Wide Open in West Texas
On a bright Big Bend afternoon in far-west Texas, I steer myself along a high-desert, two-lane highway, tufts of dried-up tumbleweed thistle packed like snow against barbed-wire fences. The sky above opens up its cobalt tent; the space beneath stretches as far as an ocean. U.S. 90 leads me through the Davis Mountains and ocotillo-and-cactus flats to Marfa, Alpine, and Marathon, a string of three Big Bend towns just 60 miles apart. Here they live as siblings in a remote, starkly beautiful landscape as mysterious to me as Mars.
“Driving from Dallas, we often joke,” says Marfa wood artist Camp Bosworth, “ ‘Who would put a town out here? And who would live in it?’ And we realize, well, us.”
photo: Artist Mary Baxter
“Out here you can just breathe,” he says, referring to the whole Big Bend, where Texas leans toward the Rio Grande and Mexico reaches back. “That constant push to do is gone. And instantly at night, there are a million stars. In the openness you suddenly feel creative.”
photo: Buck Johnston and Camp Bosworth at the Goode-Crowley Theater, a former feedstore.
photo: The Thunderbird Hotel rents bicycles to guests for town cruising.
photo: If Marfa has a main gathering spot, it's the Food Shark lunch truck.
photo: The 100 boxes at the Chinati Foundation best showcase Donald Judd's impact on Marfa's art-fueled regeneration.
photo: The art installation Marfa Prada stands as lonesome and odd as a runway model hitchhiking U.S. 90.
photo: Artist Camp Bosworth's wood pieces play off Big Bend life.
photo: The courtyard at Marathon's Gage Hotel.
photo: Sunset behind Marfa's liquor store. When driving, tune your radio dial to KRTS-FM: 93.5 to hear local music, interviews, and Big Bend news.
photographs by Michael Berman
Camp Bosworth: local wood artisan. www.sawdustpoet.com
Chinati Foundation: contemporary art. Tours begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Admission is $10 adults, $5 ages 12 and up www.chinati.org or (432) 729-4362
Cochineal: Manhattan restaurateurs serving global home cooking. Open 6 p.m.-midnight Friday-Tuesday. (432) 729-3300
Food Shark: lunch truck parked next to Marfa Book Company 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. www.foodsharkmarfa.com
Thunderbird Hotel: rooms starting at $135. www.thunderbird marfa.com or 1-877-729-1984
Yard Dog Gallery: folk art and similar styles. www.yarddog.com or (432) 729-3303
photo: Jason Willaford in Marfa's Galleri Urbane
“Jack”: Big Bend’s comic strip. www.jackcomics.com
Judy’s Bread and Breakfast: best start to the day. 113 West Holland Avenue; (432) 837-9424
Kiowa Gallery: wide variety of local artisans not found in Marfa. 105 East Holland Avenue; (432) 837-3067
Stevens Electrical Instruments: custom guitars. www.stevensguitars.com
Gage Hotel: upscale hacienda rooms from $183. Ask for a Los Portales suite with fireplace. www.gagehotel.com or 1-800-884-4243
James Evans Gallery: premier Texas photographer. Studio open most days 10 a.m.-6 p.m., but call ahead. www.jameshevans.com or (432) 386-4366
White Buffalo Bar: Gage Hotel’s cozy adobe bar with open fireplace next door to the hotel. Open every night. www.gagehotel.com or 1-800-884-4243
photo: The white buffalo gives Marathon's watering hole a rare piece of decor.