Aristata Land Arts

outdoor design & installation

Outdoor design, installation, and garden care. Specializing in outdoor structures & xeriscape plants. Portland, OR.

West Texas part 1

I took a recent vacation to West Texas, including to the town of Marfa, Tx and to the Chihuahuan Desert of Big Bend National Park. Two things happened - amazing art & design, and the discovery that when I have said "middle of nowhere" in the past, my scope was limited. Growing up in central Texas where it is hot and HUMID, and well, incredibly conservative, my motto became - "anywhere but Texas." Unfortunately this kept me from experiencing the mind blowing landscapes and rich cultural treasures of Texas. There's more to Texas than chips & queso, self serve salsa bars, margaritas, and breakfast tacos, all of which I still deem essential to my life.
Desert sun.
The art and design aesthetic of Marfa is all about minimalism and is heavily influenced by Donald Judd. He came to Marfa in the 1970's, driven by the inspiration he felt from the barren landscape of West Texas. Spurred on by his disdain for the temporary nature of art displayed in galleries, he undertook the project of creating a permanent location for his art. He purchased land that contained old army barracks and there lies his permanent art installations, along with a few other artists he selected. The only way to see the collections are by an all day docent led tour.
The barracks.

At first I had a hard time with the permanence factor, feeling it was a bit narcissistic, but by the end I really appreciated it. I kept imagining all of the installations, and potential color bombs that could be strewn across the land and how amazing they would be, and why not? Then, I felt the deep, paralyzing feeling of permanence. The abyss to FOREVER. For me, it is in the same category of non-existence that I absolutely cannot comprehend. Before all of this, there was NOTHING, not even a white room, void of sound with no life in it. 
The idea of art that is set in such a wide open landscape as something that will never change, always exist as it was originally intended to, and never be added to or taken away from is kind of maddening. It is a challenge to practice acceptance and contentment, an opportunity for the viewer to grow and discover new values within instead of only relying on the outside to change and reflect back what personal growth is. 
Donald Judd, untitled concrete forms

The view from the end, all aligned north to south
Permanent art could be the ultimate meditation. The landscape self-destructs and erodes, starves and then bursts open watery blue and green and thrives around it. The extremes of temperature, ferocious winds, dust storms, lightning bolts, and torrential monsoons are enough to comprehend and physically absorb. They are magnified around the solid and steady post of permanence.