Marfa

Dazed and Confused Magazine, Published February 2006,  Feature on Marfa Texas and The Donald Judd Foundation. 

 

Marfa is a town of 2,400 people, it is 195 miles west of El Paso, 200 miles from the nearest airport  and 600 miles from Houston.


Marfa  started off as a water stop for the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. Its name is said to have come from the wife of the founder of the town  who took the name Marfa from Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov which had recently been published.  Located on a Chihuahuan desert plateau in the Trans Pecos area of West Texas, surrounded by vast mountains at a mile above sea level, it is Texas's highest city and it was important both economically and militarily in the development of Western Texas.


What once was  a small ranching community,  Marfa is now known  for Donald Judd's Chinati Foundation as well as the mystery Marfa ghost lights and for being the location for the filming of Giant.


Nine miles east of Marfa in the Chihuahuan desert, people gather to watch small ethereal lights floating through the night air with no apparent explanation. The Ghost lights as they are now called were first reported over a century ago but the local Apache talked of them before as stars falling to the ground. They are a real phenomena.


The roadside ruins of Realto ranch homage to James Dean, the location for the film Giant in 1955 still stand on the nearby Ryan ranch a few miles out of Marfa.


Yet Marfa is now best known now  for the Chinati foundation which Donald Judd set up in 1979.  The barren Texas landscape best known for tumbleweed and coyotes co-exists with international minimalist  art.


With the initial help of a DIA grant, Donald Judd moved from New York to the vast desert of Marfa where he bought 340 acres of land and 32 buildings of an abandoned army base, and created the Chinati foundation to provide a place for himself and other artists to create and permanently install work.

Today the Chinati  collection consists of 15 outdoor concrete works by Judd, also 100 aluminium works by Judd housed in two converted artillary sheds. Sculptures by John Chamberlain,  a large outdoor piece by Claes Oldenburg as well as an installation by Ilya Kabakov.


Its most recent work is a set of  glowing flourescent towers created by Dan Flavin shortly before his death in 1996 - a gigantic 36,000 square foot installation of coloured flourescent tubes.


Each October for a weekend, the Chinati foundation opens up its doors to visitors and around 5,000 people visit from around the world to see the art and have a party.