Visiting Cadillac Ranch aka Carhenge in Texas

Visiting Cadillac Ranch aka Carhenge in Texas

While I don’t know if I can agree with Stanley Marsh 3 when he says, “Art is a legalized form of insanity…” I do know that the second half of that quote, “and I do it very well.” fits quite nicely to the strange, yet somehow beautiful work of Marsh’s art which can be found just off I-40 west of Amarillo, Texas.

Begun in 1974 and now termed “Cadillac Ranch” but called by some Carhenge (not to be confused with another Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska that more closely resembles England’s Stonehenge), this collection of Cadillac cars stuck into the barren dirt in northwest Texas at the same angle [supposedly] as the pyramids in Giza – is striking, to say the least.

Empty spray paint cans lie littered around the line of colorful, dented and much-abused Cadillac cars that Marsh 3 [III was too pretentious for his taste, hence the “3”] envisioned as “an homage to the Golden Age of American Automobiles“. Circling the cars with my camera while studying my fellow tourists, unsure what to make of the installation, I thought more of an homage to the punk movement of the 80’s and graffiti art before graffiti and street art became something so mainstream Banksy is a celebrity.

The cars at Cadillac Ranch were procured for $200 each, rescued from junk yards all over the United States. Each car started with its original paint job, it was then hoisted into a hole in the ground or driven head-first into what is now a final resting place for automobile boats of a bygone era. Visitors began to etch their names onto the sides of the cars at Cadillac Ranch but eventually spray paint became the branding tool-of-choice. The practice is now a tradition, hence the empty-spray-paint-can-ground-cover.

I left still a bit unsure. I’ve not traditionally been a fan of modern art. Yet as I age, I think art is more and more a subjective term. I did find beauty at Cadillac Ranch. It did make me want to visit all the copy-cat installations which have popped up around the American west. More than anything I took a few minutes to appreciate that expansive blue sky which always seems bigger in Texas. You really notice it at Cadillac Ranch … this wide open space so rudely interrupted with, cars, saluting the sun.

Visit Cadillac Ranch for yourself and then tell me – is it art, insanity or both? Maybe none of the above.

Cadillac Ranch is just off I-40 in Northwest Texas outside Amarillo. There’s not an address I could find. I recommend driving west out of the city on 40 until you see the cars. It’s kind of hard to miss if you’re looking for it. There aren’t hours or admission fees to pay, it’s open 365 days/year, rain or shine.