From Balmorhea to Stonehenge

Big Bend Day 5

On day 5 of our West Trip Tour, we gave one last look at Marfa to say our goodbye before proceeding our journey home.  We had a chance to visit the Chinati Foundation again, and we posed for some photos amidst his minimalist art…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa TX, Chinati Foundation

…with Beatriz, in particular, getting into the spirit of things…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa TX, Chinati Foundation

We made a quick stop at Ft. Davis, where we stopped for some well-deserved ice cream at Herbert’s Caboose Ice Cream Shop. It was an interesting ice cream stop since it was in an actual old, green caboose.

Balmorhea State Park, by Beatriz Martinez

Moving on from our small stop at Ft. Davis, we headed over to the Balmorhea State Park. A 3.5-million-gallon freshwater pool, this natural spring was first created by FDR’S New Deal during the Great Depression in order to create new jobs. It was a one of a kind opportunity to swim, not only “like a fish,” but also among them.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Balmorhea State Park

With the goal of finding a turtle or two, we jumped in.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/balmorhea

Everyone got to show off their varying swimming skills, from Brian and Christina not straying from the pool’s edge… to Kaitlyn and Beatriz jumping from diving board into 30 ft. deep water.

It was a fun place, and a different experience.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Balmorhea State Park

Ellen Noel Museum, Kaitlyn Tyra

After the Balmorhea State Park, we hurried off to the Ellen Noel Museum of Art in Odessa where a special exhibit on Andy Warhol was being displayed. The museum featured a gallery of permanent pieces, a sculpture garden, and two rotating exhibits. The first gallery we viewed was a special exhibit by Herb Williams.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ellen Noel Art Museum, Odessa TX, Herb Williams

The exhibit we saw utilized crayons as the medium. Immediately as one walks into the gallery room, they recognize the fragrant aroma of new crayons. Herb Williams’ goal in choosing crayons was to provide creativity and imagination to children, but also to bring back the childhood memories and likeness often forgotten among adults as a potential creative outlet.

Herb Williams used crayons to remake famous pieces of art. “H is for Hokusai”…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ellen Noel Art Museum, Odessa TX, Herb Williams

…“I is for Indiana”…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Ellen Noel Art Museum, Odessa TX, Herb Williams

“O is for O’Keefe”, and “W for Warhol” all were included in the series. Each piece of art was created using crayons to illustrate the color and texture. Of course, the Ambassadors could not pass up the opportunity to take a picture with William’s remake of Robert Indiana’s LOVE. We admired the unique art and moved into the Andy Warhol exhibit.

A temporary exhibit at the Noel Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol exhibit took visitors from the beginning of his art career throughout the end showing the variation of Warhol’s style and art. Interestingly, we learned that Andy Warhol’s real name included an extra letter (Warhola) which he eventually dropped to create his “persona”. Of course, we saw Warhol’s famous Campbell’s soup can paintings, Marilyn Monroe portraits, and Elvis Presley portraits. We also saw some of Warhol’s more thoughtful works, such as his modernization of Venus from Boticelli’s “Birth of Venus” painting.

Warhol’s ideology of painting images that “meant nothing” gave his art style and made a statement in the art community. More than thirty years after his death, Warhol’s impact and influence is still visible in much of today’s art. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the exhibit, but we did enjoy Warhol’s artwork.

Next, we wandered outside to the sculpture garden. Numerous sculptures were displayed, but we immediately recognized three Jesus Moroles granite sculptures. One sculpture, “Musical Steele” made music similar to a xylophone. We made our own music by running our car keys up and down the sculpture. Another unique Moroles sculpture was titled “The Portal”, this piece was built onto the exterior wall of the art museum and was different from a traditional Moroles sculpture because it was not freestanding. We admired each sculpture before departing to our next destination!

 Stonehenge, by Brian Aldaco

After viewing one of art history’s most enigmatic artist, we visited one of history’s most enigmatic ruins: Stonehenge. Now although we did not travel to the United Kingdom, we were able to find a replica in Odessa, Texas.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Odessa TX, Stonehenge

This rendition of the famous ruins is located on the campus of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Although we are uncertain as to why someone would want a replica of Stonehenge, it provided us with a side adventure as we neared the end of our West Texas Tour.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Odessa TX, Stonehenge

While climbing on the stones, which are apparently 14% shorter than the original ruins, we decided it was prime time to take some photographs.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Odessa TX, Stonehenge

Along the way to Perini Ranch Steakhouse, we took a little stop in Midland. As we got off the freeway we steered into a quiet neighborhood. With houses of no extravagant facades but merely the marks of middle-class America, we neared a home who’s previous owner would have seemed unexpected.

Located on “Easter” Street due to its pastel houses, we found the George W. Bush Childhood Home a perfect location to take a photo-op.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Midland TX, George W. Bush Home

Although we were not able to take a tour of the home, we did feel proud to visit the previous home of this Texas-raised president after visiting the home of a Texas-born Vice President a few days before.

 Dinner at Perini Ranch Steakhouse, by Christina Perez

Our last stop of the day was the one we anticipated the most. Hungry and ready to get out of the car, we arrived in Buffalo Gap and headed for Perini Ranch Steakhouse. Kaitlyn had been here before after a moot court trip but for the rest of us it was sure to be a treat. We started with two appetizers: the quail legs and Jalapeno bites. Braitlyn (Brian and Kaitlyn) ordered the Ribeye with potatoes, Professor Yawn ordered the ribs, Beatriz tried the filet, and Christina ordered the award-winning burger. We all attempt to be adventurous with the menu items and usually enjoy it, but dessert was a different story. We tried the Jalapeno cheese cake which was not our favorite. We each had a bite and made a sour face. Don’t worry, the Leap ambassadors will not be deterred from trying new things in the future, even if it does cause us to make sour faces! With that last positive thought we retired for the day to prepare for tomorrow.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Odessa TX, Stonehenge

Big Bend and Minimalist Art

Reaching New Heights: West Texas Tour Day 4

The LEAPsters are still on the road and, today, we experienced a mix of natural beauty and minimalist art, which is sometimes beautiful and sometimes curious!

The Chinati Foundation

By Brian Aldaco

After a quick coffee break and crepés at Cedar Coffee Supply, we started our drive towards Marfa,Texas. where we began our tour of the Chinati Foundation. The Chinati Foundation, named after the nearby Chinati mountains, houses the works of Donald Judd and a few of his contemporaries. Judd, the acclaimed minimalist, refurbished a decommissioned cavalry base in town as an art foundation. He created the foundation to give his works the home they deserved. Judd believed in having control of the environment, the architecture, and the perfect lighting when showcasing his works. Unsatisfied with common art museum and gallery practices where he had little of this control, he created this foundation. Now, in this small community of about 2,000, there are 13 permanent installations by Donald Judd and other like-minded artists.

The first installation that we viewed was by Donald Judd. 100 untitled works in mill aluminum is a collection of 100 “specific objects,” as Judd liked to name his sculptures, of aluminum panels formed into rectangular prisms. All 100 pieces have dimensions of 41 x 51 x 72 inches and are housed within two old military warehouses that Judd refurbished to allow natural light to illuminate his metallic pieces. His pieces, just like the works of all the artists in the foundation, are highly conceptual. With some of his pieces seeming like they floated off the ground, while others, with their mirror-like walls, seemed to disappear against the background.

Our tour guide Glenn was very nice to our group, composed only of the three LEAPsters and Professor Yawn, and he agreed to compress the normal five hour tour to about two and a half hours. Therefore, we sped through the works of Carl Andre, Richard Long, and Dan Flavin.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa, Chinati Foundation, Dan Flavin

This last artist’s works were among the favorites in the group. With no real title, The Marfa Project, as it has come to be known, are Flavian florescent lights that are housed within six abandoned barracks of the base.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa, Chinati Foundation, Dan Flavin

Each barrack has a different arrangement of these lights, with different colors radiating from within as well.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa, Chinati Foundation, Dan Flavin

Flavin arranges the lights to provide the viewer a participatory role in his art, as guests enter halls from which his light emanates, and become one with the florescent radiance.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa, Chinati Foundation, Dan Flavin

 

Near the barracks, our tour guide showed us a sculpture of Claes Oldenburg. In his Oldenburgian style, this particular work was an enlarged horse shoe. As it turns out, Oldenburg created this sculpture to pay tribute to the last cavalry horse that was housed in the base.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa, Chinati Foundation, Claes Oldenburg

Another favorite in the foundation was an installation by Ilya Kabakov. For his installation, titled School No. 6, he refurbished an abandoned barrack to resemble an abandoned Soviet era classroom. The interior of the installation is made to look old and dusty. In fact, during the reconstruction of the barrack, the designers added features that made the building look more weathered and old. Inside, the “classrooms” were riddled with Soviet newspapers, desks, Russian children’s books, old instruments, and other Soviet artifacts that he considered would belong in a classroom. One feature of this installation that interested us the most was how Kabakov created anecdotes and fictional characters for his installation. When inside, certain artifacts have stories attached to them. An old rag, for example, may include story alongside it of how a mischievous boy, after using the rag to clean off old paint from his desk, throws it around at his classmates during recess. Although these are fictional, just like the entire installation, it showcases the playful imagination of Kabakov.

After touring the The Arena, a gymnasium that was repurposed and designed by Judd to house a courtyard, kitchen, and dining tables (designed by Judd), we headed towards an installation by Robert Irwin.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa, Chinati Foundation, Robert Irwin

For his installation, he took an abandoned medical building to play with the light and darkness of the interior. Using sheets and tinted windows, he creates a gradual change from darkness to light inside the building. In LEAP terms, one side represented a cheerful, light-filled Beatriz, while the other side represented a dark, somber Christina.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa, Chinati Foundation, Robert Irwin

But with a happier tone, we toured the last installation of the tour, which was located outside of the grounds of the foundation.

This last installation was created by John Chamberlain. Located in downtown Marfa, the warehouse contains twenty-five of his works. If you are not familiar with his conceptual art, his sculptures are created from car-scraps that he unites to form a single unit.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa, Chinati Foundation, John Chamberlain

As described by our tour guide, “he creates 3D renditions of abstract-expressionism.”

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Marfa, Chinati Foundation, John Chamberlain

Since this was our last installation of the tour, we said our farewells to Glenn, and promised that we would come back in the near future.

Lunch at Squeeze
By Christina Perez

Before heading into Big Bend National Park, we decided to try one of Marfa’s most well known restaurants. Squeeze Marfa is a Swiss café located in the heart of town. It started out as a juice bar but now has sandwiches, soups, and smoothies. It’s well know for its chocolate since it is the sole US distributer of Vollenweider chocolate. Professor Yawn ordered the Squeezadilla which had swiss cheese, gouda cheese, and ham on pita bread, and after having a bite of it, we all decided that it was the best plate in plate. Each of us tried new things like Brian’s Apple Zing smoothie or my Strawberry Banana Cabana smoothie. For anyone considering a visit to Marfa, Squeeze is definitely worth the try!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Marfa TX

After taking a stroll through downtown, taking a few group pictures, and visiting the famous Hotel Paisano, which once housed the star-filled cast of the 1956 film Giant…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Marfa TX, Hotel Paisano, Giant, James Dean

…we drove back east to Alpine to pick up our fellow LEAPster, Kaitlyn Tyra.

Big Bend
By Kaitlyn Tyra

After flying into Alpine and spending two days at Sul Ross State University for the Texas State University System Board of Regents Meeting, I was lucky enough to join my fellow Ambassadors and Professor Yawn for the second half of the West Texas Tour. My first activity of the trip was hiking at Big Bend National Park!

Although the rest of the group visited Big Bend the day before, we all eagerly loaded up and prepared for an exciting afternoon of hiking. Our drive from Alpine to Big Bend National Park was roughly two hours. This gave us plenty of time to prepare our backpacks, fuel our bodies with healthy snacks, and rest our feet for the adventurous hike ahead.

Our first hike of the afternoon was to Balanced Rock. I was excited to embark on the short hike after seeing many photos of the famous landmark, including Mark Burns’ photography. The hike was only a 2.2 mile round trip. We walked along the gravel-filled, sandy pathway…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Big Bend National Park, Balanced Rock

…admiring the desert landscape that surrounded us until we climbed a few steps up to Balanced Rock.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Big Bend National Park, Balanced Rock

The view was amazing and we took many pictures to try to capture the beauty before hiking down to our car!

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Big Bend National Park, Balanced Rock

Once we arrived safely at the van, we hopped back in and drove (30 minutes!) to our second hike.

Lost Mine Trail was a much longer hike. 4.8 miles round trip and 1100 feet in elevation, the hike was challenging and rewarding.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Big Bend National Park, Lost Mine Trail

We walked along paths, climbed up man-made steps, and even over rocks that were naturally part of the pathway.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Big Bend National Park, Lost Mine Trail

The trip up the mountain side took us around an hour and a half, but we enjoyed admiring the views of the nearby mountains and watching rain fall in the distance.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Big Bend National Park, Lost Mine Trail

Once at the top of the mountain, we could see miles of Big Bend rolling hills and appreciate our hard work hiking up the mountain side.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Big Bend National Park, Lost Mine Trail

With the setting sun and storms nearing, we cheerfully hurried down the mountain singing songs (literally!) of happiness because of all we experienced at Big Bend.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Big Bend National Park, Lost Mine Trail

It was an adventurous day with a few scraps here and there, but a success nonetheless! The LEAPsters loaded up and departed on our journey back to Alpine once again.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Big Bend National Park, Balanced Rock