Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert - Written by Helen Thompson & Photographed by Casey Dunn
The Monacelli Press

“Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West
Texas High Desert”
Written by Helen Thompson &
Photographed by Casey Dunn
The Monacelli Press
location:

El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe
555 Camino de la Familia
Santa Fe, NM 87501

“Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West
Texas High Desert”
Written by Helen Thompson &
Photographed by Casey Dunn
The Monacelli Press
ticket prices:

Admission is free with the purchase of tickets to
The Objects of Art Santa Fe

“Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West
Texas High Desert”
Written by Helen Thompson &
Photographed by Casey Dunn
The Monacelli Press

exhibit dates:

Talk | Friday, Aug. 18, 2pm
Helen Thompson (author) will sign copies of her book promptly following her talk. Books will be available at Hayden & Fandetta Books (Booth B53) and signed before and after the presentation.

   

Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert -
Written by Helen Thompson & Photographed by Casey Dunn
The Monacelli Press

Twenty-one houses in and around Marfa, Texas, provide a glimpse at creative life and design in one of the art world’s most intriguing destinations.

When Donald Judd began his Marfa project in the early 1970s, it was regarded as an idiosyncratic quest. Today, Judd is revered for his minimalist art and the stringent standards he applied to everything around him, including interiors, architecture, and furniture. The former water stop has become a mecca for artists, art pilgrims, and design aficionados drawn to the creative enclave, the permanent installations called “among the largest and most beautiful in the world,” and the austerely beautiful high-desert landscape.

In keeping with Judd’s site-specific intentions, those who call Marfa home have made a choice to live in concert with their untamed, open surroundings. Marfa Modern features houses that represent unique responses to this setting—the sky, its light and sense of isolation—some that even predate Judd’s arrival.

Here, conceptual artist Michael Phelan lives in a former Texaco service station with battery acid stains on the concrete floor and a twenty-foot dining table lining one wall. A chef’s modest house comes with the satisfaction of being handmade down to its side tables and bath, which expands into a private courtyard with an outdoor tub. Another artist uses the many rooms of her house, a former jail, to shift between different mediums—with Judd’s Fort D. A. Russell works always visible from her second-story sun porch.

Extraordinary building costs mean that Marfa dwellers embrace a culture of frontier ingenuity and freedom from excess—salvaged metal signs become sliding doors and lengths of pipe become lighting fixtures, industrial warehouses are redesigned after the area’s white-cube galleries to create space for private or personally created art collections, and other materials are suggested by the land itself: walls are made of adobe bricks or rammed earth to form sculptural courtyards, or, in one remarkable instance, a mix of mud and brick plastered with local soils, cactus mucilage, horse manure, and straw.

"Thompson’s clear, brief essays describe how each homeowner arrived in Marfa—a nice contextual touch, given that it’s a remote place where residents and visitors have to decide very consciously to be. Her descriptions of plans, materials, and design concepts give heft to what could have simply been a lifestyle coffee table book. Photographer Casey Dunn leaves people and styling (extraneous food, flowers, and props) out of his shots, for the most part, which keeps the focus on design choices as well as the play of the desert light inside. The result is a visual page-turner and is clearly a result of Thompson’s reporting skills from her days at Metropolitan Home magazine. Marfa Modern serves as a primer on how a “watering hole” that [Donald] Judd put on the map has evolved without him, and lets it lay claim to importance as a place of vernacular design, not solely an art destination."
—Architectural Record