Marfa: The Transformation of a West Texas Town (Paperback)

Marfa: The Transformation of a West Texas Town By Kathleen Shafer Cover Image
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A small town in the vast desert of West Texas, Marfa attracts visitors from around the world to its art foundations and galleries, film and music festivals, and design and architecture symposiums. While newcomers sometimes see it as “another Santa Fe,” long-time residents often take a bemused, even disapproving attitude toward the changes that Marfa has undergone since artist Donald Judd came to town in the 1970s and began creating spaces for his own and other artists’ work. They remember when ranching and the military formed the basis of the town’s economy, even as they acknowledge that tourist dollars are now essential to Marfa’s sustainability

Marfa tells an engaging story of how this isolated place became a beacon in the art world, like the famous Marfa Lights that draw curious spectators into the West Texas night. As Kathleen Shafer delves into the town’s early history, the impact of Donald Judd, the expansion of arts programming, and the increase in tourism, she unlocks the complex interplay between the particularities of the place, the forces of commerce and growth, the textures of local culture and tradition, and the transformative role of artists and creative work. Bookending her story between two iconic artworks—the whimsical Prada Marfa and the crass Playboy Marfa—Shafer illuminates the shifting cultural landscape of Marfa, showing why this place has become a mecca for so many and how the influx of newcomers has transformed its character.

About the Author

KATHLEEN SHAFER is a writer and artist who holds a PhD in geography and the environment from the University of Texas at Austin.

Praise For…

The most memorable parts of Ms. Shafer’s book are her beautiful evocations of Marfa’s high desert landscape, its delicate colors, the big sky and dry air; and of Judd’s art.
— Wall Street Journal

The town that emerges in [Shafer's] book is one beset by social, historical, and even moral contradictions.
— D Magazine

I'll re-read Marfa. . . before I return to Marfa for the third time. My copy of Shafer's book will go with me when I do. When you make your next trip to Marfa, you'll want to take your own copy. You'll be glad you did.
— Concho River Review

Shafer walks a fine line in her discussion of Marfa. On the one hand, she emphasizes the uniqueness and appeal of this small West Texas town that has become an art center, a destination for travelers from around the United States and Beyond. On the other, she notes that much of Marfa's appeal results from an imagined place, one that is probably more illusion than real—real, yes, in passing moments that appear and disappear like the Marfa lights.
— Pacific Historical Review

This book is an easy, enjoyable, and informative read. It appeals to both the casual and academic reader, and those familiar and otherwise with the Big Bend area of Texas. It will be a valuable addition to the collections of many cultural geographers, especially those with an interest in sense of place, art, and tourism.
— Journal of Cultural Geography

Product Details
ISBN: 9781477318317
ISBN-10: 1477318313
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Publication Date: March 1st, 2019
Pages: 208
Language: English