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, but positively alluring creations of Stanley Marsh and his cohorts. Also, a special thanks to the young “punks” and rebels of Amarillo who contributed to the Dynamite Museum and brought some excitement to the town, especially to Brian Deneke who will forever be remembered. To the Ant Farm thanks are due for their collaborative effort with Stanley Marsh 3 in creating the everchanging Cadillac Ranch. And to Stanley Marsh 3 for spending his money, making his mark, and forcing us to ask “why?”.
The Dynamite Day Trip can be viewed during daytime hours throughout the year. In the winter be prepared for dry, biting winds, and, more than likely, snowfall. During the summer be ready to endure hot, dusty winds along with intense sunshine. With the exception of the gas it takes to drive to these monuments there is no cost.
Amarillo, the city that beef built, is the 14th largest city in the state of Texas and the county seat of Potter County. Amarillo’s name probably derives from yellow wildflowers that were plentiful during the spring and summer, but anyone gazing across the plains in or around Amarillo is likely to believe the name was inspired by the reflection of the sun on the short, seemingly dead grass of the plains. (Amarillo is the Spanish word for the color yellow.) In the late 1800s the availability of the railroad and freight service made the town a fast growing cattle marketing center. By the late 1890s, Amarillo had emerged as one of the world’s busiest cattle shipping points, and its population grew significantly. In 1893, Amarillo’s population was listed as “500-600 humans and 50,000 cattle. Ranches
and the nearby Pantex Army Ordnance Plant, which produced bombs and ammunition. After the end of the war, both of the facilities were closed. The Pantex Plant was reopened in 1950 and produced nuclear weapons throughout the Cold War. Now Pantex is the primary disassembler of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War era. Nowadays Amarillo would be just another rivet on the Texas Panhandle were it not for the entrepreneurial antics of
in the area still produce about 25% of America’s beef. Discovery of gas in 1918 and oil three years later brought oil and gas companies to the Amarillo area. The United States government bought the Cliffside Gas Field with high helium content in 1927 and the Federal Bureau of Mines began operating the Amarillo Helium Plant two years later. The plant would be the sole producer of commercial helium in the world for a number of years. During the 1930s the city was hit by the dust bowl and entered an economic depression. The U.S. Routes 60, 87, 287, and 66 merged at Amarillo, making it a major tourist stop with numerous motels, restaurants, and curio shops. World War II led the establishment of Amarillo Army Air Field in east Amarillo
an eccentric multi-millionaire. Stanley Marsh 3 (not “III”, which he says is pretentious) has breathed a sense of fun and mischief into this town. Now in his late sixties, the outspoken grandson of an early Texan oil millionaire is the man behind world-famous Cadillac Ranch. Made up of ten vintage Cadillacs planted nose-down in a row in a field, the Cadillac Ranch is an image that has appeared in countless magazines, advertisements and guide books. Though Cadillac Ranch is the best-known of the millionaire’s projects, several other examples exist. Some years ago Marsh reacted when he saw a street
“One wonderful thing about Amarillo that I really like is that it’s not an unlawful town, it’s not a town where people go around being bandits or robbers or things like that…it’s a lawless town. We’re a long way from anything else and it’s a town where we happen to believe that the rules don’t apply to us, and I don’t believe the rules apply to me. I believe that rules should apply to me if I make the rules for myself and if I want to obey ‘em and if I change my mind then they don’t apply any longer. Most of my fellow citizens agree so we live in a mild state of anarchy which is the most pleasant way to live and no one seems to give a damn cause we’re way out here in piddly dunk so we do what we want to in Amarillo. It makes it a nice town to live providing you’re willing to live lawlessly.”
sign which read “Road Ends Ahead”; he immediately had a similar sign made and erected nearby reading “Road Does Not End”. When told that he was breaking the law (as the USA is a signatory to an international agreement on the conformity of road signs), he decided that this kind of rebellion was fun and had dozens more different signs made and erected seemingly at random by the side of streets all over Amarillo. Signs can be found all over town – in suburban streets, on vacant plots of land and in store car parks.
“make mythology of where you live to enchant the landscape.”
-local science fiction author don webb
The Cadillac Ranch, located along historic Route 66, was the brainchild of Stanley Marsh 3, millionaire, artist, philanthropist, and prankster from Amarillo, Texas. In the 1970s, Marsh collaborated with the art group Ant Farm to create the Cadillac Ranch. Ant Farm (www.antfarm.org) was a group of architects who produced experimental works on the “fringe of architecture” during the period 1968-1978. They documented their work with video, and were influential early video artists. Cadillac Ranch was built in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were part of Ant Farm. It consist of ten “junker” Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. The piece is a statement about the paradoxical simultaneous American fascinations with both a “sense of place”- and roadside attractions, such as The Ranch itself – and the mobility and freedom of the automobile. According to Chip Lord, buying and driving old Cadillacs on the windswept plains of the Texas Panhandle was, “a white-trash dream come true.” Every used-car lot in Amarillo and most of the junk yards were
visited. A ’59 Coupe de Ville was purchased for $100 because “it had no papers.” From Guy Mullins Motors a creampuff ’62 Sedan de Ville, pastel yellow, four-door hardtop was another purchase. Apparently it ran so well it was painful to bury. Another find was a silver ’49 fast back, but the owner wanted $700, a price considered exorbitant (the cars averaged $200 a piece). Marsh suggested smashing up the front end with sledge hammers while the proud previous owner watched. With the cameras rolling the bewildered owner winced in agony. At the end of two weeks the necessary ten cars, plus a spare, were procured. When all ten cars were buried, by a hired and perplexed backhoe operator, Marsh threw an opening party for the Cadillac Ranch. Two hundred of Amarillo’s finest citizens were invited. The catered bar served gin and tonics and guacamole dip. The dust was thick. The artists wore rented western tuxedos and got very drunk. A lady whose father owned the local Cadillac dealership brought a bouquet of plastic flowers that were placed next to the buried cars. A bottle of champagne christened the lead car, the ‘49, and the Cadillac Ranch was open for business.
Cadillac Ranch was originally located in the middle of Stanley Marsh’s wheat field about six miles west of Amarillo. In 1997 the installation was moved two miles to the west, to a cow pasture owned by Marsh along Interstate 40, in order to place it further from the limits of the growing city. It is visible from the highway, and though it is located on private land, visiting it (by driving along a frontage road and entering the pasture by walking through an unlocked gate) is tacitly encouraged. In addition,
writing graffiti on or otherwise spray-painting the vehicles is also encouraged, and the vehicles, which have long since lost their original colors, are wildly decorated. Marsh explains the bashing, smashing and graffiti-ing public response quite simply: “Americans know how to treat their monuments.” The cars are periodically repainted various colors to provide a fresh canvas for future visitors.
“I like to talk about it, I’m proud of it. It’s fun because you don’t know what people are going to say. A lot of people like to shoot footage of road trips, and they come out to the Cadillac Ranch. I like to go out and see them and get their reaction. The reason for its popularity is a complete mystery to me. One thing though, it never takes a bad picture. It’s very gratifying that people react to it the way they do. They come to see it because it’s mysterious to them. It’s not an official place. There are no signs telling you you’re five or two miles from the Cadillac Ranch. There is no admission. We’re not trying to sell anything.” – Stanley Marsh 3
“My life and your life is boring and hum-drum, and we wake up every morning that’s just the same as it was yesterday. And it’s only through art and invention that we re-invent ourselves every morning that we look in the mirror, that we part our hair new, that we shine up our teeth, that we smile and we say it’s new world little man and I’m gonna go out and have a great affair today. That’s what art is. I’m building a system of unanticipated rewards and that system of anticipated rewards does not go in museums and are not to be seen by the public when they know they’re seeing them. They are to come as surprises. The Cadillac Ranch is to come as a surprise to people who are hitchhiking or bicycling or driving across the country. I hate art that’s in museum because a museum programs you to like it or not like it...”
“The signs are crack pot...
if you think about it, the only art left that you’re gonna have a first impression of and not have to see a picture of it on television or in the museum is art that you see in time and space and you have to be there and alive and moving at that time to see it…”
Stanley Marsh 3 has not stopped contributing to public art after bestowing his beloved Cadillac Ranch on the Texas Panhandle. Most Amarillo residents are familiar also with his mock traffic signs place throughout the city by Marsh himself and a group of young artists. Marsh’s ranch was the site of the first sign – “Road Does Not End.” Another early sign was a picture of Marilyn Monroe; it is appropriately placed on Monroe Street. Now more than 5,000 quirky signs decorate Amarillo. These signs bear such messages as, “Lubbock Is A Greasy Spoon”, “Art Is Nature Made By Man”, and collectively make up the Dynamite Museum, known informally as “the only museum in the world without four walls.” The Dynamite Museum’s primary activity involves sneaking diamondshaped road signs in Amarillo neighborhoods, setting them in cement and leaving them for citizens to find. Signs are painted by a group of
young artists who come up with the sign content. These artists pulled ideas from books, television, and their own imaginations. The signs carry everything from pictures of dueling pigs to dramatic passages by Shakespeare. Of course, Marsh still distributes his unusual signs to Amarillo residents. Just call his office in downtown Amarillo’s Bank One building and he will be glad to install one for you free of charge.
...Recently a group of art rebels in Amarillo who I have been in touch with known as the Dynamite Museum have been putting up signs, signs on lonely roads, signs in front yards, signs on other people’s property. They mean nothing, they have no significance, and they are not important. And that’s why they’re the most important thing we have going for us in any kind of visual impact communication that you could get from a car. If you think about it, the only art left that you’re gonna have a first impression of and not have to see a picture of it on television or in the museum is art that you see in time and space and you have to be there and alive and moving at that time to see it. It’s like a happening and if you’re driving in a car and you see a sign for the first time that is like seeing something for real.”
Beyond Cadillac Ranch and Dynamite Museum, Marsh’s public art vision extends south, to the junction of I-27 and Sundown Lane, where a sculpture of a pair of disembodied legs greets passersby. The legs are supposed remains of a giant statue called “Ozymandias”. Looking up from the bottom there is a pedestal complete with a spoof historical marker explaining how a wonder of the ancient world.
The marker reads: In 1819 while on their horseback trek over the great plains of New Spain, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft (author of “Frankenstein”), came across these ruins. Here Shelley penned these immortal lines:
“Ozymandias.” I met a traveler from an antique land who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert, near them, on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command, tell that its sculptor well those passions read which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear – “my name is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.’” Nothing beside remains round the decay of that
The visage (or face) was damaged by students from Lubbock after losing to Amarillo in a competition. A stone cast of it will be replaced when it is ready. The original is on display now in the Amarillo Museum of Natural History. Souvenir hunters have scrapped off the bottom of the pedestal, but archaeologists have determined it was as Shelley described it.
colossal wreck, boundles. (1819)
There is also a “Floating Mesa” located about 8 miles northwest of Amarillo via Tascosa Road. A white narrow band constructed from hundreds of sheets of plywood give the impression, if the light is right, that the top of the summit is floating.
While many are amused by the creations of Stanley Marsh 3, not every Amarillo resident finds them in good taste. Those disgusted by their presence have described them as eyesores with little or no artistic value. In response, Marsh was once quoted as saying,
“Art is legalized form of insanity and I do it very well.”
Photographic Acknowledgements: Ashley Hatch Catherine Lindsey Patty Fatsacks Steven Schroeder Amarillo Globe News Ant Farm
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