Angels and Dogs Are Not Very Different: Stanley Marsh III
April 22, 2013 7:01 PM   Subscribe

Popular eccentric Amarillo millionaire Stanley Marsh 3 (previously) is best known for his art installations Cadillac Ranch and the bizarre road signs he placed throughout Amarillo.

He's also known for bizarre behavior, like locking a local teenager into a chicken coop for which he pleaded no contest to "unlawful restraint and criminal trespassing in exchange for dismissal of five felony charges: kidnapping, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and three counts of indecency with a child / sexual contact."

Now, after multiple out-of-court settlements over the years, Marsh was indicted on fourteen counts of sexual abuse against local teenage boys earlier this month.

The Downfall of Stanley Marsh: Darkness on the Plains.

It also seems that Marsh 3 no longer owns Cadillac Ranch, and his financial affairs are now run by former attorney who began working for him as a teenager in 1970.
posted by mudpuppie (6 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The 2nd to the last link there indicates he didn't come up with the Cadillac Ranch (which is all sorts of awesome!):

"Marsh didn’t create Cadillac Ranch in 1974, but owned the land. Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels of the Ant Farm art group came up with the concept."

Ant Farm appears to have done some other wicked cool things as well.
posted by el io at 10:15 PM on April 22, 2013

Really sad. The guy seems to have had a longstanding sugar daddy thing going on and, probably, for a long long time that was a tolerated underground behavior. Certainly he had a gift for gab, and the story of his first meeting with the plaintiff was almost like a cold reading ("hey, that just happens to be my favorite movie too!"). There's an interesting comment on the Downfall argument that you can take or leave but seems to indicate that people assumed whatever it was, was consensual, and nunyabusiness, and the boys involved were all social outcasts and Marsh was at the pinnacle of social rank in town. In its own way reminiscent of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I suppose.
posted by dhartung at 2:13 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know a fair number of people who knew (past tense, because none of those people I know live in Amarillo anymore) Marsh and his family.

He wasn't quite precisely "at the pinnacle of social rank"; he was wealthy, but notorious, and so participated in high society but was always suspect.

There were always rumors swirling around Marsh. I don't really find this stuff here surprising because his whole schtick was transgression. He wasn't an artist himself, but he was a benefactor. More to the point, he was interested in transgression and as a critic, he was transgressive. ("I think the best thing to do with art museums is to brick them up with the patrons inside.") He was personally transgressive. I don't have a problem with being transgressive, per se, but some people indulge themselves in it for its own sake and some of them in peculiar social positions such as Marsh end up thinking they're a law unto themselves.

From the things I'd heard about him from people with direct, personal experience, I was always suspicious of him, but I appreciated his existence.

I mean, I hate Amarillo with the heat of a million suns. It's the most racist, fascist place I've ever lived. His antics were kind of a breath of fresh air.

My favorite art installation on Marsh's property wasn't the Cadillac Ranch, but a bunch of boulders painted as pool balls that were regularly moved around to depict a game in progress. You could only really see this from a small plane. But folks should read zarq's 2010 post which comprehensively covers the art that Marsh commissioned.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:23 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in Amarillo, and I'm disappointed. I'd always liked Marsh's contribution to the arts, and the fact that he's a pedophile who used his money to rape kids and cover it up makes his art and contributions to art a lot less enjoyable.

One of my friends was related to the Marshes, had her wedding at Toad Hall in fact, and I've met Marsh on a handful of occasions beyond that (not that he'd remember me, I was just one anonymous face among many he was gladhanding at the events). I'd heard the rumors and I didn't want to believe them. Because he contributed to the arts. Because he thumbed his nose at the power structure and society. Because he was a freak and a weirdo and I identify as a freak and a weirdo.

And I feel badly for that. I shouldn't have let the fact that I liked some things he did and the persona he projected to make me feel even minor tribal affiliation with him.

I mocked the various Hollywood stars who flocked around Roman Polanski and defended him, but I can see more now how they felt. I never defended Marsh, but I do admit that I wondered, purely on the basis of quasi-tribal affiliation, if the charges were trumped up, exaggerated, or otherwise the action of people not in my tribe trying to take down someone in my tribe.

And now we have to say "well, other than the child rape, Marsh did some really great stuff". We talk, often, about separating the artist from the art. I don't think it is either entirely possible, nor entirely desirable to do so. The rapes don't make the Cadillac Ranch (or the other stuff) any less interesting or amusing, but they inevitably and I argue not at all undesirably taint it.

If nothing else, we have to ask if (like the football fans at Penn State) those close to Marsh ignored signs, or even outright knowledge, of his behavior based on his tribe, his art, his position. Surely someone other than the victims knew, and they stayed silent.
posted by sotonohito at 4:40 AM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Umm- not to derail, but a lot of comments are conflating commissioning art and creating art. They are not the same thing. Marsh is an art patron, not an artist. True though it may be that these things might not have existed without his patronage, there is still a world of difference between creating something and merely paying for it.
posted by kingv at 7:25 AM on April 23, 2013

"Umm- not to derail, but a lot of comments are conflating commissioning art and creating art."

No, I'm certain that all the commenters here know the difference. The distinction between patron and artist is not always quite so stark as you insist. In Marsh's case, his influence was strong and he did not "merely pay for it".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:31 AM on April 23, 2013

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