StreetVIEW – ‘A Small Drinking Town with an Art Problem’ by Laura Peischl

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We’re truly delighted to publish this wonderful article by our Columnist Laura Peischl who’s travelling the US right now with her fabulous companion Adria Ellis. As well as writing the text, Laura sent us some beautiful mobile images from her trip. We have put these together into a video showcase with the music of her choice, ‘Smoke a little Smoke’ by Eric Church (link), don’t miss this.

Postcards from Marfa

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Image ©Laura Peischl

“The moment I heard about Marfa I was intrigued and couldn’t help myself but google it immediately. What I found out about this small town puzzled me and made me want to know more, better, drive there the next day if possible! The next day came and, before I knew, I was in the car on the road to Marfa, Texas and leaving the quaint and charming town of Santa Fe behind. At this point I have to mention my talented and passionate photographer friend Adria Ellis (@aconica) who, like me, didn’t think more than a few seconds before accepting to embark on this adventure.

And man, we were not disappointed !!! I guess this was the first of many travel destinations I will share with Adria.

The drive to Marfa took us 2 days, mainly because we drove 2 miles and then back to abandoned sheds, run down houses, lonely and bored grazing black cows, sheep and dramatic cloud formations…. Call us freaks but I am sure most of you photographers out there will understand!!

We spent the first night of our journey not sleeping much but chasing for UFOs and aliens on the streets of Roswell, I am sure most of you know about the long history of extraterrestrial landings and visits in and around this city.

The second day we passed the Texan state line, which was quite an exciting moment for me! I had many destinations in mind when I left my tiny island in the Mediterranean but Texas…. ? After the endless Texan desert, speckled with oil rigs, the road took us through the BREATHTAKING landscape of the Davis Mountains freshly washed by a short but hefty down poor before opening itself to us towards the destination.
At the time we passed the Marfa sign, our excitement was unbearable; we couldn’t believe we really made it there!

But now let me share some basic info about this mystery town. Marfa is a city situated in the high desert of the Trans-Pecos, in far west Texas, located between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park. With a population of 2121 inhabitants and a few roads, it’s history dates back in the early 1880s, when the town was founded with the purpose of being a railroad water supply.

The city got it’s rather unusual name, after Marfa Strogoff, a character in the Jules Verne novel “Michael Strogoff” I couldn’t find out why actually, but take it for granted!

Nothing special so far, you will probably think, and you are right, at least regarding the years till 1971 when minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from New York City searching for a location for a permanent exhibition of his works. 1976 the first two ranches were bought and Judd started turning them into exhibitions of large collections of individual artists. Since Judd’s death in 1994, two foundations maintain his legacy, the Chinati Foundation and Judd foundation. The Chinati foundation now occupies more than 10 buildings and hosts permanent exhibitions of works by Ingold Arnarson, Dan Flavin and Claes Oldenburg alongside with works of Donald Judd.

Apart from the Chinati Foundation many galleries around the town offer exquisite exhibitions and works of art to the interested traveller.

Talking about Marfa, I need to mention the Marfa Mystery Lights, visible on clear nights outside the town when facing southwest. The lights appear and twinkle colored in the distant sky, they move, split apart, disappear and reappear. Unfortunately, for us they were not to be seen, although we spent quite an amount of our night time at the observation station in the middle of the Texan High Desert.
But we were rewarded with a perfectly full super moon shining bright over our heads and making the endless desert shimmer magically.
I will never forget the smell of the white sage in the night air, intoxicating, wild and haunting.

Another very interesting installation/art work/creation just outside Marfa, right after the small village of Valentine, is the Prada Marfa sculpture. It is a permanent sculpture realized 2005 with the assistance of American architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello and it is meant to be what the artists called the work, a “pop architectural land art project”. The intention was to never repair or refurbish the sculpture, so it might slowly degrade into the natural landscape. Unfortunately, this plan failed just three days after completion, when the sculpture was graffitied by vandals and it was broke into the building stealing handbags and shoes.
The sculpture still shows signs of vandalism today but the stolen handbags and shoes were replaced and shine inviting in the shelfs of the art work making me think of the uselessness of fashion trends when confronted with the vastness of nature.

I hope you enjoy the photographs I took and, should you be somewhere nearby Marfa any time in the future, take your time and stop by, enjoy the works of art but also the great eateries in town and their impressive wine lists from all around the world. And don’t forget to smell the white sage in the desert!”

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6 thoughts on “StreetVIEW – ‘A Small Drinking Town with an Art Problem’ by Laura Peischl

  1. What a wonderful story, Laura! Thanks for the taking us along on the ride; felt like we were there with you and Adria! The images you captured are really great . . . I had to chuckle at the folding chairs that read “Boys to Men” with “Tacos” underneath. 🙂

  2. Laura, What really appealed to me was the use of single words on buildings, “Ballroom” “Architecture” along with the almost abstract look of the buildings and the Tacos Chairs. Well done.

  3. Gerry, glad you liked it and you really understood the thread going through all images. Yes, it was about the minimalism in the works of art of Donald Judd that I wanted to highlight with the images you mentioned. Thanks a lot for your kind comment!

  4. Tracy, that is what I was looking forward to see most, the “real” America. And I love it! I have already so many photographs, you just bring me to an idea of getting them together in a new column! Thank you for taking your time to read/watch my column! 🙂

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