At first Marfa resembles whatever other little West Texas town; however, its actual identity is a top of the line art centre and hipster haven. Marfa has one and only set of traffic lights yet there are 12 art galleries.
It could have gone the way for some other battling residential communities, similar to those in rural WA with the exception of the intervention of one man, Donald Judd. This real contemporary artist, who died in 1994, first came to Marfa in the early 1970s. He fell in love with the place and began purchasing up the town's structures. He had recently purchased an entire building in New York's Soho area for $70,000 -- yet that's another story.
In the long run, he owned a fair chunk of Marfa including an abandoned army base. This is presently the Chinati Foundation (named for the mountain range you can find out there) that maintains his legacy. Here on the congested parade ground, where officers once prepared for World War II, you can encounter his huge outdoor sculpture, the catchy 15 untitled works in concrete.
Judd worked in a simple style but on a big scale. In fact, architecture is often an essential part of his work.
His other major work here is housed in the two greatest structures of the sprawling grounds. Some of the other structures are used by artists and some contain works Judd appointed from artist buddies like Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain.
This remote place is an unlikely setting for cutting-edge modern art, but because the work is so site-specific, it is all the more powerful. Adding to the strange experience, on a guided tour of the compound, a group of wild deer suddenly appears from around the corner of a building, not 10 metres away.
It is hunting season but they somehow seem to know that here it is harmless. There are insufficiently few cactuses but otherwise they are full -- on John Ford western movie setting.
There is a Border Patrol stop that checks all traffic with sniffing dogs, as the Mexican border gets closer. Marfa sits in a flat treeless plain, enclosed by distant hills under a huge Texas sky.
The Chinati Foundation has pulled in different artists to the town, many of whom have set up galleries and different businesses. There are a number of bars and restaurants for such a small place.
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