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Two Days in Marfa, Texas

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It requires a long and dusty trek across the desert to reach Marfa,Texas. Situated 200 miles from El Paso, Marfa is a little burg in west Texas with a population of 2,200 and a thriving community culture steeped in modern art and architecture. I traveled there to meet with the inimitable designer Barbara Hill, whose Marfa residence, a renovated turn-of-the-century dance hall, will be featured in an upcoming issue of Dwell. She squired me around, showed me the sights and introduced me to this unique and vibrant arts community. While I only had two days, admittedly not nearly enough time, I captured a few shots of a most unusual place.

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  Downtown Marfa in all its glory. Amazingly, the entire town is comprised of just two square miles.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    Downtown Marfa in all its glory. Amazingly, the entire town is comprised of just two square miles. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  Barbara and I kicked off our Marfa tour over "margarita martinis" and good old Texas steak at Maiya's Restaurant, owned and operated by East coast expat Maiya Keck.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    Barbara and I kicked off our Marfa tour over "margarita martinis" and good old Texas steak at Maiya's Restaurant, owned and operated by East coast expat Maiya Keck. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  While Marfa has a long military history and has served as a popular destination for movie crews, it was artist Donald Judd that put Marfa on the map. He began buying buildings here in the 1970s, working with New York's DIA Foundation to find a permanent home for his large-scale pieces. He purchased 340 acres that once belonged to the military—in fact German POW's were housed here after World War II—and used existing artillery sheds and barracks to house his installations. Here we see his fifteen untitled works in concrete, which he placed from 1980-86. Each structure was poured on-site, and though I wanted to get closer, I was warned that it was rattlesnake season. No thanks.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    While Marfa has a long military history and has served as a popular destination for movie crews, it was artist Donald Judd that put Marfa on the map. He began buying buildings here in the 1970s, working with New York's DIA Foundation to find a permanent home for his large-scale pieces. He purchased 340 acres that once belonged to the military—in fact German POW's were housed here after World War II—and used existing artillery sheds and barracks to house his installations. Here we see his fifteen untitled works in concrete, which he placed from 1980-86. Each structure was poured on-site, and though I wanted to get closer, I was warned that it was rattlesnake season. No thanks. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  In 1986 Judd parted ways with DIA and the Chinati Foundation was born. Here we see one of two artillery sheds that Judd rehabbed with a new Quonset-style roof and new quartered windows—additions that doubled the proportions of both structures and provided a light-filled space for his 100 milled-aluminum works.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    In 1986 Judd parted ways with DIA and the Chinati Foundation was born. Here we see one of two artillery sheds that Judd rehabbed with a new Quonset-style roof and new quartered windows—additions that doubled the proportions of both structures and provided a light-filled space for his 100 milled-aluminum works. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  The interior of the artillery shed is a masterwork of symmetry and proportion. Each of the aluminum pieces has the same exterior dimensions (41 x 51 x 72 inches) but each boasts a slightly different configuration.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    The interior of the artillery shed is a masterwork of symmetry and proportion. Each of the aluminum pieces has the same exterior dimensions (41 x 51 x 72 inches) but each boasts a slightly different configuration. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  The aluminum pieces are the center of Judd's collection. It took four years to install them all to Judd's famously exacting standards. Judd's poured-concrete structures are in the distance, situated next to a scrim of cottonwoods that Judd planted to form a perimeter to the site.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    The aluminum pieces are the center of Judd's collection. It took four years to install them all to Judd's famously exacting standards. Judd's poured-concrete structures are in the distance, situated next to a scrim of cottonwoods that Judd planted to form a perimeter to the site. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  A huge pivoting door, a hallmark of many Judd–designed buildings, opens to the Arena, a circa-1930s structure that once served as a gymnasium for the soldiers stationed here.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    A huge pivoting door, a hallmark of many Judd–designed buildings, opens to the Arena, a circa-1930s structure that once served as a gymnasium for the soldiers stationed here. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  Judd restored the building in the 1980s—it had fallen into disrepair after years of serving as horse quarters. The Chinati Foundation often hosts parties here, and guests dine at the Judd–designed tables and chairs.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    Judd restored the building in the 1980s—it had fallen into disrepair after years of serving as horse quarters. The Chinati Foundation often hosts parties here, and guests dine at the Judd–designed tables and chairs. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  Judd designed this piece, which is a bed separated into two sleeping areas by a central plane of wood, for his two young children. It's reminiscent of the two-sided bed Frank Lloyd Wright used to nap in at Taliesin West—one side for lounging, and one side for actual sleeping.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    Judd designed this piece, which is a bed separated into two sleeping areas by a central plane of wood, for his two young children. It's reminiscent of the two-sided bed Frank Lloyd Wright used to nap in at Taliesin West—one side for lounging, and one side for actual sleeping. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  After the tour, we headed back into the center of town to grab lunch. Food Shark, the local mobile eatery, did not disappoint. When we arrived promptly at noon, there was already a hungry throng queued up and lounging on Donald Judd–designed furnishings.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    After the tour, we headed back into the center of town to grab lunch. Food Shark, the local mobile eatery, did not disappoint. When we arrived promptly at noon, there was already a hungry throng queued up and lounging on Donald Judd–designed furnishings. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  The menu changes every day; we enjoyed gazpacho, pork bahn mi sandwiches, fresh iced tea, and cous cous salad. Yum.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    The menu changes every day; we enjoyed gazpacho, pork bahn mi sandwiches, fresh iced tea, and cous cous salad. Yum. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  We stopped by the Hotel Paisano, where the cast and crew of Giant stayed for the two months they were filming in Marfa in 1956. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel was designed in 1930 and hosted James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, among many others.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    We stopped by the Hotel Paisano, where the cast and crew of Giant stayed for the two months they were filming in Marfa in 1956. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel was designed in 1930 and hosted James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, among many others. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  Barbara's friend and frequent design collaborator, George Sacaris, renovated this 300-square-foot building and uses it as a weekend retreat. Pity that we couldn't see inside, but George was traveling. Next time!  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    Barbara's friend and frequent design collaborator, George Sacaris, renovated this 300-square-foot building and uses it as a weekend retreat. Pity that we couldn't see inside, but George was traveling. Next time! Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  Marfa offers a wealth of cultural attractions housed within cleverly renovated structures. Here we see the Ballroom, a 1927 building converted into an art gallery.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    Marfa offers a wealth of cultural attractions housed within cleverly renovated structures. Here we see the Ballroom, a 1927 building converted into an art gallery. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  We caught the tail end of the exhibition "In Lieu of Unity", curated by Alicia Ritson. It was an assemblage of photographs, sculptures, video, and other media, all created by contemporary artists from Mexico. I longed to lounge inside the suspended daybed constructed of rubber wires, but time was of the essence and there still was much to see. Also, I am not sure I would have been able to get out.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    We caught the tail end of the exhibition "In Lieu of Unity", curated by Alicia Ritson. It was an assemblage of photographs, sculptures, video, and other media, all created by contemporary artists from Mexico. I longed to lounge inside the suspended daybed constructed of rubber wires, but time was of the essence and there still was much to see. Also, I am not sure I would have been able to get out. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  After lunch, we started meandering around town. I loved this 2010 work, which I felt was emblematic of Marfa itself. It's included in the Ballroom Marfa's show, In Lieu of Unity, and the artist is Tercerunquinto.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    After lunch, we started meandering around town. I loved this 2010 work, which I felt was emblematic of Marfa itself. It's included in the Ballroom Marfa's show, In Lieu of Unity, and the artist is Tercerunquinto. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  As we were driving around, I spotted this incredible gabion fence. Massive and perfectly arranged, the fence surrounded a privately owned community events space.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    As we were driving around, I spotted this incredible gabion fence. Massive and perfectly arranged, the fence surrounded a privately owned community events space. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  Barbara Hill's courtyard, replete with native plantings and salvaged materials. Her entire residence will be featured in an upcoming issue, so keep your eyes peeled.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    Barbara Hill's courtyard, replete with native plantings and salvaged materials. Her entire residence will be featured in an upcoming issue, so keep your eyes peeled. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
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  We ended our Marfa tour at Cochineal, which like most of Marfa's businesses is housed within a century-old adobe. Co-owners Tom Rapp and Toshifumi Sakihara, former New Yorkers, did an outstanding job on both the menu and the interior design. I especially loved the ribbons of felt that run the length of the ceiling—I thought it an original and sculptural way to diminish the din of dining-related noise.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    We ended our Marfa tour at Cochineal, which like most of Marfa's businesses is housed within a century-old adobe. Co-owners Tom Rapp and Toshifumi Sakihara, former New Yorkers, did an outstanding job on both the menu and the interior design. I especially loved the ribbons of felt that run the length of the ceiling—I thought it an original and sculptural way to diminish the din of dining-related noise. Photo by Amanda Dameron.
  • 
  On my way out of town, I stopped along the side of an empty highway to shoot the Prada Marfa, a permanent installation created by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset in 2005. Standing alone in the middle of nowhere, the locked building holds actual Prada merchandise (right-foot-only shoes and handbags without bottoms, to deter vandalism and theft) and is constructed of adobe and MDF. I thought the intentional juxtaposition of tongue-in-cheek high-end design against the backdrop of the west Texas desert expanse was a fitting end to my time in Marfa. Truly a most unusual place.  Photo by Amanda Dameron.
    On my way out of town, I stopped along the side of an empty highway to shoot the Prada Marfa, a permanent installation created by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset in 2005. Standing alone in the middle of nowhere, the locked building holds actual Prada merchandise (right-foot-only shoes and handbags without bottoms, to deter vandalism and theft) and is constructed of adobe and MDF. I thought the intentional juxtaposition of tongue-in-cheek high-end design against the backdrop of the west Texas desert expanse was a fitting end to my time in Marfa. Truly a most unusual place. Photo by Amanda Dameron.

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