Marfa, which is the Russian word for Martha, began as a watering stop for the railroad. This high desert plateau sits on a massive aquifer where water is plentiful. Later a US Army air station training camp grew the town during WWII … and then abruptly closed and left. In the 1970’s NY artist Donald Judd began buying up the town properties, the bank, warehouses, residences and including eventually the Army base, for permanent installation exhibits of his own and some other artists large scale works in painting, sculpture, furniture and design. From that, and together with a few Eliz Taylor/Rock Hudson films shot locally, Marfa attracted one of the finest old Hotels in West Texas, and now with several more, it regularly plays host to artists of all kinds with artists in residence programs, gallery events, and music and poetry festivals.
All that you can get from wiki. But one has to see the sparse desert landscape, the sunsets that cover the entire sky, the stars on a clear night and then meet the Marfans to truly appreciate that the laid back and yet urbane atmosphere is a product not only of what’s there, but also the fact that there, is 450 miles west of San Antonio and over 200 miles SE of El Paso. Mexico is closer than the nearest interstate highway. Marfa is maybe the friendliest town we found on a trip where friendly was the norm.
We were busy in Marfa. There was a full day and more of art studios. Jennifer stayed in one day and drew squiggly lines ( worked) while I went out for a massage to work out the miles. We walked the small downtown, including one of the coolest bookstores I’ve ever seen and some amazing art and vintage shops. And one day it snowed and the wind blew solid for 36 hours. Jennifer used the time to work while I cooked a few meals ahead and posted on our blog.
There are a few billionaire homes near the edge of town, but here nobody pays much attention to stuff or position. Robert Earl Keen has a simple little modern cottage across the street from a goat farm. That’s part of the charm of the place. This far from nowhere, in the middle of the vast Chihuahuan Desert everyone just seems more equal.
Upon arrival at the Marfa yacht club, (exclusively for airstreams), Jennifer was ready to extend our stay. By the time we left we were looking for land. We decided to come back to Marfa on the return trip for one more art tour and because Marfa is an easy 2 hours from Big Bend Nat’l Park.
We have an unexpected fondness for this little town in a place I never thought I could like. It will be interesting to see how that feeling weathers the miles as we head on toward the California coast.