Being a compendium of thoughts as we drive and drive and....
We had a longish drive today through four states: Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Laura has now been to 49 states; Ed 48.
Rather than just tagging Nebraska, we stopped at Scottsbluff National Monument. The bluff was a major landmark on three western migration trails - the Oregon, California, Mormon Trails all went through here. The view from the bluff across the plains was impressive.
Next stop was Carhenge. Words can’t describe it
We will be staying in Custer in the heart of the Black Hills for the next few days. Hope to see more charismatic mega fauna.
FIVE WEEKS on the road as of today.
We spent the day with our niece Justine, great nephew Felix and great niece Zelda. Eric had to work…
But first, crepes for breakfast at a real French café.
We drove up Flagstaff Mountain (trying not to over tax Laura’s joints) with beautiful views of the snow covered Rockies in one direction and the city in the other.
After a stop in town, we drove up to National Center for Atmospheric Research, housed in an I. M. Pei designed building. They used the local clay in the construction, so while large it blends into the landscape. It’s one of Justine’s favorite destinations, and it has a good view of the Flat Irons.
We headed east of the city for a late dinner at Acreage, a very hip Boulder spot, catching an amazing sunset on the way.
The day started in Salida, Colorado, a delightful small town, with snow on the ground. It all melted pretty quickly with the strong sun, but it stayed cool through the morning. The town itself looks like it would be a good place to live – lots of recreational opportunities, art, music, restaurants, bakeries, shops, etc. Even its own public climbing wall and white water runs. And, we met lots of friendly dogs as we walked around the town. We got a sense of how our friend Darcie’s son runs a surf board business so far inland. White water surfing and stand up paddle boarding are new to us!
Drove through the beautiful Colorado mountains on steep winding roads via Breckenridge (where we had lunch), a ski town. We wondered if its Main St. retained original small scale buildings or is a faux small town. Lots of snow up here, the ski area still operating about half its terrain and lifts. Wonderful scenery.
Got to Boulder to find that Target did indeed have the long sleeved shirts Laura needed. Then visiting and dinner with Justine and Eric, who were kind enough to let us do our laundry.
We had two favorite breakfast spots in SFe… one, Tecolote Café, has closed. But Cafe Pasqual’s is still a local landmark, and where we started the day. Then onto the contemporary art space, SITE Santa Fe. Their big exhibition was the work of Pedro Reyes, a social practice artist and sculptor. (https://sitesantafe.org/exhibition/pedro-reyes/) We found his work on reducing gun violence particularly effective. The shovels, below, were made from guns turned in by their owners, melted down, and refashioned as shovels for schools and community groups interested in planting trees. He also turns guns into musical instruments (which can be played) and music boxes. We liked his more conventional sculptures too. The second exhibit was about water in the west, which was particularly interesting after our time near the Rio Grande. (https://sitesantafe.org/exhibition/going-with-the-flow/
Then north to Colorado. Laura was surprised to see snow on the mountains. (Ed was not.) imagine how surprised she would have been yesterday when Salida got 6” of snow (which is now gone).
Amazon produced a new fleece sweater. We hope Target in Boulder still has long sleeved T shirts tomorrow.
It’s been way too long since we’ve been in Santa Fe. It really is one of our favorite places. And since the predicted snow did not materialize, we had a good day.
People we met in Big Bend recommended a temporary exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture: Grounded in Clay: the Spirit of Pueblo Pottery (https://groundedinclay.org). It represents a really interesting approach to curation, asking 60 community curators from the 21 Pueblo tribes in the Southwest to select works that speak to them in some way and to write the labels. Many selected pieces made by ancestors or other potters they knew personally. The work is, of course, stunningly beautiful, but it is the personal connections that are so moving. It will be at the Met next year and we strongly recommend it. We also enjoyed the museum’s re-done core exhibition, Here, Now and Always, which also emphasized native voice (https://www.indianartsandculture.org/current?&eventID=5042)
The art on the Museum Hill plaza is always a delight.
We then went to the New Mexico Museum of Art on the Plaza for an exhibition of wood carving, with was disappointing. But two other exhibitions were more interesting. An American in Paris: Donald Beauregard featured the work of a young man who was just developing his approach to painting when he died in 1914 at 29. You could see how he was processing the significant post-Impressionistic paintings around him. And a small exhibition of the work of Mexican street photographer Manuel Carrillo (https://www.nmartmuseum.org/exhitions/manuel-carrillo-mexican-modernist/) was a nice surprise.
We wandered along Canyon Road popping into galleries until it started raining. In any case, we were sated and ready to enjoy our lovely accommodations.
Tapas dinner with Laura’s colleague and old friend Gail and her husband John was the perfect way to end the day.
We spent the morning at Carlsbad Caverns. We could write descriptions, but the photographs really tell the story.
To reach the Caverns, you walk down about 750 feet over 1.25 miles. Then the route around The Big Room is another 1.25 miles. The room itself is 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high, making it the largest chamber in North America You can walk back up (ha!) or take an elevator. This is how Laura managed the excursion.
The drive to Santa Fe was mainly flat and boring. Even Roswell had little to recommend it. But we are now in our lovely inn. We have museum visits and meals planned and won’t be deterred by the predicted SNOW tonight.
We ended up spending a full 14 days in Texas! Nice to be in New Mexico.
A bit of a disappointment this morning, as Marfa Burrito, a hole in the wall reputed to have the best breakfast burritos in West Texas, was closed again. Sigh.
The morning was taken up with a tour of the Judd Foundation buildings. These are the places he worked and sometimes lived. Most interesting was his collection of art and furniture. A lot of mid-century artists and designers (Albers, Reitveld, Aalto, Breuer), Rembrandt etchings, a Matisse drawing, and his own paintings from before 1962, when he stopped painting and turned to sculpture exclusively. We both liked many of the paintings.
A not too long drive on very straight West Texas road brought us first to the town of Valentine with the tongue in cheek Prada Marfa, a truly weird piece of art 35 miles outside of town. The fence around the property is one of the spots people leave locks, stickers and other mementos.
We spent the day at the Chinati Foundation (https://chinati.org), which is “an art museum…based upon the ideas of its founder, Donald Judd.” His basic idea was to create permanent installations of art produced by a small set of artists that he admired. Works by 11 artists are included in the collection, many of them monumental. The Foundation is located on a closed military base and the old buildings – barracks, an airplane hangar, artillery sheds, etc. – have been recycled into galleries, usually one artist per building.
These being the friends of Donald Judd, it is perhaps not surprising that, like much contemporary art, some of the works left us feeling cold. There were a few that stood out – Dan Flavin’s neon sculptures, Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s giant horseshoe, Ilya Kabakov’s recreation of an abandoned Soviet school, photographs by John Chamberlain (as opposed to his big metal sculptures, which were uninteresting), and John Wesley’s paintings.
Perhaps most surprisingly, given our lukewarm reaction to Judd’s exterior works yesterday, the major installation of his work - 100 untitled works in mill aluminum – did strike a chord. Each of the works has the same outside dimensions and are made of the same material, with different spaces and interiors. They are installed in 2 huge buildings, lined up in rows. Something about the repetition yet the differentiation, in a confined space, made them more than just a set of blocks. (Photography wasn’t allowed, but the home page of the Foundation’s website has a picture.)
Also notable today was that after days of 90 degree weather, it was below 50 in the morning and we were wearing puffy jackets and hats. Supposedly, it will be back to “normal” (hot) tomorrow. This was a harbinger of things to come, however, as we will be heading north, where, according to the weather reports, it will be significantly colder than in the West Texas desert.
We went out to Chinati to see the work not included on our guided tour tomorrow. Maybe it was the heat, but we both discovered we are not really Donald Judd fans. What does that mean for the next two days?
We found our way to the historic and segregated Blackwell School (https://www.theblackwellschool.org) which served the Hispanic children of Marfa. It has been preserved thanks to the work of the school’s alumni and it was recently designated a National Historic Site. Today there was a Block Party to celebrate, which mean the site was busy and festive. It has such an interesting history and the community seems to have really come togther to celebrate it. It’s a great project. https://www.texasmonthly.com/being-texan/marfas-blackwell-school-has-a-painful-past-thats-why-the-town-wants-to-save-it/
Ended the day with a great Tex Mex dinner in a hole-in-the-wall, thanks to Yelp.
On our way to Marfa, we went up to Fort Davis to visit the McDonald Observatory (https://mcdonaldobservatory.org/about), a very cool place. The big telescope wasn't open but it is incredibly important historically. The Hobby Eberly is an unusual telescope – see the interior photo - that has been updated to be a leading resource for research into Dark Energy (https://hetdex.org).
Our home for three nights in Marfa is a “Modern Mini” AirBnB just a half block from the main drag. It seems brand new and utterly charming. Thoughtful hosts left chilled sparking wine, chocolate, nuts, and cold drinks.