the day. Its an installation that would change every time you go. Flavin used florescent lights to create positive and negative space rather than form. His installation moves you through 6 separate buildings that were once barracks. The installations are at the end of the building so you walk toward his lights and the experience changes as you approach. Turning to walk away you look at natural light which is somewhat of a relief after the artificial colors he created. Again, as the light changes throughout the day, the environment would change.
Concrete exterior installation
I didn't relate to this installation as much as Judd's but is was impressive. The last installation was in town, not on the Chinati grounds. John Chamberlain created huge sculptures out of crushed automobiles. They look like they would be fun to make, and don't resemble autos at all until a head light or something recognizable jumps into view. This was the last installation on the tour and was kind of hard to take in after the others.
Church converted to art space
Chamberlain's work seemed to relate least to the environment because the experience of them did not seem to depend on the light, but the fact that these massive sculptures were in a massive space was clearly a statement. This space was 3 connected building that were once where wool was sorted and stored to be shipped out to make uniforms for soldiers.
All in all it was an amazing day. We ended up trying to re-explore Marfa, having been assured that more would be open. As Bill said, that wasn't really the case. Its a strange little town and very quiet. It was hard to really get a feel for it. Many empty store fronts and run down areas interspersed with a high end grocery store, book store, funky houses, and fancy eateries. The docent who gave our tour did admit that the town exists because of the Chinati Foundation and the Border Patrol. That's an interesting combo but apparently they leave each other alone.
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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