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 V.19 No.44 | November 4 - 10, 2010 

Culture Shock

Cadillac Ranch
John Bear
Cadillac Ranch

A Place for People to Stop and Write

I had the opportunity—or misfortune, depending on how you look at it—to visit the jewel of the Texas Panhandle: Amarillo. I was meeting a friend from Oklahoma so we could take in some North Texas culture.

Amarillo has always been a passing-through kind of place in my journeys, and I’ve always loved the Cadillac Ranch. It's public art that was installed west of the city in 1974 by the avant-garde art group Ant Farm. It has been relocated once as Amarillo grew westward.

The installation is 10 Cadillac cars planted in a field, like they’re growing out of it. They’re placed at a slight angle, which makes them look like they’re blowing in the wind that so commonly occurs east of the Sandias. People can stop, navigate their way through a strange little gate and paint or write whatever they want onto the cars. Someone wrote “Bear loves Worm” and painted a giant coffee cup, for example.

My friend Malinda stepped in cow shit and got caught on some barbed wire. Some of the cow patties had been painted brilliant colors. A sign warned that anyone writing on a roadside fence would bring the wrath of the Texas authorities down upon them—a challenge to some, no doubt.

It was a delightful cultural experience I shall not soon forget.

Anyway, it occurred to me that I am completely unaware if any such site exists in Albuquerque. A quick bit of asking around netted a two-football-fields-long space in the North Valley that a company has given over to graffiti artists. But there seems to be no place for regular people passing through to stop and say “I was here.”

Albuquerque has two interstate highways converging in its center. Why not stick something up to draw people in? Somewhere near Downtown and I-25 would be prime.

Art should be a public thing, and an installation that would constantly shift and alter itself as passersby add their pieces would make an excellent tourist attraction. Sure, this city has plenty of stuff for people coming through to do, and its beautiful scenery is reason enough to stop, but a little extra baiting wouldn’t hurt. The spot would also serve the people of Albuquerque as a safe and public place for them to express themselves.

It's just a thought.

 
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