and text by M.M.Harris
“Art is a legalized form of insanity, and I do
it very well." - Stanley Marsh 3
would have thought that burying ten old Cadillacs in an Amarillo
dirt farm in 1974 would make such an indelible mark on Texas roadside attraction
maps? The product of helium millionaire Stanley Marsh 3’s eccentric mind, Cadillac
Ranch was designed with a California-based artist collective called Ant Farm as
an homage to the Golden Age of American Automobiles (1949-1963) and to the historic
Route 66 which passes by Marshs’
palatious West Texas ranch.
Marsh 3 inspired the creators (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) of the television cartoon
South Park to name one of their main child characters after Marsh.)
the distinctive fins of the cars prominently displayed, the cars are buried nose-down
“at the same angle as The Great Pyramid of Giza”, the only remaining structure
of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
|I went out to see
the caddies myself on Wednesday, December 5, 2007 just before sundown. The setting
sun made for a stellar backdrop to view the legendary vehicles and I perused the
lanes carefully reading all the impassioned messages sprayed on about who loved
who and who smelled like what and why. I was surprised to find that the few people
who came and went while I was there were from all over the world, including Berlin,
Montreal, Detroit, Los Angeles and even a couple of local artists from Amarillo.|
for around $200 each, the cars were rescued from junk yards across the country
and were either hoisted into their holes, or driven head-first into their final
resting places. In the beginning, the cars held onto their original classic paint
jobs, but visitors were compelled to etch their names or spray paint slogans onto
the sides of the cars. The practice has become a tradition, and today, one can
find the grounds surrounding the cars smattered with spray cans, markers and paint
Since I was little, I have been enamored with the idea of the
Cadillac Ranch. What would motivate a person to do something so extraordinary?
Why are tourists drawn to it? What is the world’s secret fascination with the
absurd? Now, twenty-five years after first hearing about Cadillac Ranch, I stood
in awe of the sheer craziness of it and somehow felt a little weight lift off
my shoulders, as if the art was saying “Life is crazy. Enjoy it and don’t sweat.”
I smiled an easy smile all the way back to my car, parked 100 yards away at the
Whimsey and Bodies by Fisher|
| Layers of anthropological
fingerprints in the form of spray painted love notes, etched “Kilroys” and inane
scribblings on the famed caddies. Over the years, the cars have been painted and
repainted many times. In 2002, the cars were transported back to their original
colors, and in 2003, they mourned in flat black to commemorate the passing of
the founder of Ant Farm. |
1997, urban sprawl forced an exhumation of Cadillac Ranch and a replanting two
miles away in its’ current location of I-40 just west of Amarillo.
Not only were the cars moved and replaced in exactly the same situations, but
the trash and surrounding debris was also moved and scattered about the new location.
many Cadillacs - so little time.|
|Stanley Marsh 3, himself,
is subject to almost as much rumor and arm-chair speculation as his art installations.
Claiming that “III” is too pretentious, Marsh opted instead to use the number
“3” behind his name. Marsh is also responsible for the Ozymandias Legs, a statue
of pseudo-ancient legs in the middle of a cow pasture based on a Percy Bysshe
Shelley poem and complete with a convincing pseudo-historical marker, and Dynamite
Museum, a continuing art installation consisting of mock traffic signs, random
pictures and phrases scattered through out the city of Amarillo.
Further, Marsh has had some interesting run-ins with local police, including holding
an 18-year-old boy hostage in a chicken coop in his back yard in 1994 for stealing
one of his Dynamite Museum art signs. |
It seems that eccentrics across
the country liked Cadillac Ranch well enough to copy it for themselves. Alliance,
Nebraska features Carhenge and Berwyn, Illinois has Cars-on-a-Spike. My favorite
offshoot has to be Combine City located (where else?) in Amarillo,
which features several combines (or farm tractors) sprouting from the earth as
if grown like the wheat they thresh.
Note: If the presentation seems
a little static, visitors can liven it up by spinning a tire (or hub). The rear
axles have been adjusted so that when you spin a tire on one of the cars, opposite
tire will spin in the opposite direction.
shoe horses, don't they?" December 15 , 2007 Guest Column
I first spotted
pictures of the Conway
Bugg Ranch on Google Earth and put it on my Must See List. It is a real rival
to the Cadillac Ranch - Barclay
Gibson, July 2009