Long before the idea of cultural tourism had occurred as an opportunity for city planners, museum officials and tourism boards, Marfa, Texas had been a destination for soldiers and citizens in West Texas for many years. Before artists were championed as illustrious celebrities, the light and the landscape compelled its own narrative, defying the age of frivolous consumerism driven by smartphones, laptops and iPod’s, where silence and space to think and recreate captured the imagination of the populous. Part of the beauty of Marfa derives from the time it takes to get there: the journey itself embodies the idea of personal exploration.
Over the last forty years Marfa has become a destination for those seeking an aesthetic personal or cultural experience: a pilgrimage that allows us to disconnect from the frenetic and build memories that assume the form of the landscape itself. The inaugural exhibition at Marfa Contemporary is truly concerned with appreciation of place. Spanning a timeline of twenty-three years, the three photographers represented: Allison V. Smith, Judith Turner and Phil Bebbington, have made the journey and captured the town through their own distinctive lens. Rather than using Marfa as an exotic backdrop for their art, they have asked that the art reference the place. In this way the photographs contribute to Marfa’s history and offer us a permanent reminder of why Marfa is special and why, in the manner of Kerouac’s beat culture, we continue to make that pilgrimage.