What an exciting road-trip it was and we are happy to share it in detail after a long time away from the Blog. We (Rich & Tee Marvin) arrived in New Orleans on March 12th and had time to visit with some family & friends before setting out on the road with Shirley Marvin on March 14th.
We arrived Monday afternoon in Houston and visited The Counseling Place Mental Health facility where Rich's recently deceased brother Mike Marvin(1948-2008),had spent 30 years of his adult life. There we met up with long time friend and family member Hank Simpson who has been one of Rich's best friends since high school and Mike's caretaker towards the final years of his life. We proceeded with Hank and Grover Shaunty, the founder and director of a Counseling Place, to a delicious seafood restaurant on Shephard and then set off for Marfa Texas.
A funny thing happened on the next part of the journey in that we slipped into a "crossing the state of Texas time warp" where the GPS and MapQuest time to destination no longer worked and by midnight, after 14 hours of road trip and 6 hours still to Marfa, we decided to stay at a Comfort Suites in Fredricksberg Texas (other side of San Antonio). It was here that Rich seemed to become violently ill with some type of gastric virus that he attributed to too much stay awake junk food since nobody else fell ill.
On the next day March 15th, we drove and drove down the endless I-10 as Shirley commented on how amazing it was that this much uninhabitable wilderness still existed in the USA. Every now and then you would see a small windmill that we are told pumps up water for invisible livestock that we rarely saw. Other than that, it was just cactus and blue skies until we finally came upon the Welcome to Marfa sign!
We then spent the day seeing the sights, mixing with the natives and checking in to the apartments that we had rented "Stay Marfa Apartments" next to the Marfa Ballroom Museum. By that evening on March 15th (Beware the ides of March), Rich was doubled over in pain with the worst gastric convulsing he had felt in quite sometime. It was not an ideal position to be in the day before our 25th Anniversary although interestingly, I was in the exact same condition 25 years ago on an island called Exuma in the Bahamas and did not think it would be possible to stand in my wedding the next day. Tee gave me some grapefruit seed extract, which is the most bitter thing you can swallow or put in your stomach, but it seems to kill all that ails you and I rallied then as I did for March 16th this year. Not sure what it all means but I was happy to feel better and have an appetite again.
On the morning of March 16th, Shirley & Rich went on a mission to find a mirror for our apartment which seemed to be missing one. The locals sent us to the Dollar General (The BIG store in town) where we saw the waitress from the night before (when Rich was sick) and several other folks we had met. That's when we began to realize just how small a town of 2000 people is. The interesting thing is they come from all walks of life and locations, New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and they certainly know each other. We were the new folks in town during this busy Spring Break week and we certainly stood out like all the other new folks walking around wondering what people do in Marfa, Texas. No luck at the Dollar General so we tried the Marfa Thrift store which had only one small mirror that they were not about to part with it. Shirley did find a comfy chair that she liked while Rich searched for an appropriate 25th Anniversary Gift (probably not my best planning).
Next we went on the Christopher's Furniture store which had a carpet that was made from hundreds of remnants stapled together. There mom and I saw it at the same time, the beautiful $150 ornate mirror with our reflections in it. Mom immediately let me know that was not at all what Tee was looking for and only a crazy man would buy a mirror like that in the middle of nowhere 3000 miles from his home. "But Tee will love it and be so surprised and I will inscribe it and it will be a memory where we REFLECT on the 25 years we had and see what is to come in the 25 years ahead." The couple that owned the shop watched mom and I go at it and finally we made a $10 bet on what Tee's immediate reaction would be. We then took the photo where the woman informed us her husband was the Mayor of Marfa making her the first lady. We got back to the apartment where mom proceeded to win $10 and we all had a good laugh and now we have a keepsake mirror forever on Cape Cod.
Then we went out and explored and painted the town of Marfa red for our 25th Anniversary celebration. It became quite obvious that this town was similar to the remote Island where we were married in the Bahamas. Everyone was friendly, laid back and they actually referred to Marfa as The Island. We had to go off the island to the town of Alpine (35 minutes) to find a working ATM and hats for Tee and Shirley. We visited lots of local establishments and then had a lovely dinner at La Cochinel. The food in Marfa was outstanding which was quite surprising and many folks dining had come long distances to do so. We made a quick stop at the Ballroom Marfa Museum to say hello to all of the staff that was working round the clock way into the evening to get things ready. We then went to see the mysterious "Marfa Lights" located 9 miles outside of town at the official unmanned Marfa Lights Lookout Station. We can't tell you what we saw there because you just have to experience it on your own. We ended the evening at Padres, the local dance hall, where we sat with the Mayor and his wife and saw all the people we had seen in town that day.
The next day, March 18th, we were joined by fellow NOLA friends Sacha Borenstien Clay (Larry Borenstien's daughter) and Jana Napoli (NOLA Artist with traveling Katrina Wall of Drawers exhibit). After a quick tour of the town (5 minutes will do it) we proceeded to the Chinati Foundation specializing in the minimalist art of Donald Judd and several others. Judd was able to put together a Foundation with some high end backing that allowed him to buy and retrofit 340 acres of abandoned military base installations to display his art and several of his friends in a minimalist setting.
It is a MUST do activity in Marfa and we all had some very strong opinions that we will once again not share so you can experience this yourself. Shirley did comment several times that when the Rockmore Project gets really big, her foundation will allocate resources to help make a difference in the lives of those that need it the most especially in the French Quarter. She is not a big fan of minimalist art but was able to do the arduous tour like a champion in the heat of the day. In Marfa, which is 1 mile up like Denver, every day is sunny, starts in the 40s and gets up to the 80s before going back down in the evening. It was absolutely wonderful having just left another March snowstorm on Cape Cod.
After The Chinati was the opening of the "World According to New Orleans Show" curated by Dan Cameron with the support of The Marfa Ballroom Staff led by Director Fairfax Dorn, Curator Mike Bianco, JD Difabbio - Development Director and Nicki Ittner - Gallery Manager. We had made 100 of the Rockmore Gift bags above which went very fast. The most amazing part was how completely packed it was for the entire 2.5 hours of a 2 hour opening.
There were folks from everywhere, some very important in the artworld, some locals, some Spring Breakers and folks who had made the trip special to be there plus all of the living New Orleans Artist. The exhibit was divided into the "Live" and the "Dead" New Orleans Artist Room where the Marvins, Jana Napoli and Sacha Borenstien Clay mixed and chatted up the visitors. Sister Gertrude was a hit as well as Michael Smith's photography, Roy Ferdinands' work and Jules Cahns'Mardi Gras Indian film preserved by the HNOC.
The "Live NOLA artist" room was really a treat and it was so interesting to hear all of the artist explain their motivations during the guided walk through. Katrina was easily the catalyst and common event that tied all of us (the artists, attendees and local Marfans) together. You don't think much of it until you hear each and every person tell how Katrina has affected them, their lives and their art. Dan started in the Dead Artist room on his tour and had interesting thoughts on all of the artist and what their place was in the artworld and New Orleans Art history. They all documented NOLA with their own style and tools and they all have a legacy that has lived on and enriched others through their art, film and photos.
Dawn Dedeaux is a Quarterite that knew Shirley & Rockmore from the old days. She had a minimalist sculpture with three steps like the bare stoops that were so prevalent right after Katrina. They were also located about the town of Marfa and they were lit somehow on the inside - very powerful. Gina Phillips had a huge sewn together work with all that you could see after Katrina in one BIG work. Skylar Fein had a Jasper John like Flag and market circular with writings in between expressing the frustration he felt of the disregarded have-nots.
Dan Tague had a cool work made from the rubbings of all the street tiles around NOLA - very interesting. He also had an outside sculpture crossword on the patio with key words from post katrina and Haiku poems by NOLA kids being read. Courtney Egan had art that had sound and video and was three dimensional and blowing in special effect wind - you had to see those in person. She and her husband had their baby boy who was the star of the show with them. Deborah Luster had 25 circles of NOLA murder scenes post Katrina - scary and memorable. Srdjan Loncar, Mr. Fix It,had fixed all sorts of things in Marfa and made them into functional art (a broken phone booth, a rail road bolt, a walkway). Bruce Davenport is an engaging black artist who had a fascinating Katrina relocation to other cities, to his FEMA trailer to his passion of detailing High School Marching Bands at Mardi Gras parades. The art was certainly fascinating and the man is extra special. Hats off to Dan Cameronfor assembling the art and including Rockmore.
The takeaway for us from this event is that Marfa is an interesting place that we will return to and the Marfa Ballroom Museum knows how to throw a FUN and ENTERTAINING event! Rockmore is still "The Man" garnering amazement and attention as his Artwork speaks for itself. Everyone was in awe of his art and also Shirley Marvin and her dedication to getting him the recognition he deserves. Really important Artworld connections were made(the Artworld movers look just like us but have power, wealth and influence and they know who each other are) and you can be sure we are following up. We will keep you posted!
Rich & Tee & Shirley Marvin