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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beatlick Travel Report 2010: Marfa TX 

Date: Jan 30, 2010 11:18 AM

Marfa, Texas

While we were visiting in Fort Stockton Beatlick Joe and I were really impressed by Marfa’s public radio station KRTS 93.5 “radio for a wide range,” so we decided to stop for the weekend and check out some of the activities mentioned on the air. We had spent a cold night in Marathon with freezing rain that left the van coated in ice so we were grateful to see clouds in the vast sky break up and the temperature rise as we drove the 60 mile stretch into the Marfa Plateau.

We have passed through Marfa a number of times traveling down Highway 90 on our destinations elsewhere. Staying on that route the place looked like so many other hard-luck scenes in Texas, we really thought it was a little one-trick pony town touting its mystery lights, not unlike Roswell, cashing in on a local phenomenon.

We passed by the Marfa Lights Viewing Center nine miles from town. We judge that a good place to park overnight sometime. Native inhabitants were aware of Marfa’s mysterious lights long before the first recording of them back in 1883. The whole concept is so popular now that the town provides this accommodating viewing station and a festival on Labor Day weekend.

It was only after we pulled off of 90 and ventured closer into the heart of town that we saw how truly unique and interesting Marfa is. We urban camped right beside the Paisano Hotel which had a great bar, fireplace and wonderful big old bathrooms off of the lobby where you can lock yourself in for complete privacy and enjoy a big sink with lots of hot water. We haven’t had it this good since the Bisbee library in Arizona. The hotel hosts a large display of memorabilia from the movie “Giant.” Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson all spent time there and left behind their autographed photos.

We strolled around and enjoyed the beautiful buildings, coffee shops and art galleries all looking neatly spruced up and tidy. Our itinerary included KRTS, the Marfa Book Company, and Ballroom Marfa where an international film project was holding a reception. What an interesting crowd showed up. There seems to be a large draw of young people from Sul Ross University less than 30 miles away in Alpine. The art scene is huge here and we spoke to so many young people who have moved here from Boston, Austin , Berlin, you name it.

Apparently Donald Judd laid the foundation for the town’s heavy art scene in the mid-1970s when he established the Chinati Foundation, which today houses a permanent collection of contemporary art as well as temporary exhibits by artists in residence. One night on Marfa Radio they were interviewing two Germans who came to Marfa and created an art installation by taking apart an entire automobile and reconstructing it into two bicycles.

The “Art in the Auditorium” at Ballroom Marfa is a global collaboration between museums and art spaces in Italy, Norway, Turkey, Argentina, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. There were two large rooms with short films by seven up and coming filmmakers. One of the film directors was in attendance, Aida Ruilova. Her seven-minute short “Meet the Eye,” was filmed on a sound stage in Los Angeles and featured Karen Black of “Easy Rider” fame and LA artist Raymond Pettibon.

Black is expressing her anxieties to the male lead about her futile struggle to remember something. Pettibon is secretly carving a peephole in the wall. When Black does look through the hole she sees a scene of death, which ironically is the thing she is trying to remember. It’s pretty abstract as Truelove’s work is critiqued to be. The plot could be deciphered as the actor meeting herself in that dreamlike dimension. The petite former punk rocker said to her knowledge Marfa was the only town in America hosting the international collaboration.

“Dead Forest (Storm) by Charley Nijensohn of Buenos Aires was my personal favorite, totally surreal and I couldn’t figure out how in the world it was shot. Filmed in the Amazon Basin where the plight of the area’s deforestation is well documented a man is standing unprotected on a small floating craft, not much bigger than a log. It is pouring down rain and all you hear is the downpour with the visual of the man floating through a flooded landscape of blackened dead tree stumps. The relentless rain robs the scene of any color and the man drifts so precariously perched on his tiny craft, pummeled by the precipitation, as endangered as the rain forest.

We will stay the weekend and head on to El Paso. I have an appointment with an endodontist to get a root canal. Apparently I am such a unique and special person that I have grown four roots from my problem tooth instead of the usual three. So it is this fourth one which requires a root canal. I wish I could use these odds to work in my favor in Las Vegas.

So we completely changed our plans and won’t be back at Astor Park in the Big Bend area until March and April. Then we will continue our ultimate survival camp experience. In the meantime we will go to Truth or Consequences where we hope to park at the Artesian Hot Springs for a month. You can do that for only $125 with a discount on the hot baths and access to electricity. That sounds pretty plush to us.

Happy Trails

Beatlick Pamela

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