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Amarillo's Marsh Art
July 13, 2010 8:48 AM   Subscribe

"Art is a legalized form of insanity, and I do it very well."
Amarillo, Texas is home to the Cadillac Ranch, artist & sculptor Lightnin’ McDuff’s “Ozymandius,” the Amarillo Ramp and the “Dynamite Museum” project, which gave residents the opportunity to order fake, fun road signs and place them on their properties.  Over 5000 signs (Someone did a study!) have been erected throughout town.  But what do all of these projects have in common? They’re all elaborate art works commissioned by Stanley Marsh 3rd, eccentric millionaire, philanthropist and inveterate prankster.

Mr. Marsh is also planning a replica of "Claude Monet's water-lilies pond - a very big one - to grace" his backyard. "He's been sober for years, said Wyatt McSpadden, a longtime friend."
....Brainchild of Stanley Marsh III, local legend/millionaire with more artistic vision than all the lofts in Soho. He is also the major funder of the Dynamite Museum. What, you may ask, is the Dynamite Museum? I have to tell you, this is what hooked me on Amarillo. The "museum" is a bunch of mock road-signs, planted in front yards all over the city, with cryptic, humorous, sage and ridiculous messages and/or pictures. From Walt Whitman’s "The fog comes on little cat’s feet", to a picture of a "Scuba Pig", to "Hear the Fat Lady sing, one block over"and "Hey, buddy, got a smoke?", to my personal favorite "I look really dangerous, and people hang on my every word". In and of itself, the Dynamite Museum is probably the greatest work of outdoor art ever, but the really cool part is talking to the locals about it. If you ask your waitress "What’s up with the signs?", she will look you straight in the eye and tell you they just appear in the night, and if you try to remove them, the city will fine you. If you ask someone at City Hall the same question, they might tell you the City wants them out, but Mr. Marsh will remove any Mayor who says so. And the next person will tell you Stanley Marsh doesn’t exist, the Chamber of Commerce is behind the whole thing. So, it is not just a work of art, but an inside joke, shared by the quarter million townsfolk, and a way to have fun at visitors expense. You could honestly spend two days, just driving around sign spotting.

Uncovering Amarillo's Hidden Weirdness
posted by zarq (28 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
In 1995, Marsh appeared in a documentary set in Amarillo about PANTEX' plutonium trafficking program in the 1970's and the legacy of nuclear waste: "The Plutonium Circus" (imdb.) I couldn't find it online, but here's an interview with the director:
"Literally a world unto itself, Amarillo exists on the periphery of anarchy, a notion presented with relish in the film by local eccentric-cum-millionaire Stanley Marsh 3, creator of the famed Cadillac Ranch and an irascible, thoroughly charming throwback to the days of Mark Twain. Marsh also delights in ridiculing the prominent, old-money, Amarillo family the Whittenburgs, of which the director and interviewer is an obvious offshoot."

posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is a fantastic post zarq.
posted by Think_Long at 8:54 AM on July 13, 2010


You see people? This is how you spend millions of dollars.
posted by The Whelk at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Road Does Not End: a conversation with Stanley Marsh.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know you want the "UNDEAD END" sign.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, yes I do.

And this makes me happy. As does this.

I approve of a world with more weird. Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief at 9:07 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


One more creature
Dizzy with love

posted by MrVisible at 9:11 AM on July 13, 2010


My personal favorite Marsh sign is in front of an Amarillo strip club called Cassidy's and it says: THE AMERICAN DREAM
posted by thescientificmethhead at 9:14 AM on July 13, 2010


There is also a "Floating Plateau" north of town, where he lined a band of mirrors around the top of a plateau so it looks like it's suspended midair. I tried to find some pics, but alas---- nada.


Ah, Amarillo. You and your inhabitants look so cool from the outside.
posted by From the Fortress at 9:19 AM on July 13, 2010


I love that poetry sign. Thanks for the great post, zarq!
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:22 AM on July 13, 2010


Sounds like a Texas version of Guy Grand from Terry Southern's novel The Magic Christian.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:29 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Which forms of sanity are illegal?
posted by toothgnip at 9:35 AM on July 13, 2010


I love this one: "Hello,"—Barber, Amarillo Barber College.
posted by steef at 9:36 AM on July 13, 2010


I was once told the tale of Marsh's monkey scuba divers by an Amarillian. Pranks are funny.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm on my way out to West Texas in three weeks and I absolutely can't wait. I'm not sure we'll make it as far North as Amarillo, but we're definitely going to check out Prada Marfa.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:40 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had no idea that Amarillo had any hidden weirdness let alone so much of it. Those Caddys are awesome.

The drive? Yeah, boring. Flat and boring, and then dark and boring.

That's pretty much a description of anything and everything between Tucumcari and Oklahoma City on I-40 except for a little hilly greenery here and there in western Oklahoma.
posted by blucevalo at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2010


There is also a "Floating Plateau" north of town, where he lined a band of mirrors around the top of a plateau so it looks like it's suspended midair. I tried to find some pics, but alas---- nada.

Ah ha! I spotted images of that yesterday but couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be. I should have looked harder.
posted by zarq at 9:50 AM on July 13, 2010


Thank you, .kobayashi. and Think Long. :)

From the Fortress, thank you for your Amarillo comment in the other thread, too. I've wanted to do this post for a while!
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on July 13, 2010


Well I'm a high straight in Plainview
side bet in Idalou and a fresh deck in New Deal.
Some call me high hand and some call me low hand
But I'm holdin what I am, the wheel.

Cause I'm a panhandling man handling
post holing high rolling dust bowling daddy.
And I ain't got no blood veins,
I just got them four lanes of hard Amarillo Highway.

Yeah I don't wear no Stetson
But I'm willin to bet son
That I'm as big a Texan as you are
There's a girl in her bare feet asleep on the back seat
and that trunk's full of Pearl…and Lone Star

Gonna hop outta bed, pop a pill in my head
Yeah, bust the Hub for the Golden Spread under blue skies.
Gonna stuff my hide behind some power glide
An get some southern fried back in my eyes.

Close I'll ever get to Heaven
is making speed up old 87
on that hardass… Amarillo Highway
posted by nathancaswell at 10:14 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I never thought I might actually want to go to Amarillo, but I'm reconsidering that stance now.
posted by immlass at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2010


This makes me very happy. We drove through Amarillo twice on I-40 and this is much more joy-inspiring than the proposal of eating a 72 oz steak in one hour.
posted by Lou Stuells at 10:58 AM on July 13, 2010


If you want some kicks, Route 66 runs parallel to I-40 all the way to Tucumcari. Route 66 News has the best clearinghouse of info on it, and while i won't self link, if one wanted to get all youtubey or googley, there is more info and video as well.
posted by timsteil at 11:27 AM on July 13, 2010


Should I ever get to be a millionaire, I promise to attempt to be just as eccentric and fun as Mr. Marsh.

I visited the Cadillac Ranch, it was a real delight!
posted by pjern at 12:19 PM on July 13, 2010


We drove through Amarillo recently, and though we enjoyed the steakhouse and walking through the town on a Sunday evening (hint: sleepy town is sleepy on a sleepy evening), we failed in our search for the Cadillac Ranch. We found one promising road south, but then it turned into what looked like an unassumed dirt road and we turned back. I guess part of the charm is that the way in is totally unmarked, but it meant we had to give up and push on to New Mexico.

Based on pjern's photos, it seems like that might actually have been the right road all along. Hard to say.
posted by chrominance at 3:52 PM on July 13, 2010


This is a fantastic post zarq.


I have to agree with this.
posted by From the Fortress at 4:28 PM on July 13, 2010


we failed in our search for the Cadillac Ranch

It's west of town a few hundred yards south of the interstate. Can't miss it.
posted by timsteil at 4:50 PM on July 13, 2010


This makes me very happy. We drove through Amarillo twice on I-40 and this is much more joy-inspiring than the proposal of eating a 72 oz steak in one hour.

You can do both! Seriously, the Big Texan is fun and not far away from the Cadillac Ranch. Also, I'm grateful to the Cadillac Ranch because it was there I discovered the "Kneel Before Zod" stickers.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:41 PM on July 13, 2010


Thanks for a fantastic post! I happen to be Amarillo-bound tomorrow & this couldn't have come at a more perfect time.
posted by Mamapotomus at 9:18 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


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