O.M.G. The. Cadillac. Ranch!
One of my top three Bucket List items is officially checked off! (The Largest Frying Pan and the Largest Ball of Twine being the other two top items.) The Bucket List exists because of these three items.
Do you all realize how looong The Cadillac Ranch has been on my Bucket List? No, of course you don’t because I haven’t been blogging as long as it’s been on my list. If I tell you how long it’s been on my list, you may not believe me when I tell you all I’m 27.
Let’s just say it’s been decades and leave it at that, mkay?
Yes, I’m still 27, dammit! (Although, another Anniversary of my 27th Birthday is rapidly approaching. Nonetheless, I will still be 27. Forever. 27.)
The Cadillac Ranch
In 1974 in Amarillo, Texas, a group of three artists, Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, created the Cadillac Ranch art installation, with the financial backing of Stanley Marsh III. The artists were part of a group called Ant Farm, and as such they created several architecturally unique installations around the country. This installation, ten used Cadillac cars buried ass-end up in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid, is slightly west of Amarillo on the former Route 66.
One good thing about taking photos in flat, desert landscape like parts of the Texas panhandle: there’s never anything to get in the way of your shot. No trees, no plant life, no wildlife, no big rocks, nothing really. There weren’t even clouds in the sky to block the sun. All of which helped accent the cars, and helped the colors turn out sharply. Now, about the colors…
The original art installation in 1974 was of stock Cadillacs in original pastel colors. Note use of the word “original pastel colors”. The cars are now brightly colored due to copious layers of graffiti. To say the graffiti is thick is an understatement of no small measure. Graffiti covers ever inch of the Cadillacs. Spray cans litter the ground. The windows have been broken out.
Knowing what it used to look like, it was kind of sad for me to see how vandals have destroyed the original installation. I wonder how many folks know what the original installation looked like? …
Every now and then the Cadillacs are repainted one color to commemorate a particular event, such as black for the passing of one of the original artists, rainbow colors for Gay Pride, or pink for the birthday of Stanley’s wife. The Cadillacs are quickly covered over in graffiti again, sometimes in as little as 24 hours.
There is a shop nearby that caters to the vandals, selling spray paint. The shop is in no way affiliated with the original artists or land owners, but are quick to claim “the original artist wanted it this way, intended The Cadillac Ranch to be an alternative art project for everyone to use”.
Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. According to artist and founding member Chip Lord,
“Ant Farm was founded as an alternative architectural practice, kind of an experiment in an attempt to subvert normal corporate ways of doing architecture.”
I believe the original artists considered sticking Cadillacs ass-end up into the ground to be an alternative form of architectural art all on its own – without adding spray paint. I suspect the nearby shop owners are stretching interpretation of “alternative” to include graffiti, which helps them sell spray paint.
If the vandals themselves cared to be considered contributing artists to the “alternative” installation, they would take a moment to deposit their empty spray cans in one of the many (empty) trash cans intended for that purpose, instead of littering the ground with the empty cans, or stuffing them in the crevasses of the cars.
I believe The Cadillac Ranch deserves more reverence, and protection.
Anyway, enough about the careless criminal element. It is still THE Cadillac Ranch. And it was still cool to see it.
So many folks were coming and going as I was there, people from all over. I met a nice Canadian family passing through on their way to Arizona. The wife didn’t realize the spray paint wasn’t part of the original artwork. I described to her what the Cadillacs looked like when they were first put into the ground, how they were the stock pastel colors, and how they stayed that way for about the first ten years – before the graffiti arrived. She’d had no idea. I suspect many of the people visiting The Cadillac Ranch are unaware of what the original installation looked like until the mid 80’s.
And now for a bonus item: The Second Amendment Cowboy, also with Cadillacs.
One of the many things I love about Texas – they stand by the Second Amendment, and they aren’t afraid to post it with a 30′ foot cowboy.