On Saturday, November 23, at the Crowley Theater from 4:00 to 6:00, Center For Big Bend Studies archaeologist Bryon Schroeder will discuss his research into a cave down Pinto Canyon Road known as Spirit Eye. Since 2017 Schroeder and his crew have been carefully identifying prehistoric artifacts left by the people who lived in the cave as far back as five thousand years ago. No small amount of sleuthing offers a unique and holistic view into technologies that made prehistoric adaptation to the Chihuahuan Desert possible. Admission is free.
For eons, humans have gathered in chosen or chance places to wait for the mysterious to happen. The Marfa Plateau and the area now known as Mitchell Flat is one such place. This is the perfect place to be a photographer, to practice capturing light. In Alex Marks’ photographs, the West Texas experience of waiting on light is made tangible – moonlight on a passing train, stars migrating across the sky as the earth turns, star light glinting off the blades of a windmill. Marks’ photographs capture this moment of waiting, of both arrival and passing. A moment as certain as the rising and setting sun, almost always visible under the wide dome of Marfa’s plains. The perfect place to wait for the unexpected in an evening’s changing light. – Katie Smither
In her junior year at Marfa High School Anna Guerra built a matt-black rocket she dubbed the Black Widow. Starting in September 2017 engineers from Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Launch and Test Facility located near Van Horn worked with Marfa High School students to build and launch their own rockets. In January 2018 Anna’s rocket soared up about 8,000 feet and reached a speed of mach 0.8 (almost the speed of sound). She recovered the undamaged rocket about two miles away. It can fly again but before future flights it landed at the Marfa and Presidio County Museum on loan from the creator for the Dark Skies, Mystery Lights Exhibition. Photo by Bayla Metzger/Marfa Public Radio.
The Marfa Lights Viewing Center Archive came into the museum collection on the occasion of the Dark Skies, Mystery Lights exhibition. Former Marfa high school teacher Felicia Locke preserved all the original documents from a project she began with her students in 1998. Their idea to create a roadside pavilion for observing the Mystery Lights grew from classroom to Texas Senate funding. Among the artifacts are the original sketches made by Locke’s architect father and the student’s rally banner (opposite). The museum is very honored to receive this unique gift.
Originally from Missouri, Frank Duncan arrived in the Big Bend in the early part of the 20th century, where he lived in Terlingua, Presidio and, eventually, Marfa. In 1916 he opened the Duncan Photography Company and produced thousands of images of the region, especially landscapes and ranching scenes. The museum holds 2,200 panoramic and glass negatives by Duncan and many of his images don the museum’s galleries.
Reproduced here is an essential recap of Mystery Light sightings compiled by the Friends of the Marfa Public Library. “The Marfa Lights Viewing Center offers visitors a frame to look. Some nights you will see something mysterious. Some nights you will not. You can ask who understands them or explain to others why the wait. But ultimately, for any experience or any answer, you must go yourself and watch for the unknown to show up and surprise you”. — Katie Smither.
Dark Skies, Mystery Lights was the first in an ongoing series of new exhibition projects that expand the collection through collaborations with artists who have come to Marfa in recent years. On view October 31, 2018 through May 2019, Dark Skies, Mystery Lights highlighted the museum’s newly acquired archive documenting the development of the Mystery Lights Viewing Station, a project initiated by the eighth-graders in Marfa High School’s Class of ’98. Additionally, our hard-to-match dark skies were represented in the photographs of Alex Marks made at night without artificial light. Visitors also heard individual explanations recorded on site at the Mystery Lights Viewing Station by Ian Lewis of Marfa Public Radio, an audio collage that ranged from the rational to the extraordinary. This exhibition was made possible by a grant from the City of Marfa. Photo by Alex Marks.
Photographers Jimmie and Nancy Keith opened their Marfa studio in 1941. They were true community photographers, capturing shots of everyday life here, including images of the military’s presence, weddings, school activities and formal portraits. After Jimmie Keith’s death in 1953, Nancy continued the work well into the 1980s and is responsible for reproducing dozens of old photographs for students to use in their Junior Historian research projects, allowing tremendous insight into our past.