It is a common tenet of major religions that you surround yourself with the right people…people who can support your belief systems and not distract you from the path you choose. Whether you are religious or not, the people in your life can help you be the best parts of yourself, or they can commiserate with you in the dark.
I feel the same way about places. The details of the place where you do the thing you are doing can either tease out creativity or they can strangle possibility into a thick and sticky soup. Ballet studios, for example, are terrible places to create. Designed to somewhat support the mechanical needs of an athletic body, what follows is hollow and antiseptic. Cheap fluorescent bulbs that accommodate a non-profit budget make you tired always. The room is designed to be performative, not for the dancers, but for the choreographer. In the moments I want to be invisible and disappear into my mind, I have to project instructions into an echoey chamber. It feels like a factory. And every day it is the same. The monotony of the picture in front of me feels like a hand pushing me backwards.
I change the furniture in my apartment around frequently. Breaking up the patterns of my day leads to new ideas…and the puzzle of reimagining life is Zen.
One of my favorite places to feel creative is Marfa, Texas. It’s a town of about 2000 people in the middle of nowhere Texas that is about 50% artist and 50% cowboy. It’s like a group of really talented minds got together to love a small Texas town. Instead of changing it into someplace new, they respectfully riffed on it, polished the edges a little bit, and found a way to blend.
One night, I was sitting on my friend’s roof (among my top 3 places on the planet) listening to music vibrate through the walls of the venue across the street. It was a surprise concert from David Byrne. The next night I walked downtown and had the city entirely to myself.
Outside the city, at the edge of a cow pasture sits an installation called “Prada Marfa” by the artists Elmgreen and Dragset that is a small Prada store complete with a selection of shoes you can see through the window. Along the highway in the other direction is a response installation that is a tiny, hilarious Target store. These two pieces and their relationship to one another are among my favorite art works.
There’s a 60 year old woman on a cruiser wearing a John Lennon shades and a perfect cowboy hat. She has a pressed, denim shirt. She sees herself more as a farmer than an artist, but she is definitely an artist.
The first time I went, I saw these bizarre lights off the highway in the distance. They were so grand and strange, I was doubting what I was seeing. These turned out to be the Marfa Lights, a phenomenon without consensus as to its cause. We stayed in a tepee that night.
There are also said to be traces of lithium in the drinking water.
The air is fresh and dry and the skies all look like a painting no matter what time of day. I can run and bike with my dog off leash as he greets the 1000 other dogs and the occasional horse or two. Every so often, he holds up his paw for me to remove a burr and I become Androcles.
Everything is a surprise. Everything feels like it came from integrity and someone trying their best. It’s not blanded out in internet homogeneity. You have to work to get there and in fact everything feels earned. And when I leave, it feels like a dream because it is so unique unto itself and has less connection to the world than everything else does.
When I’m here, ideas come pouring out of me and I believe that anything is possible.