Marfa Modern by Helen Thompson
Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert

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The idea, in the words of Thompson (former Texas city editor of Metropolitan Home), of “a place where the demand to live for art is so compelling as to be unavoidable” might sound hyperbolic, but when readers see how these residents live, they’ll understand.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Twenty-one houses in and around Marfa, Texas, provide a glimpse at creative life and design in one of the art world’s most intriguing destinations.
 
When Donald Judd began his Marfa project in the early 1970s, it was regarded as an idiosyncratic quest. Today, Judd is revered for his minimalist art and the stringent standards he applied to everything around him, including interiors, architecture, and furniture. The former water stop has become a mecca for artists, art pilgrims, and design aficionados drawn to the creative enclave, the permanent installations called “among the largest and most beautiful in the world,” and the austerely beautiful high-desert landscape.
 
In keeping with Judd’s site-specific intentions, those who call Marfa home have made a choice to live in concert with their untamed, open surroundings. Marfa Modern features houses that represent unique responses to this setting—the sky, its light and sense of isolation—some that even predate Judd’s arrival.
 
Here, conceptual artist Michael Phelan lives in a former Texaco service station with battery acid stains on the concrete floor and a twenty-foot dining table lining one wall. A chef’s modest house comes with the satisfaction of being handmade down to its side tables and bath, which expands into a private courtyard with an outdoor tub. Another artist uses the many rooms of her house, a former jail, to shift between different mediums—with Judd’s Fort D. A. Russell works always visible from her second-story sun porch.
 
Extraordinary building costs mean that Marfa dwellers embrace a culture of frontier ingenuity and freedom from excess—salvaged metal signs become sliding doors and lengths of pipe become lighting fixtures, industrial warehouses are redesigned after the area’s white-cube galleries to create space for private or personally created art collections, and other materials are suggested by the land itself: walls are made of adobe bricks or rammed earth to form sculptural courtyards, or, in one remarkable instance, a mix of mud and brick plastered with local soils, cactus mucilage, horse manure, and straw.
 

About Helen Thompson

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Helen Thompson is a nationally known writer whose areas of specialty include interior design, architecture, and food. She was formerly a food writer and editor for Texas Monthly magazine and the Texas city editor for Metropolitan Home magazine. She has also written and produced articles for Architectural Digest, Dwell, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Martha Stewart Living, Traditional Home, Veranda, and many other magazines. She is the author of The Big Texas Steakhouse Cookbook and The Mansion on Turtle Creek Cookbook.Casey Dunn is an Austin-based architectural and landscape photographer whose work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, Dwell, Interior Design magazine, the New York Times Magazine, and Paper City.
Author Residence: Austin, Texas
Author Hometown: Austin, TexasCasey Dunn is an Austin-based architectural and landscape photographer whose work has appeared in Dwell, the New York Times Magazine, Interior Design Magazine, Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, and Paper City Magazine.Illustrator Residence: Austin, Texas
 
Published October 25, 2016 by The Monacelli Press. 240 pages
Genres: History, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, Arts & Photography.
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Publishers Weekly

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on Jun 23 2017

The idea, in the words of Thompson (former Texas city editor of Metropolitan Home), of “a place where the demand to live for art is so compelling as to be unavoidable” might sound hyperbolic, but when readers see how these residents live, they’ll understand.

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