Road Trip to Marfa, Texas

Every year, artists from all over the world gather in Marfa, Texas for the Chinati Open House art festival. For a few days the town has more art galleries than any other city on Earth. Lacey, my artist friend in Houston was planning on driving out to Marfa this year because one of her bronze pieces was going to be displayed at Camp Marfa, a gallery of works by Houston and Lubbock artists. I signed on at the last minute as traveling companion. She left Houston by car on the morning of Oct 4 and I flew down to San Antonio that afternoon, where I met her as she passed through.

We stopped briefly at a WalMart in Boerne, where I bought a tent, bedrolls, and assorted other things one might need when arriving in a crowded small town with no hotel reservations. We made it as far as the city of Junction where we stayed in the luxurious America’s Best Value Inn, where each room is provided with all the live crickets you could want at no extra charge.

We later talked to other artists who’d chosen to drive through the night and we were glad we hadn’t attempted it. One driver hit a deer and several others reported close calls with other wildlife. Even driving during daylight, we came within a few feet of hitting a good-sized bobcat that charged across the highway in front of us, probably chasing a jack rabbit. In addition to wildlife, we also passed along side a wind farm with hundreds of huge wind turbines. It was an amazing site but due to the tight schedule we weren’t able to take the time to check it out.

Each of the art collectives is apparently responsible for coming up with their own facility to house their art. The Houston art enclave worked out a deal to use the historic Building 98, part of Fort D. A. Russell. The adobe and concrete building was originally the officers club in the 1920s. During WWII it became a prison camp for German POWs. Interestingly, the Germans painted ornate murals on the walls of the dinning hall, making the building the largest work of art created by POWs in world. What could be more appropriate for use as an art gallery?

Paintings and sculptures were installed throughout the building and one room was used for the multimedia works of a Houston group called Apocalypstick. The building had a large rear patio area where we had a couple of bands playing in the evenings. The Lubbock artists had improvised their own gallery inside of a Ryder truck. They arrived, backed the truck up to rear patio, installed in and out ramps, powered it from the building’s AC and – instant art gallery. There seems to be a lot of creative DIY cross-over between artists and geeks.

Overall we had a blast out in Marfa with only one mishap. On Friday night, Lacey twisted an ankle on the front steps of the building. She was in quite a bit of pain and this changed our plans to walk through the art galleries Saturday, shooting photos and seeing the sites. We ended up sticking to Camp Marfa most of the day and Lacey turned in early, sleeping in the SUV to avoid the party. Did I mention the party? Sonic Youth played a free concert Saturday night for the thousands of art and music fans in Marfa. Somehow, one of the members of the local band playing at our gallery had gotten them to make an announcement that everyone should head over to Camp Marfa after the concert. We had to close off the art areas and route people to rear of the building where our band was playing. And, aside from Lacey, none of us got to sleep until early the next morning.

After a few hours of sleep, Lacey and I headed out about 7am and repeated the inbound journey except with me driving. She felt up to driving by the time we were approaching San Antonio and assured me she’d be okay to drive the remaining distance back to Houston, so I called Susan and she was able to book me a flight back to Dallas. The shocker came a day later when Lacey got her leg x-rayed and it turned out she hadn’t just twisted her ankle, she’d broken her leg. It was a clean break of the fibula and she’s now in a cast. This certainly explained the pain and swelling but not why the pain was all in her ankle when the break was much higher. And I really regretted letting her drive when I heard that. How many people can say they’ve driven from San Antonio to Houston with a broken right leg? Not many I bet.

Lacey wrote her own account of the Marfa trip in her blog. It’s more detailed and probably more fun to read than this one, so check it out. What’s that? You’d like to see photos? No problem, check out my Marfa, Texas 2007 road trip photo set on flickr.

Austin Art Car Parade

Earlier this month, Susan and I drove down to Houston for the annual Orange Show Center for Visionary Art’s 20th annual Art Car Parade. This is one largest and oldest art car events in the world. About the only place you’re likely to see bigger and stranger moving art would Burning Man. There were over 200 art cars and an estimated 200,000 people in town to see them. I shot a lot of photos but only managed to shoot a fraction of what was there. Time to upgrade from a 2GB to 4GB XD card, I think! If you want to get an idea of what went on, check out my 2007 Houston Art Car Parade photos. You can also find pics of most of the cars in the official photo gallery on the Orange Show website. A local Houston friend of mine put together a little art car video of the event.

Road Trip with a Kitten

Susan and I are still trying to find homes for our bounty of unexpected kittens. We found a home for one of them with Lacey earlier this month. I made an overnight trip down to Houston to deliver her little tortoise-shell-colored kitten in person. I’d been wanting to visit the huge IKEA store down there so this worked out well. Overall, I can’t recommend making a 4 hour car trip with a small kitten. The kitten was in a large pet carrier with a dish of water and a small cat litter tray. It spent the first hour of the trip meowing and then discovered that is was fun to roll around in water dish and then in the litter box. By the time I got to Houston, it had turned itself into a scary looking mud-covered cat. I stopped on the outskirts of Houston and cleaned it up using a bottle of water and a towel and, by the time we arrived at Lacey’s house, it was dry and looking like a proper kitten again.

The kitten took an immediate liking to Lacey. She has two other adult cats, so the kitten got its own room until it became accustomed to the new surroundings. Meanwhile, Lacey and I spent a couple of hours wandering around the vastly huge Houston IKEA building. I picked up several catalogs and bought a few things we needed for our new office space.

After that, Lacey took me to The Artery, an eccentric little Houston outpost for the arts. Stationed in a converted house, the Artery is place for local artists to hang out, learn from each other, and show off their stuff. The yard around the house has been turned into a sculpture garden. After dinner we sat around for a good part of the evening trying to think of a name for the kitten. After much debate and flipping through art books looking for interesting names, she decided on Moxie Picasso.

After a healthy breakfast of Pop-Tarts, we visited the Menil Museum, where John and Dominique de Menil’s private collection of art is exhibited. It’s an amazing assortment of things ranging from Paleolithic artifacts to 20th Century works. We spent a little time looking for an elusive historical salvage place that Lacey needed to visit but we never found it. However, along the way, she showed me one of the strangest things you’re ever likely to see in Houston.

We pulled into a parking lot in a typical, Houston warehouse district and, lined up along one side of the lot, we saw the giant busts of the US presidents. They were at least 20 feet high and there were 30 to 40 of them lined up. We were looking at the parking lot of the warehouse where artist and sculptor David Adickes does his thing. He is the creator of the huge, 67 foot statue of Sam Houston that can be seen from I-45 north of Houston. Most of the presidential sculptures looked a bit beat-up as if they were old (except for the one of Reagan which was in pristine condition and sat opposite all the other presidents). There was no obvious explanation of why they were there but I suspect they may be alternates for the ones at the Presidents Park in South Dakota. The heads are even famous enough that they’ve turned up in a Zippy strip.