Marfa: Intrigue And Art In The Desert Of Southwest Texas

Marfa was a place suggested to me by several people I met along my trip. After reading a little about it and seeing a few pictures, I found there was a certain intrigue and mystery about it, so I made it my next destination after Austin on the way to El Paso. Simply put, it’s a small city in the middle of the desert in southwest Texas, and has been growing as a tourist destination since the late 70s.

1 PANO_20160615_202928One of the things everyone goes to see is the Marfa Lights, which are mysterious light orbs sometimes scene in the distance (looking south toward the Chinati Mtns.) that move & behave strangely- similar to Brown Mtn. lights in NC; they also go for the art scene featuring mostly minimalist styles, the scenery, and, of course the food.

If you like to eat, there’s a great offering. A grilled cheese parlor, a few fine dining spots, a lady that cooks burritos from her house, and a handful of other places in between. The only chains I recall are Dairy Queen and a dollar store. No Starbucks. No Walmart.

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I spent my first night here (although when I arrived, I parked away from the bridge; it wasn’t until I woke up the next morning that I moved into the shade under the bridge.)

When I first arrived it was about midnight so I found a spot by a train bridge to sleep. The very next day I started my scouting. The first local, eclectic attraction I found was El Cosmico, which is a creative modern alternative to a hotel offering teepees, yurts, and vintage campers painted in all kinds of colors for lodging. They also have a gift shop with books, wardrobe, art, and such. You can even buy beer or wine. On top of that is a handful of different communal activities, like cooking or art. I obviously didn’t need to patronize the establishment for a place to stay this time around, but I did have a couple beers while I browsed through the shop. I went outside to kick back and enjoy my last drink and I happened to meet one of the employees and we chatted for a little while. He said it would be cool if I wanted to sleep in the parking lot, which is what I ended up doing for my whole stay.

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Parked by the El Cosmico “sign”

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Some functional art featured in the gift shop

I eventually went to the viewing post hoping to see the lights, but they never showed up. However there was a big thunderstorm over the mountains so I had the chance to see a very impressive lightning display instead, and it lasted several hours. What made it especially cool was that it was so far away you couldn’t hear any thunder, and being in the flat of the desert you could see the whole storm system from end to end, top to bottom. There was actually a good thunderstorm every day during my 5 day visit and one night there was two. After the viewing post I stopped at the Lost Horse Saloon for a drink before heading back to the parking lot at Cosmico. I met a pretty cool local there who I had a good conversation with for a while, and he even bought me a beer.

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The Chinati mountains are out of the photo to the far left. The Viewing post is at the bottom right where all the cars are parked.

One of the other main attractions is the Chinati Foundation which is basically a permanent museum/gallery with various art installations, mostly from Donald Judd. He basically bought up all the buildings in the old military base as well as half of all the property in Marfa (if not most of it). I think his art is genuine and has aesthetic and conceptual value, but it in my opinion it’s overrated; it’s literally a bunch of sculptures of boxes. You can make up your own mind.

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A view of the Chinati Foundation from the road. The concrete boxes in the foreground are one of the installations, while the hanger in the back has many more installations inside.

 

On my way out of Marfa, I stopped to see the last popular sight which is Prada Marfa (however it was a surprise since I didn’t realize I would pass it on my way to El Paso. Prior to, I assumed it was somewhere else and didn’t bother to seek it out). It’s another permanent art installation about 20 or 30 miles going west. Prada Marfa is a fake Prada store. It’s a real building with real Prada merchandise inside, but it’s only an exhibit for viewing. A very “out of place” spectacle but with a subtle, surreal charm.

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“Prada Marfa” A permanent art installation

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I found this on the opposite side of the road near Prada Marfa…

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… and I decided to add to it.

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As you can see, my pictures tell a story and give some insight into the look & feel of the place, but they don’t give everything away either. I think it’s good to spark the curiosity and yet leave a lot for your own discovery should you ever visit. Overall, I liked Marfa quite a lot. I’ll definitely be visiting again on my way back to Maine and will continue to do so long after this road trip is over.

 

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Goodbye for now, Marfa

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2 thoughts on “Marfa: Intrigue And Art In The Desert Of Southwest Texas

  1. What great insight into this magical place, you captured well in pics & your perspective, Cuz Steve so impressed by your journey, adventure & spirit couldn’t believe how far you walked to meet him that day back in Nola!
    I explained your willingness is Exceptional! then shared your Grand canyon hike with him & I still can’t fathom all you,ve done & all Your doing!!! ❤

    Like

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