Folk Art.

Modern folk art, I think is the correct term.

I was chatting with a tenant at the other job – he’s an art history and studio art student. I got off on tangent about the Chinati Foundation.

On the tour of the facility and its installations, there was one barracks that was left pretty much intact, the way it was when the foundation bought the place. On the wall, there were several illustrations that were left, just cartoon characters on the old plaster and adobe walls.

“Must’ve been a cantina,” the docent suggested, “it was left like this.”

The style of that artwork reminded me of another style I’d seen before, sort of in the same area. The Commemorative Air Force (which used to be the Confederate Air Force) has this huge collection of Nose Art.

Like the pictures on the wall in that barracks, this is artwork that was not done by a professional artist. Of course it’s not politically correct artwork.

There are prurient caricatures, the more tame material is on display, I believe. Other material pokes fun at the enemy of the time. In one case, I swiped a Latin quote from one piece of “Army Air Supply Corp” ordinance on display, “VINCIT QUI PRIMUM GERIT.” I even used it as a sig file for a while. Not many folks caught its meaning or source.

It’s all about American Folk Art. That’s artwork, produced by someone who isn’t a trained “artist,” and it’s purpose it to entertain, educate, or like that nose art, protect and give some added value to what was going on at the time.

I’m fascinated by this stuff, perhaps more so than its modern variants, just because there’s so little of it left. It was some years ago, at the CAF HQ (at the Midland-Odessa International Airport – MAF) where I had a chance to tour a back room of the uncompleted museum. The bored “communications officer” was idly poking through a number of crates, close to 50, and each one was a rescued piece of nose art. From the airplanes’ graveyard, someplace in the desert. Most of that nose art wasn’t fit for prime time.

Wonder where it all went? Is it important? Sure it is. Just like those images on the wall of the abandoned and then converted barracks in Marfa.

12/4
Places to visit, places to stay, places to see
“The ceremonial flying of six flags-Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, Confederate, and American-over modern Texas, so puzzling to visitors, is an almost conscious symbolism: flags change, the land remains.” (p. 257)

Marathon, TX: Gage Hotel “The finest hotel between San Antonio and El Paso…”
Alpine, TX: Antelope Motel
Alpine, TX: Big Bend Saddlery
Alpine, TX: Holland Hotel “The finest hotel between San Antonio and El Paso…”
Marfa Mystery Lights (404)
Marfa, TX: Paisano Hotel “The finest hotel between San Antonio and El Paso…”
Marfa, TX.
Marfa, TX: Marfa Books. (404)
Marfa, TX: Chinati Foundation.
Ft. Davis, TX: Limpia Hotel “The finest hotel between San Antonio and El Paso…”
Ft. Davis, TX: Indian Lodge (404)
Big Bend Rock Art (404)_

12/3 – The Frenchman.
I can’t recall what day it was, but one of the activities at the ranch involved riding around in a specially modified truck to “see the wildlife in the mountains.”

I’m not sure if everyone noticed, but there were rifle mounts up on top of that truck. It’s not like this was just for a nature show.

So the truck left, and it was cold that day, and I wasn’t really attired for running around in the outback, but my parental units convinced the foreman that it would be a really good idea to bring the truck back for the birthday boy, just so we could all get a tour of some dirt roads.

There was room in the truck’s cab for two more, and the kind ladies riding up on top offered to make room for me on their bench seat. Can’t say for sure, but I think one or two giggled at the prospect of huddling under a blanket with me.

Their husbands? They opted, at least for the first leg of the excursion, to ride in the cab.

After that first stop, though, there was a change in the seating arrangements. The women riding up top were all joined by their husbands because one of the guys had made some comment about that “Frenchman” riding up on top – with the wives.

Me? I was more concerned with stay warm, then, I was interested in identifying various kinds of flora and fauna. An Eagle-eyed Capricorn noted a red-tail hawk, just sitting there, on a tree, while we passed within earshot of the border. Turns out he called me “that Frenchman” and I’m sure it was due to the way I was dressed.

“Damn boy, next time, wear your boots or something.”

Let me see, two pair of boots need soles, one pair is antique and I wasn’t about to wear the endangered species boots, no matter how tasteful, out in the brush. So, as it worked out, I was wearing all black. Left my cowboy hats at home, as I could just see one of them getting blown off my head. Nope, I was dressed to either hike, or lounge around the corral, but what I had on didn’t indicate I was particularly Texan.

Which, in retrospect, seemed particularly amusing.

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