About eight miles west of Amarillo, clearly visible from I-40, is a sculpture composed of ten old Cadillacs half buried in the middle of a plowed field. This is art in the loosest possible sense of the word. Uncontrolled graffiti is more like it.
I’m a bit too old fashioned for The Cadillac Ranch, I prefer my art to look much as it looked when the artist created it. I have never been a big fan of graffiti-well, except for Banksy. I remember visiting the Bridges of Madison County not long after the movie had been released. The Bridges had been painted a nice fresh white for the film. By the time we saw them, they were covered end to end with mindless scribbles. Much the same can be said about the Cadillac Ranch.
So unlike Stonehenge or the Mona Lisa, people are free to bring in cans of spray paint, gallons of house paint, shovels, rakes, and implements of destruction. The cars bear little resemblance to their original selves. Some people have not been content to add to the endless layers of paint and have taken to bending the metal here and there. I sort of like the idea of changeable art, but at the same time, I wish there was a permanent exhibit somewhere with pristine cars sporting a fresh coat of wax on their exposed halves.
Other visitors expressed outrage at the mounds of garbage littering the surrounding area. Dozens of used spray cans, dirty paint brushes, and empty gallon paint cans formed a ring of trash around the sculpture. Clear evidence of why the U.S. Parks Service keeps people with spray cans away from the Washington Monument.
There were a couple of people busy whitewashing a large section of one car. I suppose to give themselves a clean area to ‘work’ in. The fact that their own creation will be covered with someone else’s ‘art’ in pretty short order didn’t seem to bother them. Having never had an inner vandal to feed, I am completely puzzled by this behavior. There are only two reason to stop in Amarillo, Texas-The Big Texan and The Cadillac Ranch. And here are people actively working to destroy one of them.
Ok, so The Cadillac Ranch is not exactly in the same league as Falling Water or The Venus De Milo, but it is still a work of art. It still deserves some respect. But if it’s creator doesn’t give a damn about it, I don’t guess I should either. I still couldn’t help approaching the site with a bit of excitement and I did find it very interesting, for all it’s layers of paint and rusty decay.
There were no signs here saying not to take photos. No signs saying not to touch the art. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m surprised there wasn’t someone sitting there selling cans of spray paint for $5 a pop. There was nothing in the way of explanation, as there is at The Texas Stonehenge site. It’s just a gate in a fence and a handful of old cars planted in a field in the middle of nowhere Texas. And I guess that is the way it should be.
Well, maybe they could add a tape playing Springsteen’s Cadillac Ranch on an endless loop.