I had the good fortune to spend a week in Marfa, Texas. The by-line on the 'Visit Marfa' website reads 'Tough to get to. Tougher to explain but once you get here you get it.' I agree with that. One of my friends 'Got it' enough to set up home and studio there and a year ago today I went to visit.
I can not praise my first experience of Marfa highly enough. However, my visit coincided with the Chinati Weekend one of the highlights of the Marfa arts calendar so I did not see the town in it normal guise. The current population of approximately 2000 people swells to bursting point for those few days in October, the numerous artists open their doors wide...
and everywhere becomes a gallery. Wine, music, curiousity and conversation flow around the town. Everyone that I spoke with held huge affection for Marfa ....and I spoke to a lot of people during my stay. I was surprised that so many people extended a hand, introduced themseves and asked me who I was. My friend said "People notice when there is a stranger in town.
But there are lots of strangers in town this week I replied. "They can't notice them all'. She looked at my orange hair, granny shoes and long frock, raised an eyebrow and said no more.
My friend moved from Austin to live there, It seems to me that many of the 'New Marfans' that increased the town's population to 2,000 moved from Austin to be there. My friend is the designer Holly Everett. Primarily, Holly is a furniture designer but she can turn her talents to wallcoverings, fabrics, gates, windows and the spaces to surround all of the above. She has a studio with a yellow door opposite The Get Go and advertises work hours as 'By Chance or By appointment'. It is a designer, artist, musician type of town and the feeling is so laid back as to be horizontal. Marfa is located on the high plains of the Chihuahua Desert 4,800 feet above sea level the surrounding distant vistas feature the peaks of higher mountains. The light is phenomenal, the weather during my stay was perfect. I loathe the words vibe and awesome...but the vibe was awesome.
Visit Marfa shares a link to a thirteen minute feature on 60 Minutes at CBS it gives a flavour of the town although not quite as I experienced it. I never heard a quaver of country music in the country lovin' one horse town during the week that I was there. I didn't see a horse either although there were tethering posts outside the stores and bars. It was lovely to see some of the many faces that I met during my stay appearing and speaking in the film clip. TravelMag features Marfa and gives far more information than I could.
An overnight trip took Holly and I to the nearby Big Bend National Park, my phone pinged with the message 'Welcome To Mexico' I wondered whether we had taken a wrong turn but no; Mexico was a short wade through the Rio Grande from us. I kept firmly to the Texas side of the river. We stayed in Terlingua Ghost Town.
Holly kitted me out with a desert appropriate outfit from her wardrobe. My floaty chiffon was replaced with double denim, a big brimmed hat and fabulous pair of her pointy, western boots.
She drove for hours showing me vistas, creeks, flowers, rock formations and more ghost towns. We took short walks and stopped for refreshments and photos.
During my week we had various excursions around the area, some of the places reminded me of the paintings of Edward Hopper.
The place looks like a film set. 'Visit Marfa' proclaims to be a film friendly town. No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood are two of the more recent big name films with a Marfan backdrop. Ranch scenes from Giant starring James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor were filmed there. Giant was one of the earliest 'on location' movies. I stencilled an homage to the man and movie for my hosts using our Cowboy and Paisley stencils.
Holly's neighbour was a stunt rider in the film and it was filmed on her friend's family ranch. I was invited to see their scrapbook which I really wanted to do but ran out of time.
Minimalist and contemporary art, Donald Judd, The Chinati Foundation, the mysterious ghost lights, the night skies, even 'Prada Marfa' all go hand in hand to embellish the Marfa experience and I will save more observations and photos for another post. I fear this one may already be too long.
I returned from Marfa with a relaxed glow and a flight bag full of roasted beans from Big Bend Coffee Roasters. It was a long, stressful journey home; almighty dust storms were wreaking havoc with the flightpaths. My suitcase and I were separated somewhere between Midland and Dallas and I missed the last connection to England waiting in vain at an empty lugage carousel. No matter; When I think of my week in Marfa I smile at the memory, I'd like to think I will return and that for a short time maybe 'I got it'