Having a Ball in Marfa

Although Chinati makes up a large part of the entertain and educational life of Marfa, there is much more to explore.

One of the sites for exploration is Marfa Ballroom, and it contained several exhibits that left a lasting impression on us.

The first one was an untitled piece by Tara Donovan, and resembled hills made of plastic cups of various sizes. The cups were not connected by anything, so it appears they were all hand placed.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom, Tara Donovan

Upon first glance, it actually looked like styrofoam.  But the true nature of the exhibit was more clear from different angles.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom, Tara Donovan

Intriguingly, much of what we saw looked different depending on the perspective.  This piece, for example….

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom

…looks different based on the perspective…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom, Tara Donovan

…and we worked hard to photograph the art from different perspectives.

The second major exhibit was outside in the courtyard, and they were holes of various sizes.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom

The exhibit was a bit vague and we all felt that the artist was doing quite a bit of projecting, but the holes were complemented with sound effects and collectively they represented the “deceitful means” (curator’s words) the US Border Patrol uses to “trap” immigrants traveling across the desert.

On a more practical level, we learned the holes were interactive, so Maggie immediately went to work!

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom

Back inside the museum, we encountered an intriguing two-piece set.  The first thing we saw was a rather indistinct photograph, which left us wondering if the photographer had full control of her camera’s focusing capacity.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom

But then we saw a piece of glass nearby (seen above on the right side and below close up).

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom

The “glass” was made from sand melted in the Atacama Desert in Chile, and then it was used to take the photograph above–thus explaining the apparent lack of clarity in the image.

Another interesting piece was VIRUS, or the Visible Integral-Field Replicable Unit Spectrographs, which was from the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment.  It is designed for people to look through at opposite ends and the Spectrograph allows the viewer to see an intriguing composite of their own face and the person’s face that is opposite them in the lens.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom

The final piece we got to see was a green, fluorescent light that shined around a one-way mirror in front of a mirror, projecting what seemed like a hallway of green florescent lights. This reminded us all of the light pieces by Flavin we had seen earlier so we all enjoyed it a lot.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Marfa Ballroom

For lunch in Marfa, after touring the Chianti Foundation, we stopped at Squeeze Marfa Swiss Café for sandwiches. It was a neat little shop where the nice lady who took your order seemed to process each order one item at a time….so you might plan on being at the counter for a while.

But the food was worth it, and we all ordered an interesting drink along with our meals. I ordered a Basil Lemonade, Anne tried the Peach Pear Divine smoothie, Peyton had a Belgian Chocolate Frappe, and Professor Yawn ordered a Napoli Italian Soda.

After lunch we continued exploring the little town. We visited the Prisittio Hotel where James Dean, (ect) stayed while they shot one of the greatest western films, The Giant. The hotel has a section filled with pictures of the famous actors on set as well as a very big gift shop area with everything from nice clothes to kitchen accessories. We began back down the block and came across an Andy Warhol exhibit in a closed art exhibit hall… we may or may not have crawled to the ground to peak under the blinds and catch a glimpse of the exhibit (it was worth it).

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Andy Warhol

Marfa is an interesting little town full of quirks…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas

….more quirks….

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas

…..more quirks….

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas, Andy Warhol

…and lots of small-town charm.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas




Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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