Apart from nature, art and installation is one the things that attract me most. Sometimes, you do not need to go to museum to appreciate art, art can be right in front of you, may be on the side of the road. This blog is about such a roadside art installation known as ‘Cadillac Ranch’ or ‘Caddy Ranch’ located in Amarillo, Texas. To be exact the Ranch is on Route 66, the west of Amarillo, Texas. From a far distance you will be able to see ten parallel lines but if you go near the location, you will see ten graffiti smeared Cadillac cars aligned parallelly half buried in the ground.
I really love to read the history behind any art installation. In 1974 Cadillac Ranch was built by a group of art-hippies known as ‘The Ant Farm’. ‘The Ant Farm’ is a group of underground artists from San Francisco. They were a group of artists, who loved to express their unorthodox views on design, architecture, and media. They mainly combined political criticism, irreverence with provocative pop culture in the form of performances, videos, media events, and graphic arts. They incorporated iconic elements of American culture into their large-scale projects. In this particular project, their silent sponsor was a Texas billionaire named Stanley Marsh 3. Marsh wanted a public art display that would be modern and would perplex the locals. The art hippies came up with an idea to tribute to the evolution the Cadillac tail fin. According to the plan, ten Cadillacs, (from 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan De Ville) were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3’s fields. Then the Caddies were half buried, nose- down in the dirt. The initial idea was to bury the vehicles at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Caddies were faced west in a line and their tail fins were held high. They were spaced out along a length of 140ft. While placing the cars, the Ant Farm artists followed a chronological order from the oldest car to the newest one. In 1997, the cars had been relocated two miles west of their original position due to the growing city and roads in Amarillo.
To the people driving along the highway, this was something quite new. They would stop and view the cars. When the artwork was installed, all the cars were in their original condition with their normal body color. But not for long! Shortly after 1976, visitors started to deface them or rip off pieces as souvenirs. They even started to paint on them, do graffiti, write letters, name and what not! Over the time the Cadillacs were painted and repainted several times; but every time the graffiti would return. It was hard to protect the car as they were at the beginning. Initially, Stanley Marsh 3 and The Ant Farm were somewhat okay with this public deconstruction. Later they started to encourage. More than four decades, the Cadillacs have been standing like that- half buried and face down. They have been in the ground for longer than they were on the road. People stripped them to their battered framed, sprayed in different colorful paints. They are barely recognizable as vehicle, it’s more like an art installation. People who drive through the road nearby take a stop here to see the art installation. We have been there for two times now. First time, it was snowing and hardly any people was there. We had the whole place to ourselves. But the second time, it was a bright sunny day and full of people. I did not expect this many people though. Due to social media exposure, now a days people try to find unique places and visit them. One thing you will be able to see that there are spray paint bottles here and there everywhere near the cars. Some people were even using the sprays to color some of the cars. If you go near the cars, you will be able to get the smell of fresh spray paint. People from different part of the country come to see this installation.
On September 8, 2019, someone set fire on the oldest of the ten Cadillacs. Though the fire did not damage the main structure of the car and the car is still standing in its actual position; still this kind of vandalism is not welcomed. If you are visiting the place, please try to protect it. This roadside beauty is to enjoy, not to ruin. If you are taking some spray paint with you and do some graffiti, do not forget to take pictures of it as it may get buried under other people spray paint work soon and you may never see it again.
At a glance
- · Address: Cadillac ranch: 13651 I-40 Frontage Rd, Amarillo, Tx
- · GPS coordinate: 35.187276, -101.986898
- · Hours: daylight, but open 24 hours.
- · Fee/Entrance: free
- · Parking: Park your car next to the South Frontage. No specific parking lot is there.
- · After rain or snow, this place may get muddy. If you are visiting right after rain or snow, dress appropriately.