Twenty four hours, 400 miles, too much to see.
Driving to Marfa is a bit like a movie. The Texas high desert, still and flat, waits quietly for your arrival. Then, like a bullet, you shoot through the sands with nothing for miles around. The Trans-Pecos mountains guide you through the desert until you turn off I-10 to Route 90 where the sheer vastness of the landscape is breathtaking. Conspicuous gates rise up against the flat terrain marking entrances to ranches so large that no homes or outbuildings are in sight from the road. Finally, after what seems like hundreds of miles, a small sign signals your arrival to Marfa, a town of just more than 2,000.
The town is a stark contrast to the miles of desert surrounding it. Cool white buildings with blue tile, amber grasses and clean typography are mainstays of this sleepy town. It’s no wonder that Chevrolet color and trim designer Mara Kapsis drew inspiration for the new Chevy Equinox directly from a town that is impossible to ignore.
We met Mara standing outside artist Julie Speed’s Marfa studio. Behind her, the Chinati Foundation and beside her a burnt orange 2018 Chevy Equinox. You would think a brand new shiny car would look out of place in a town that is famous for art installations dating back to the 1980s. But it looked like it was part of the landscape. Almost like the car was part of the town’s art. That’s because the car was designed with Marfa in mind.
Mara first traveled to Marfa with her boyfriend for a fun getaway. She says she couldn’t help but be inspired by the colors and textures of the town. “You’re pulled into this capsule of art and creativity that seems wrapped up in this beautiful and expansive landscape. It is a true retreat.” And I know exactly what she means: the browns, oranges, reds, blues and whites wrap around you everywhere you turn.
She imagined the type of person who comes to Marfa and translated that into color and trim for the car. She laid out items before us that fit these personas—denim shirts, leather backpacks with clean lines, journals, hiking books—and showed us how those items became pieces of the car. “Our denim-like jet black cloth interior is inspired by trends in fashion, but it is also easier to clean and live with. Our lighter gray interior is not only fresh and modern, but the leather appointed seats are trimmed with a the soil repellant leather that resists dye transfers from those brand new jeans.”
“You really don’t have to compromise with the new Equinox, it’s designed to enhance those everyday experiences for our customers.”—Mara Kapsis, Chevrolet color and trim designer
After a swoon-worthy dinner inside the art studio we drove several miles down the road hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive Marfa Lights. Marfa has regulations that ensure the night sky will not be polluted by street lights, backyard lights, projector lights, etc. Not only do these regulations give you a better shot at seeing the Mystery Lights, they also allow for a magnificent star gazing experience. The Mystery Lights viewing center is right off Route 90 and, in the pitch black, is easy to miss. Step out to the platform and watch these creepy orbs dance around the night sky. They’re unexplainable. Many a scientist has tried to solve the mystery of the Marfa Lights but to no avail.
The next day we gathered at the Chinati Foundation for a firsthand look at Donald Judd’s incredible “15 untitled works in concrete.” Judd created and assembled the installations between 1980–1984 and they remain an important part of Marfa’s story. There’s something truly enchanting about these pieces. “Visiting the Chinati Foundation was particularly moving for me and is a generous source of inspiration. Donald Judd’s work encourages you to reflect on the interaction of an object and the environment. The artwork is transformed as the daylight shifts and the seasons changes—the environment is a pivotal ingredient,” says Mara.This triggers lots of ideas for color and trim design at Chevrolet. “As we explore combinations of materials and specific colors, we consider how these elements transform as our customers use their vehicles in different settings, whether it’s in the middle of a big city or on the open road on their way to Marfa,” she adds.
Spending a weekend in Marfa with Mara Kapsis felt more like a dream than anything. We were there for just a blink, but hearing her share the inspiration for her work in the very place that inspired her was a holistic and intimate experience. Marfa is a place to be inspired, to unplug, to be quiet, and to accept it’s offering. I’ve rarely been to a place like this where each visitor’s experience is completely different. It’s just one of the special, unexplainable mysteries of the tiny desert town.