Marfa: This Must be the Place

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Something special happens when you turn off of Interstate 10 at Van Horn, Texas, on your way to Marfa. The sky opens up, cars become few and far between, you climb to almost 5,000 feet above sea level, and time slows down. The scale of the ruggedly beautiful land is vast and isolating. It instills a transcendent feeling of possibility, potential, and independence—a feeling that has inspired filmmakers, artists, and cowboys for centuries.

Marfa is a one-stoplight West Texas town where you’ll find ranch hands and saloons alongside experimental artists and modern art galleries. Artists come here for the space and the pure, clean light, joining the ranchers and cowboys who work the mystical land, as well as Marfa’s Hispanic community, which accounts for roughly 70 percent of the population and includes many families that have called this small town home for generations.

Artist Donald Judd, drawn to the empty desert and in search of change, moved to Marfa in the early ’70s and began acquiring buildings, eventually including the town’s abandoned army base. On the site of that army base, he created the Chinati Foundation; there, he installed 15 untitled works in concrete and 100 untitled works in mill aluminum and invited other artists to permanently display their work as well. After Judd’s death, in 1994, the Judd Foundation was formed, opening his home and studio spaces to the public.

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