A group calling itself Erase Marsh Madness wants to remove all artwork in Amarillo linked to the now-deceased Stanley Marsh 3, including the famous Cadillac Ranch near Route 66.
Before he died at age 76 last year, Marsh was criminally indicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse of underage teenage boys. And several family members and associates of Marsh were sued several weeks ago for alleged sex trafficking regarding his alleged conduct.
Dolcefino Consulting and the Pinkerton Law Firm say it’s time to get rid of Marsh’s public art, which includes the dozens of whimsical signs in Amarillo as part of the so-called Dynamite Museum, plus Cadillac Ranch, reported KFDA-TV.
“We know of at least 20 boys he molested,” says Chad Pinkerton. “These signs are a constant reminder of his legacy, not only to the community, but also my clients.”
The campaign is proposing the removal of all Stanley marsh art…including the Cadillac Ranch. But with its popularity, what would that mean for tourism?
“I’d hate to lose Cadillac Ranch,” says Eric Miller with the Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council. “People stop there and then after they stop, they come into town—maybe they just buy gasoline, maybe they stop and have lunch or dinner. Maybe and hopefully they stop over night and go see more of Amarillo.”
Erase Marsh Madness has accounts on Twitter and Facebook. As of Friday night, the Twitter account had 124 followers and the Facebook page fewer than 200 likes. A few residents briefly considered tearing down Cadillac Ranch in 2013 after Marsh’s indictment, but that faded quickly.
Removing the artwork is easier said than done. Marsh’s art sits on private property, so there’s nothing the Erase Marsh Madness group can do except appeal to the landowners’ moral sensibilities and hope they take down the signs.
Complicating the group’s effort is Cadillac Ranch reportedly no longer is part of the Marsh estate. It was placed into a trust after he suffered a series of strokes. The San Francisco-based Ant Farm art collective, which conceived of Cadillac Ranch, now controls the installation.
Marsh served as nothing more than Cadillac Ranch’s landlord from the time it was created in 1974. And before he died, he wasn’t even that anymore.
The anti-Marsh sentiments are understandable, considering the charges against him. But some should remember unsavory or ethically questionable characters sometimes were behind well-known art — Burroughs, Ginsberg, da Vinci and Picasso, to name a few. Nobody’s seeing anyone yanking down their pictures or burning their books in a fit of moral outrage.
And I seriously doubt you’ll find one in 10 people who visit Cadillac Ranch know who Stanley Marsh 3 is. Even fewer will know of his ultimately minimal role in the installation.
UPDATE 11/1/2015: The Amarillo Globe-News published a long article about Marsh and the attempt by a group to erase the artwork.
The exact number of signs in the Dynamite Museum collection remains unknown, but it’s estimated to be as high as 5,000. And the interesting thing is, like the Cadillac Ranch, Marsh didn’t conceive their designs, either. The various artists did.
“It is intentionally ambiguous to make you wonder, create and discuss art,” said Jon Revett, who helped design and install the signs and is now an assistant professor of painting and drawing at West Texas A&M University. “We would tell people a variety of reasons that we did it.”
Revett and others were members of the Dynamite Museum, an Amarillo art collective of which Marsh 3 was a member and patron. Revett painted and placed many of the signs.
The signs spur discussions of the relationship between the artist and the public, an artistic concept called relational aesthetics, he said. He disapproves of removing the signs.
“It’s kind of insulting to me because it was a group of artists that did the signs,” Revett said. “People from out of town see the signs as very interesting, and it makes Amarillo a little more fun.”
As for the possibility of specifically banning the signs, Kelly Shaw, planning director for the city, told the newspaper that’s not possible. Even if there were form-based codes, which regulate the physical form or image of buildings and property, such ordinances have to be content-neutral to keep the city from running afoul of First Amendment issues, he said.
The mayor also weighed in:
“I personally think (the signs) are horrible, but it’s a private property issue,” said Mayor Paul Harpole. “As mayor, I am concerned about the legalities of any action we take and my personal feelings stay out of it. We have sworn to uphold the city charter and the Constitution, and that’s what we do.”
(Image of Cadillac Ranch by David via Flickr)