| Trips | Drives
Photos and article 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.
(Stanley 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.)
With 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
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 gate.
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.
|So many Cadillacs
- so little time.
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
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.
© M.M. Harris
shoe horses, don't they?" December 15 , 2007
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