18-05-2018

Art, desert and photography: a visual narrative of West Texas

Craig Washburn,

Photography,

Craig Washburn's photographic reportage explores the different facets of West Texas, from its rugged landscape to the eclectic communities who live there.



Art, desert and photography: a visual narrative of West Texas Craig Washburn's photographic reportage explores the different facets of West Texas, from its rugged landscape to the eclectic communities who live there.


Texan photographer and reporter Craig Washburn tells the story of West Texas, a little-known part of his country, in the middle of the desert, which he calls “another world”.  Quite incredible landscapes with harsh terrain and inhospitable geography, which since the 1970s have formed the backdrop for a lively artistic activity that attracts tourists from all over the world.

Washburn begins his narrative with his shots of Big Bend National Park, a magical place where nature reigns supreme, carving rocky outcrops, barren expanses and mountains with a raw, sharp beauty. 
Washburn's lens then focuses on places with a bizarre charm, that still survive in a kind of limbo between past and future. The small town of Marfa is a real art oasis, the desert setting the scene for eccentric artworks immersed in the landscape. From the time the artist, Donald Judd arrived here in the ’70s to the most recent Prada store that never opens, a permanent installation created in 2005 by the duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, and a drawcard for art-loving tourists. 

Marfa also shows the signs of World War 2, when linguists studied Russian here. You can even see a communist-era school, complete with desks and Cyrillic textbooks, which look as if they've ended up in this part of the world by chance. 
Heading further into the desert, he arrives at Terlingua, an even smaller, more isolated township. Hours away from any sign of civilisation, this almost ghost town is home to an eclectic mix of people. Manifesto of this social liveliness is Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe, a shocking pink food van on the edge of town, where the extravagant tales of locals are the order of the day. 

With West Texas, Craig Washburn describes a magical, complex equilibrium. The isolation of these arid, remote lands has given way to true artistic freedom for the people who live there. Therefore, here art, stripped of the chaos of cities, becomes one with this desert in the middle of nowhere, telling the story to visitors who come from all over the planet to explore it. 

Barbara Esposito

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