West of Amarillo lies one of the most iconic of American art works, the Cadillac Ranch. It is exactly what it appears to be : 10 vintage, deeply graffitied, Cadillacs, buried in the west Texas plains.
The project has been photographed so many times and become such a cliche'd part of our visual consciousness that I had little hope that seeing it in person would effect me very much. I was wrong.
The project was the brainchild of the Ant Farm, a San Francisico based art collaborative headed by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michaels. Originally installed in 1974 on the land of eccentric millionaire patron Stanley Marsh 3 ("III" seemed too pretentious to him, but I'm not sure what could be more so than "3"). Like so many things along Route 66, the original location became problematic for development and the whole thing was quietly relocated further west to yet another empty wheat field of Stanley Marsh 3. Interaction with the cars, in the form of continual graffiti layering, has always been encouraged and the cars seem more akin to some odd, foam-like structures with their innumerable layers of paint.
The place is a mess, a wasted landscape of spray cans, plastic trash bags and the unrelenting drone of the highway. And for as depressing as that is, maybe that is the point. I happened to be there just as the sun was coming up and the place did have a strange, timeless quality to it. It is a desperate place, devastingly beautiful and tragic.