#sparktravels: Marfa Travel Diary

by Maddy Murray

With a pickup truck loaded with two motorcycles and a half a dozen suitcases, we were “on the road” and headed West – 430 miles west of Austin, to be exact. The four of us were like something out of a Jack Kerouac novel, eager to escape the city for a few days and venture to Marfa, Texas. Together, Josh, McKenzie, Slade, and I planned the road trip of the summer. My only expectation was to glimpse the works of art that transformed Marfa into the minimalist art mecca it is today. Yet, the trip became more than that. There’s a serene quality to life that Marfa lends to its visitors.

Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
Welcome to Marfa

The first thing I noticed was the change of scenery. We had traveled six hours, but it looked as though we entered another world. Pulling into our quaint house for the weekend, lovingly known to us as “Casa de Marfa,” we had a panoramic view of the mountains. Their peaks were painted with a pastel glow of blues and purples where they met with the sky. And, naturally, the desert foliage provided plenty of cacti for my taste.

Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
A lil excited about the wild cacti

Our first evening included a winding excursion through the Davis Mountains, ending at the University of Texas’ astronomical observatory. The McDonald Observatory was having a “Star Party”, and hundreds of people gathered under one of the darkest night skies in the U.S. As an astronomer pointed out constellations, we found ourselves transfixed by the creamy streak of the Milky Way against a million stars. The four of us departed from the crowd to view some of the largest telescopes available for public viewing. It was there that the vivid rings of Saturn and Jupiter, with its four largest moons, were etched into our minds. A surreal experience.

Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
The famous Marfa Mystery Lights may be seen at nighttime near Route 67
Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati josh pierce
The boys and their bikes

When in town, it is obligatory to visit the artwork of the man responsible for putting Marfa on the map. A renowned artist from New York, Donald Judd first found himself drawn to the sweet desert isolation in the ‘70s. This is why we found ourselves following his path, ending at the military-base-turned-contemporary-art-museum: the Chinati Foundation. Dressing in our lightest clothes, we braved the Texas sun and walked along a trodden path to see his “15 Untitled Works of Concrete.”

Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
Donald Judd’s works of concrete
 Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
Slade at the Chinati Foundation

Marfa is nothing short of a ghost town. We hardly encountered groups of people. The four of us took a stroll down the main street without any itinerary, popping into boutiques and art museums at whim. With every turn of my head, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the earthy colors and old town architecture. The minimal-western culture of Marfa was evident. If a rhinestone-encrusted cowboy rode up horseback, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye.

Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
Downtown Marfa
#sparktravels: Marfa Travel Diary
The Marfa Contemporary Art Museum

We hopped onto bikes, cruising through the sleeping town. Marfa is primarily supported by ranching – we rode past more livestock than residents. But still, it’s no surprise that people would find paradise in this desert.

Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
Chillin’ outside El Cosmico

El Cosmico plays the lovely, hospitable host to Marfa’s visitors. We rode up to their lobby, which had a little shop inside carrying their western merchandise.  

Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
El Cosmico’s line of apparel
Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
McKenzie reading up on Marfa’s current events

We had to check out El Cosmico’s collection of vintage trailers and teepees. The campsite was full of retro amenities, from a hammocking station to an outdoor kitchen. Their twenty acres of campground is also home to the annual Trans-Pecos Music Festival.

Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati josh pierce
Slade, Josh, and some Sioux-style tepees
Maddy Murray desert wild west texas marfa prada donald judd chinati
Vintage trailers at El Cosmico
#sparktravels: Marfa Travel Diary
McKenzie outside of a retro RV on the campground
#sparktravels: Marfa Travel Diary
Still in love with this powder blue RV

Cruising down Highway 90, it was impossible to miss the large black font reading, “Prada Marfa”. The pop art installation is an uncanny replication of a Prada storefront. As we got closer we could see the displays come into view. Shoes and handbags lined the wall, each handpicked from the Prada Fall 2005 collection by Miuccia Prada, herself.

#sparktravels: Marfa Travel Diary
Prada of the desert
#sparktravels: Marfa Travel Diary
Josh and Slade on the lock-filled fence surrounding “Prada Marfa”

Marfa was the ideal getaway from everyday life. A place to lose all of your cell phone service and not give a damn. A place to engage with the people and things around you. A place to be pleasantly isolated. •

Maddy Murray is a second year Marketing major. She has been writing for Spark’s blog and magazine for the past three semesters. In her spare time, she can probably be found adventuring in the city or at home with a guitar in hand.

6 Comments
  1. Maddy Marfa is truly a get away. Next time go to Marathon and down to the basin in the Big Bend. Beautiful.
    Lica P

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