This summer will be two years since my first and only trip to Marfa, Texas, and I’m already ready to head back to those nearly sere climes of the Chihuahuan Desert of Way Far Out There West Texas, where you’d swear you can hear Marty Robbins tunes comin’ in with the breeze.
Thank you, Chris Keesee, Rand Elliott, et al., for providing me and the world with an Oklahoma connection to Marfa. I can’t wait to see Marfa Contemporary Gallery, the satellite of Oklahoma Contemporary Gallery in Oklahoma City.
From the looks of photos Elliott + Associates Architects submitted for Interior Design magazine’s Best of Year Awards — Elliott’s work on the Marfa gallery came out close to the top in its category — Eliiott and Keesee and everyone else involved “gets” Marfa.
What’s not to like for a proud son of the Southwest who wears all the moderns — pre-modern, modern and post-modern — on his sleeve?
Marfa, some 650 miles southwest of Oklahoma City — was founded in the early 1880s as an actual “jerkwater town,” a water stop on a railroad — in the high desert of the Trans-Pecos.
It’s in Big Ranch Country — and so was a perfect place to film “Giant,” the 1956 Rock Hudson-Elizabeth Taylor-James Dean-Dennis Hopper classic Western.
There are the Marfa Lights — mysterious, colorful orbs that twinkle, shimmer, hop and dance around the prairie out toward Paisano Pass, just off of U.S. 67 east of town. Presidio County built a viewing station several years ago — and I have seen the Marfa Lights with my own eyes.
Since the 1970s, Marfa has become an artist’s mecca – nothing too frou-frou, since it is raw West Texas. Some call it minimalist.
Minimalist is how I’d describe the time my wife Dolly and I spent there in July 2012; we hung our hats 20 miles north in nearly mile-high Fort Davis (another Way Far Out There West Texas jewel). Next time, we’ll stay at Marfa.
Oklahoma Contemporary (formerly City Arts), led by Keesee and his Marfa Land & Cattle Co., turned the old Webb Brothers Gulf gas station and Chrysler dealership, 100 E San Antonio St., into the latest entry into the world of Marfa art.
For Oklahoma Contemporary, the move was bigger than Dallas. Marfa is that cool in the art world. As a satellite, it echoes the mission of Oklahoma Contemporary:
“The Mission of Marfa Contemporary Gallery encourages artistic expression in all its forms through education and exhibitions,” Elliott & Associates says on its web site, www.e-a-a.com, which has numerous photos. “The Vision states, ‘We endeavor to instill in the public a lifetime appreciation of the arts and enthusiasm for creative practice.’ Marfa Contemporary Gallery incorporates and enhances the existing businesses, and includes a 2,156-square-foot art gallery, administration offices, a studio for artists in residence, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and a wet bar.”
Marfa Contemporary has an Artist in Residence program, providing quarters and “an opportunity for artists from the USA to work in a unique natural environment,” it says at marfacontemporary.org. “Marfa is a small town in a sparsely populated area of far West Texas and artists should be prepared to spend a great portion of their time alone. A residency at Marfa Contemporary is perfect for those artists who seek a quiet environment that remains largely unfettered by industrialism.”
How cool is this?
Y’all keep talking about that last part, and I’ll start pasting these columns of mine on canvas and calling it art.