Artist's Statement

Lisa McCarty

Marfa Lights examines the cultural history of Marfa, Texas a 1.6 square mile town in the Chiuahuan Desert, 60 miles east of the U.S.-Mexico border. Marfa’s remote location and stark beauty has attracted itinerant populations since the 16th century. The land now known as Marfa was first inhabited by Comanche and Apache communities, then occupied by Spanish colonists, followed by the U.S. Army, railroad conglomerates, migrant workers, cattle ranchers, filmmakers, movie stars, conceptual artists, cultural tourists, and the U.S. Border Patrol. In this centuries-long parade of temporary residents, there has been one constant: light. Marfa has also historically been a gathering place to observe light phenomenon. For hundreds of years flashing lights have been seen in the surrounding desert. These so-called “mystery lights” appear and disappear without a discernible source. My project, Marfa Lights, centers on light sources in the town as a unifying principle across communities and across time, in an otherwise historically bisected place. The role light plays in photography, human vision, and cultural symbolism is also explored through my framing and focus. Thus far, my subjects have included: planes of light framed by Donald Judd’s sculptures, candlelight in the segregated town cemetery, the blinking security camera sensor at Prada Marfa, and the flashing road signs leading to border patrol checkpoints.