Marfa, Texas: The Bewitchingly Creative Desert Town
Marfa is an anomaly of creative liberalism embedded in conservative West Texas. 6 hours drive from Austin this tiny town is surrounded by flat bleached out ranches, endless road and open desert. The clash of industrial spaces, old-world Texas charm and minimalist architecture sit beside a colour palette of pastel shades of pink and blue.
Put on the map in the 1970s by minimalist artist and architect Donald Judd when he began buying properties in Marfa to permanently house his and others work. Fellow artists and creatives subsequently flocked to the small town in the passing decades, helping to create it into the artist community that it is today. Judd was a driving force in creating Marfa into a destination for creativity. The Chinati Foundation, an institution in town was established in 1986 to exhibit bigger pieces of Judd’s work as well as archives, a library, even the buildings are an expression of his views on the importance of art and artistic expression and his regard for land preservation, empirical knowledge, and engaged citizenship.
It’s sleepy and quiet, but there is so much to wonder at in Marfa. One of the most famous pieces is the Prada store installation seemingly dumped in the middle of nowhere. A short drive out of town and quite literally on the side of the road is the sculpture by Elmgreet and Dragset. Despite seeing pictures online, nothing compares to being stood on a road with no-one around, flat scrub land as far as the eye can see and a Prada store standing serenely in front of you. Surreal doesn’t quite do it justice.
There is magic in Marfa, I’m sure of it.
For a small town of just 2,000 people there is a lot to see and do. The Marfa Lights, the earliest acknowledged sighting of this phenomenon was back in 1883 by a cowboy called Robert Reed Ellison, nowadays there are viewing platforms and telescopes for anyone to go and see the bobbing, splitting lights. While scientific research suggests this is less cosmic anomaly and more likely to be car headlights bouncing off the hills, the beautiful sunsets and seemingly huge moon make this a must visit.
Marfa is sun-drenched colours, quiet streets and art hidden behind every door. Commercial properties sit next to artist studios and shops with Judd’s legacy permeating every inch of the town. As you walk down the main street you are hit by the sleepy feel as your eyes cast across to the pops of sky blue from an old pick up and the baby pink of the fire station. If Wes Anderson was to design a town, Marfa would be it.
The town is a juxtaposition, from sitting in the bar of the Hotel Saint George that could be in any cosmopolitan city with real cowboys in their dusty boots to the real gas station sat across from the art instillation replica of one. Nothing is as expected, as it should be.
Where to Stay
El Cosmico is a now iconic stop in Marfa. Whether a safari tent, teepee or airstreamer I’ve never stayed in a more comfortable bed and somewhere so peaceful. This little bohemian dream is truly somewhere special to stay.
Hotel Saint George situated right off the main street was refurbished in 2016 and is now a swanky hotel with a bar, restaurant and beautiful bookshop
Where to Eat
First up, Burrito Marfa. The name says it all, and these are great burritos. The shop is small, adorned in wood clad, rusty farming tools and antique guns. You will be absolutely stuffed with delicious burrito goodness and spend well below $10. The dream.
Capri is a fancier restaurant of food inspired by ancient techniques and produce. 6,000 year old corn varieties infused with smoked incense. You never quite know how what you order will taste, and it was like no other meal i’ve ever had. If you’ve ever been curious and into food, this is the place to stop by.