Marfa is a small town that is a short seven-and-a-half hour drive west of Austin. It’s an oxymoron of a drive that goes quickly due to the beautiful landscape along the way. Clouds stretch in a panorama along the horizon and you wonder if you’ve ever seen so much sky. Bands of purple and blue hues juxtaposed against the sand colored landscape don’t just look beautiful, they feel elemental. You sense isolation and connection all at once. Your heart feels free.
The destination, however, is even more ethereal. Marfa is a town now famously known for its art, thanks to contributions from Donald Judd and the subsequent Judd and Chinati Foundations. Donald Judd was a minimalist who mastered the impact of scale and here, against the negative space the landscape provides, that scale evokes an emotional and primal response. You’ll find his work throughout the town, and sometimes you may not immediately realize it…but there’s something to its presence. This was the case with me and the large table structures I seated myself at under the city’s main pavilion. It wasn’t until I began lunching on a Marfalafel from Food Shark – a local food truck that serves up a variety of Mediterranean fare – that I noticed how basic yet expansive they were.
Marfa teaches you to appreciate the simplicity and subtleties around you. Flecks of rust seem historic. Blocks of concrete feel majestic. Even the air has a color and a weight.
I went to Marfa with not only my wife, but with a great collective of artists I’m proud to call my friends. The trip aligned with the Transpecos Musical Festival and we reserved scout tents at El Cosmico, where the event was staged. I ran into so many Austinites that it felt as if the whole city rallied together and embarked on an group field trip. In retrospect, perhaps I should have realized that an event that combines music, art, and fellowship would have had such a gravitational pull on the folks of Austin. And just like Austin, the whole vibe of the event was low-maintenance, carefree, and communal.
You could leave a fold-out chair planted in front of the stage all day and expect to walk up and sit in it when the music festivities started. You could warm yourself up in the naturally heated hot tubs, or roast marshmallows on the fires kindled for them – all while enjoying talents like Amy Cook or Martie Maguire play underneath a canopy of stars. You could even head into your tent as the night went on and listen to the music beneath the tent poles of your own personal fort. I’ve never experienced a music event quite like it.
I have to admit that a year ago I probably wouldn’t have even taken this trip, at least not willingly. And quite frankly, a year ago I probably wouldn’t have been ready. For me, it took meeting Austin’s most enthusiastically creative people. It took getting connected once again with my artistic side. It took expanding to a greater open mindedness. Before this trip I never felt like I needed less, and Marfa assures you that the less is really all you need. Peace. Love. Art.
If you’re ready to experience that, perhaps you too are ready for a trip to Marfa.
Just let me know if you need an extra passenger, ok?