Take a Deep Breath and Look Around You

Marfa TX is known for art. Funky, avant-garde art. Installations, not sculptures. I knew this going there, and was excited to experience it. But upon arrival, my disposition changed dramatically. Ummm, a field of enormous cement rectangles? I just didn’t get it.

Add to my muddled state that you can’t view the art at any time; it’s only shown by tour. And I had missed the tour for the day, which meant if I wanted to see this stuff, I’d have to come back tomorrow. Not suuuuch a big deal, but looking through the art book I wasn’t delighted by anything there.

So I took action by texting my cousin, an installation artist himself. He weaves coffee stirrers into incredible, delicate, and still strong “shapes” that consume a room. He gave me wonderful advice that applies to more than art. (I’m in blue, Jonathan is in grey)

cement installation at Chinati

The installation that sent me into a tizzy of “I don’t want to be here.”Photos courtesy of Flickr and Chinati materials


texts with Jonathan 2

texts with Jonathan 2

It Turns Out to be Beautiful

At first glance, each installation is frankly odd (by my judgmental standards). Two military hangars full of aluminum rectangles; multiple buildings that used to be barracks made white inside with slanted walls and colored lights; crushed cars welded together and then occasionally painted with splatter.

But if  you do as Jonathan advises, take a breath and look around, they’re fascinating and become wondrous, wonderful.

A Lot of Aluminum Boxes

One hundred boxes, all the same dimension but entirely different shapes. I beg your pardon, could you explain more? They all consume the same amount of space. The art is in the geometry of how each space is used. Sometimes solid, others empty. Shelves or angles, peekaboos or pockets. Creating and removing space.

They are aligned perfectly, and in exact harmony with the building’s structure. That precision and repetition are compelling in their own right. Once you begin to explore the aluminum, it, too, takes on character and intrigue. Who thinks to make art out of shapes? Well, isn’t all art essentially shape? How did he conceive of 100 variations?

Aluminum boxes at Chinati

Photos courtesy of Flickr

If Yellow and Blue Make Green, then Why is it Orange in Here?

You walk into a former barrack that has been sheetrocked inside into perfect white. At one end, the walls are cut into two slanted hallways, each projecting a complimentary color. Once you get to the hall, you discover that the colors are not what you expected. It appears pink but the lights are orange and green. How does that happen?

They’re angled and fluorescent (or neon?) which can be migraine-inducing for some, but if you let your eyes adjust, it’s a game of positive and negative space. (I know, who am I to use such terms?). Look at the opposite wall and see the grey where the colors cancel each other out. Walk to the other side, where the colors flip–if it was dominate yellow over here, it’s dominant blue over there. The same, but different.

It’s like gates in Star Wars, but preppy. Click the pic to advance the slideshow.

The Junkyard is Sexy?

Take crushed cars and weld them together–sometimes into an oval, others in a row. Perhaps their original color is featured, or perhaps a splatter of paint enhances. Look for a collection of all white; notice the pink cadillac. And recognize that the fusing of elements that yet retain their independence is like sex. Umm hmmm. That was far-fetched for me.

But that said, these were my favorite–I think because of the color.

car art at Chinati

Photos courtesy of Flickr

The Artistry of the Building

Need a place for installation art? Buy an abandoned military base in the middle of West Texas. Built for the Mexican Revolution and host to WWII German POWs, the Chinati Foundation has space for the works of 14 artists.

Uniting art, architecture and nature, this is a stunning location, fascinating in its own right beyond the art within.

hangar at Chinati

Photo courtesy of Flickr

And Then There’s Prada

Thirty miles away, and through a dilapidated town called Valentine, there sits a Prada store in the middle of the wilderness. It’s for display only–no shopping, no clerk, no door–but resplendent with the season’s handbags and shoes–selected by the folks at Prada, nonetheless.

It’s a statement about consumerism, no doubt. And juxtaposed with the decrepit town that’s literally falling apart, but sadly and amazingly folks still live there. Click the pic to advance the slideshow.

Photo of Prada building courtesy of Chinati materials; photos of the store courtesy of me; photos of Valentine, the city that hosts Prada, courtesy of Flickr. 

So Jonathan was right. Take a breath and look around. I was skeptical and cranky before, awed and enlightened after.


Disclosure: none of these photos are mine. Why? Because you’re not supposed to take pictures of the art, but folks did. So I’ll include them for you and for my own memory.

Share a tale of a time when a destination turned out to be far better than you anticipated.

6 Responses


Wow – finally a Prada store I would drive Jake too.


One purpose of art is to make you think. And you did. A lot!


Might they limit access to minimize the chance of spray painters?

Great advice.

Take a deep breath


Look around


I kind of like it all. Love the Prada store… so random! How are they stocking it. So weird, and cool.


Can’t wait to go!

Katherine! What a treat to hear form you! You’ll love it in Marfa – and the nature surrounding it. Hope you and Ben are doing well.

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