Marvelous, Minimalist Marfa!

After a twenty-hour day at Big Bend, we were ready for more education, but this time in Marfa, Texas, home of mysterious lights and much minimalist art and hipster vibes.

These adventures began with the Chinati Foundation–a non-profit focused on the minimalist art of Donald Judd and his contemporaries.  He purchased a former military base–Fort Russell–and turned it into a major art installation.

Our tour–led by a somewhat bored tour guide–began with Judd’s works.  These works were housed in two old artillery sheds and consisted of 100 untitled pieces made of aluminum.  Each cube had the same outer dimensions, but each had a different interior configuration.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Minimalist Art, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas

From some angles with the right light, some of the pieces looked as though they were made from glass.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Minimalist Art, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas

You don’t have to a fan of minimalist art to be be intrigued by Judd’s art, but you do need an open mind.  It’s almost impossible to examine the 100 pieces without asking, “But is it art?”

Actually, it is art, and the installation goes a long way to reinforcing Judd’s purpose in founding Chinati.  He believed that having Museum curators slice his art into smaller pieces (or subdividing it) and then placing it in a corner of a museum gallery next to pieces by artists of their choosing didn’t appropriately convey the artist’s intent.  So…he bought 340 acres, on which he could install his pieces in the format and configuration of his choosing.  They definitely had an impact different than what have been experienced by seeing a single aluminum piece next to, say, a work by George Segal in a large museum.

The site was also ideal for the works of Dan Flavin, commissioned specifically for Chinati.  Using six old barracks buildings, Flavin created art from flourescent bulbs of varying colors which, when seen from various perspectives, blend into unique color combinations.  When entering the north barrack wing, for example, we saw this:

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas, Dan Flavin

From the south barrack’s wing, however, we saw this:

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas, Dan Flavin

What we also saw a lot of was this…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas, Dan Flavin

…us posing in the sometimes beautiful, sometimes eerie, always intriguing art works by Flavin.

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As a group, the Flavin pieces were the most popular, although individuals in our group have a soft spot for the pop art of Claes Oldenburg (not a minimalist!)…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas, Claes Oldenburg

…which was created to honor Louie, the last surviving horse of the fort’s cavalry unit.  This art work also served as a memorial, in that replaced the deteriorated memorial previously on site for Louie.

We also had warm feelings for Chinati’s most recent installation, a large work by Robert Irwin.  His installation was actually an entire building, horseshoe shaped, with a courtyard.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas, Robert Irwin

The building’s interior consists of two sides: the left side is dark, with black walls, windows that open at eye level–designed to provide the look of Dutch landscapes–and a black screen that provides compartmentalized interiors.

The building transitions on the horizontal leg of the horseshoe, moving from the “dark side” to the “light side.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa, Chinati, Robert Irwin

This is a supremely interesting effect, providing both visual stimuli and a provocative metaphorical sense of moving from dark to light.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas, Robert Irwin

Indeed, halfway through the building this effect is captured by dark and light doors.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas, Robert Irwin

And from there, visitors enjoy the ‘optimist’s side,” filled with light and interiors of white, making for some happy tourists.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas, Robert Irwin

Our happiness transformed to curiosity as we moved to downtown Marfa, where the “Chamberlain” wing of Chinati is housed.

There are 22 of Chamberlain’s curiosities in this building.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa Texas, John Chamberlain

His works are primarily cars that have been compressed and placed…

At the front of the building, there is a large “couch” of sorts, and it was an installation we were allowed to touch and, in fact, sit on!  ALthough comfortable, we didn’t sit on it long, because one of Chamberlain’s movies, “The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez” was playing, and it was supremely strange.

On a more quotidian note, we did find a sand patch that was part of the building’s original structure, and we were able to add our own art.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Donald Judd, Chinati, Marfa Texas, LEAP at SHSU

The half-day tour was enthralling.  It was our first experience with minimalist art and provided an eye-opening and even uplifting experience!

SHSU, LEAP Center, Marfa Texas

 

Zooming through Zion National Park

After a long night at Angel’s Window at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we woke up latish, and headed to the Zion National Park–the second National Park on our trip.  The drive from Kanab, UT is about an hour, but summer is the busiest season for Zion, so we had to park (nearby parking is $10-$20) and then ride to specific Park destinations on one of their shuttles.

At 147,000 acres, the Zion is a moderate size for a National Park (Big Bend is about five times larger), but access is mostly restricted along one major roadway.  Given that it is the third most visited National Park in the Nation, at 4.5 million visitors, it ranks behind the Smoky Mountains (1) and The Grand Canyon (2) in annual visitors.  With that many people and one major roadway, the going was slow.  The shuttle trip from the Main Visitor Center to our destination was about 30-40 minutes on a crowded bus.

We began at The Temple of Sinawava, which allowed us to access the River Side Walk. This hike lead us to The Narrows, which is a popular trail that goes through water.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Zion, The Narrows Trail

We didn’t plan to go through (much) water, but we were eager to see the water and terrain.  We occasionally stopped to hop along rocks…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Zion, The Narrows Trail, Maggie Denena

…”LEAP” for a photo op…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Zion, The Narrows Trail, Maggie Denena, Ryan Brim, Anne Jamarik

…and enjoy the water that trickled down the mountains and into the stream.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Zion, Hanging Gardens

On our way back to the shuttle stop, we were “attacked” by a hungry squirrel.

The squirrels must be used to being fed by visitors, because this squirrel was fairly bold, and assertively looked for food, going so far as to burrow inside our bag.

From the shuttle, we headed to the Park’s seventh stop, Weeping Rock Trail. The trail was short but had an extreme incline to the viewing area where the water “weeps” from the mountain above. The view was beautiful, but difficult to capture by camera.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Zion, Weeping Wall

From our viewing area–an alcove in the side of the mountain–we sat for several minutes, enjoying the cooler temperatures behind our weeping wall.

We boarded the shuttle again for a short ride to stop six, where we got off to walk The Grotto, a short trail to the Lodge at stop five. This was our least favorite hike, although we did get to see a deer that seemed unperturbed by our presence.

We stopped at the Lodge for lunch in the Red Rock Café, which overlooks a large picnic/park area below.  Scores of people filled the area, lounging on the grass or sitting at picnic tables, enjoying the shade. Meanwhile, we enjoyed our burgers, before heading to Emerald Pool Trail.

The Emerald Pool Trail consists of three sections: the lower, middle, and upper trail. We traveled all the way to the upper Emerald Pool Trail, which is approximately 3 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 350 feet.  It was definitely worth the trek: the pools of water and views were beautiful.

Finally, we headed back to the visitor center at the first stop to hike the Watchman Trail for sunset. The Watchman was a fairly moderate hike up and around a mountain that lead to a peak to view the sunset. After seeing part of the sunset and taking photos…

…we gave up and headed back down the trail, exhausted from a day of many hikes.

It was the first time to visit Zion National Park for all the LEAP members and it did not let us down!

 

Houston’s Arts & Parks–Arts Edition!

Moody Gallery, By Bianca Saliderna

Following a vigorous morning at the park, we headed to one of the more than 60 art galleries in the Houston area, the Moody Art Gallery, where a special tour waited for us. As we took our first step into the gallery, Betty Moody, the owner of the gallery, was quick to give us a warm welcome to her very special art venue.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

As the tour began, we learned that approximately 42 years ago Ms. Moody and her husband, Bill Steffy, embarked on a journey when they decided to acquire a property and open their very own art gallery. Over the decades of dealing art for accomplished artists, she has built a good reputation and now deals artworks by Arthur Turner, Jim Love, Terry Allen, Mary McCleary, and Luis Jimenez, to name just a few.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Luis Jimenez

Her knowledge and passion have led her to not choose art because of a simple trend, but to choose it because of the meaning and the story behind the piece.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

Through viewing some of the most attention-grabbing art in her collection, we discovered that each person interpreted each piece differently and that, although dissimilar, they could all be representations intended by the artist.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Mary McCleary

One of the pieces that Ms. Moody focused on was Snow Vanitas, a mixed media collage by the local artist Mary McCleary. From a distance, it seemed like a simple piece, however, the illusions created by different elements including plastic, paint, wire, and wood, created a stunning result. Additionally, each of her three-dimensional collages have a story to tell and are created to leave an impact.

It was a learning experience in every way.  We learned archiving methods…

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

…strategies for displaying art pieces…

…the stories behind unusual art…

…and even how to use a rolodex!

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts
To continue with our learning adventure, Betty Moody gave us a tour of her own home, located a wall behind the art gallery.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

There, she showed us some of her most precious and sentimental pieces she owns.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

Decorated with Pre-Colombian art as well as modern pieces by Randy Twaddle, Robert Rauschenberg, Luis Jimenez, and the like, the room was a beautiful embodiment of art. Embedded in her book shelves were not only a trove of books, but also a Campbell’s Soup can signed by Andy Warhol!

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Andy Warhol

We also had the chance to see a Picasso on her kitchen shelf!

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Picasso

Ms. Moody’s home could easily be used as an art museum.

Although we are certain that these were highly valuable to Ms. Moody, without a doubt her most treasured objects where Bill Steffy’s visually attractive works. As a sculptor and jeweler, he incorporated silver and materials like turquoise to give each piece a unique appearance. Surprisingly enough, what appeared to be a bird sculpture, was a jewelry box, which with the click of a button released a stunning pendant from its wing.  It was one of our favorite pieces in the entire collection.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Bill Steffy
Photo from Houston Chronicle

There is no doubt varied talents are well exhibited at the Moody Art Gallery. Betty Moody gave us an unforgettable tour that went beyond our expectations.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

The LEAP Ambassadors will treasure this unprecedented experience.

ecious and sentimental pieces she owns.

Thanks to Ms. Moody’s intimate relationship with art and her generosity in sharing, we experienced a semester’s worth of art learning in one afternoon–while spending time with a delightful business owner and lady!

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Helen Altman