Donald Judd, Minimalist Artist Eternalized

Marfa, Texas, located west of Austin and north of Big Bend National Park, is a town with secrets. We have passed through Marfa twice before without discovering the art scene that is reputed to exist or see the “mystery” lights that put Marfa on the map. A large observation center has been built 8 miles east of town to view these lights. Some people have called this a hoax. So be it.

Determined to solve these mysteries for ourselves, we camped in nearby Alpine and drove into Marfa to discover its secrets for ourselves. This proved difficult. There are no visitor center signs, no information centers, nothing points to the jewels we finally uncovered even though we could see several galleries and workshops in old and rustic buildings in town.

Quizzing the proprietor of El Paisano Hotel, the librarian, restaurant staff, and the chance meeting of the Conservator of the Judd Foundation, the veil finally fell off and we spent hours on guided tours and on our own exploring the Minimalist world of Donald Judd, Daniel Flavin and John Chamberlain.

Books are needed to do justice to the collections and permanent exhibitions in Marfa and their place in art history. These books and publications exist as well as web sites (see below) that will give you a glimmer of what we saw and learned. Donald Judd arrived in Marfa in 1973 and his story and work is maintained in two foundations, the Judd Foundation and the Chinati Foundation. I have signed a release and cannot share any images I made of the artwork in a public forum. It is worth an electronic journey in the least to these web sites and if you can, a trip to Marfa, Texas.

Oh yes, the mystery lights are still under a veil for us. If you do visit and see the mystery lights, please, let me know.
Photos of Marfa Town Hall and Chinati foundation welcome sign

Ann Carol Goldberg

The Fire On The Mountain

The fire on the mountain rose in two pillars of white smoke. Our family had gathered for a winter reunion. There we stood on the dry grass in my son and daughter-in-law’s Virginia farmyard watching the smoke. The persistent drought was on all of our minds; is there a chance that the wildfire could blow our way? How did the fire start and how far away is the fire?

A truck roared up the driveway. It was marked Covesville Fire Department and driven by the fire chief. He requested permission to open the gate adjacent to Dan’s farm and drive up the road toward the fire area. The men in our group joined the chief to lend a hand. A dozen volunteers appeared in their pickups with their blue lights flashing. The driveway was jammed with their vehicles and anxious men standing and staring at the fire deciding what to do next.

All of us were wary. Could the fire be a threat to the farm? Would we have to evacuate? My son and daughter in law kept cool heads and discussed the possibility with the fire fighters. We had plenty of food and water to take and we could stay in town if necessary. The firefighters assured us that we were not in imminent danger.

My wonderful daughters in law, Malena and Miriam and I needed to grocery shop for there were five young appetites to fill. An opening was granted so we could drive down the farm road to the highway into Charlottesville to stock up. Until now, the road had been plugged with firefighters vehicles wending their way up to Hungry Town Hollow. We could see the smoke from Highway 29. There seemed to be two sizeable hillocks between the fire and the farm.

The location of the fire was remote and difficult to reach. Several the firefighters planned to hike to the fire to keep watch for the rest of the day and through out the frigid night. We did not envy them and did offer hot drinks and food. They were well stocked and prepared for this vigil. The cause of the fire was never relayed to us. One of our neighbors thought he had heard a loud noise and saw people walking on the ridge just before the smoke appeared. But this was most likely unrelated and coincidental, being the last day of deer hunting season.

We returned from town two hours later. The pillars of smoke had not grown in size and seemed to be contained. The trucks were gone; having dispensed the hardy firewatchers to their place for the mountain watch.

Life on the mountain farm is adventuresome. In a period of two days, we experienced the wild fire, fallen trees blocking the single road and icy driving conditions with a neighbor’s car going over the edge, incredibly with no injury or damage to the car. I am awaiting my first sighting of fox, bear or mountain lion; I will have to be very patient.

Ann Carol Goldberg