The Marfa lights are a phenomenon that appear in the desert east of Marfa
They appear at dark on some nights and seem to be mysterious glowing orbs rising above the desert. Either that - or they're car lights on US 67 coming north from Presidio, TX.
We were lucky enough to see what we think are the Marfa lights. Driving East of Marfa on US 67/90 toward Alpine there's a nicely built rest stop/Marfa Lights observation center.
We arrived at about 8:30pm, and after watching for 10 minutes or so saw the Marfa lights. Off in the distance they appeared, bouncing around, appearing and disappearing. Supposedly they were first seen in the late 1800's. Looking like......well, car lights in the distance.
I've included a link to an analysis done by some physics students at the University of Texas - Dallas. Their findings: " The Marfa lights are car lights. " But still, if you Google "Marfa Lights" there are some more convincing photos than what we saw. Perhaps.....just perhaps.....we saw amazing, spectacular things but the aliens erased them from our minds and made us believe what we saw was unimpressive.
But odds are it was just car lights. Still, it all made more sense than the art at the Chinati Foundation.
The Marfa Lights are a mysterious phenomena that has reportedly been around since at least 1883. There is also some indications of Native American Sightings of the lights well before that date. Exactly what the lights are is open for lively debate. Marfa has built a viewing area on US Highway 90, nine miles East of town, so you can see the lights in more comfort. There is a festival of the lights during Labor Day Weekend.
The El Paisano Hotel was named for the nearby Paisano Mountains. The building was designed by the famed architecture firm of Trost and Trost out of El Paso and was finished in 1930. It was built in anticipation of an oil boom that never came. It was built in the Spanish Baroque Style of architecture and features a center courtyard. It was considered the finest hotel between San Antonio and West Texas. When the file "Giant" was filmed in the area the stars (including James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor) and the crew stayed here. There is a small museum about the film in the hotel. The El Paisano is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Marfa Presidio County Museum is located on US Highway 90 near the center of town. It is housed in the old Humphries House, which was built in 1883 and is a registered historical landmark. The museum contains a nice collection of artifacts that includes fossils, native American and early settler tools as well as information on the area's early ranching, rural life and military history. An extensive collection of photographs detailing the history of this region is also displayed. The day I was there they were having an open house which included free food and wine. It was packed. It seemed obvious the people of Marfa are very proud and very supportive of their museum. Admision is free, but donations are appreciated. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, year round from 2 PM to 5 PM.
The Presidio County Courthouse was built in 1886 using the Second Empire style of architecture. It was designed by the architect J.H. Britton. That is the goddess of Justice standing on top of the dome. This is one of the prettier courthouses in the area. The courthouse is open from 9 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Friday.
Prada Marfa. They get the joke and let us in on it. (Chinati people - take notes)
Ballroom Marfa - a local arts cooperative - decided that what Marfa needed was a Prada Boutique. So they built a non functioning one. As art. 35 miles up the road from Marfa. And then just left it there to shock passers by.
We love it. And it works on a whole lot more levels than brutally massacring some innocent sofa.
The pictures say it all. The aliens came and they left us a designer boutique as proof they were there. Which begs the question: "Are the Marfa lights connected to the House of Dior?"
The Chinati Foundation is the reason visitors began coming to Marfa. In 1979 Donald Judd purchased the former Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa and began installing works of modern art in the former post's buildings. As a result, fans of Modern Art have descended on Marfa. Well, trickled in. Regardless, Marfa owes its upscale amenities to the Foundation's existence.
Tours are offered at 10am and 2pm. Admission is $10 and each tour takes in different exhibits.
As for visiting: "What is the experience really like?" We found it the most surreal experience we've ever had. Marfa's a dusty town with one stoplight, a Dairy Queen and a collection of the most aloof people on earth showing the most incomprehensible art on the planet.
Four condescending staff members led us on our tour. The total number of visitors? Four. The staff to visitor ratio made it impossible for us to share our true feelings about the art with each other. So we kept our comments bottled up though Chamberlain's display of blurry photographs (He could have been really good if he had learned how to focus) - but I lost it in the third gallery. 10,000 square feet of mangled couch. Chamberlain had pulled the stuffing from some couch cushions, bunched it into 30 wads, set it on pedestals, and called it art. (Well, he did spill paint on a few of the bundles.) About two thirds of the way through I came down with an uncontrollable case of the snickers, realized I had committed the MOMA equivalent of farting in church, and rushed to the exit. For the rest of the tour I think I was hated.
Prior to entering Horn's "Things that happen again" we were advised to be very careful as the piece was one of the most delicate in the collection. Upon entering it turned out to be a pair of 2 ton bronze cylinders lying on the floor. You could hit it with a truck and not hurt it! (Although the explanation given - when I asked - was that the patina was very delicate)
In short - don't miss the Chinati (But be respectful and on your best behavior.....until the drive home)
The Old Presidio County Jail is located just across the street from the courthouse. The prisoners didn't have far to go did they?