Group wants to remove Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, by David

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)

18 thoughts on “Group wants to remove Cadillac Ranch

  1. I think it’s very cool, I understand the other side as well, I was abused. That pain never goes away, just a thought, maybe fence it off and charge, giving the money to help abuse victims. Make something good out of it. Public awareness is best, if yo get rif of it then people forget the victims, if you leave it, perhaps they could raise awareness of abuse on young and old woman and men, raise funds to set up for homeless, so many in need.

  2. How about putting up a donation box or simply charge a fee wherever his art is with an explanation of what he was. Monies collected could then be used to help victims of child abuse.

  3. Whatever the outcome, I’m glad I visited and took photos with 3 other buddies as we road Route 66 this past summer.

    Greenville, SC

  4. Cadillac Ranch is art, it is a piece of our history, it is Route 66 kitsch. It was not made by Marsh, nor is it owned by the Marsh estate.. Destroying it would serve no purpose. It would only leave road trippers and art lovers with less to enjoy.

  5. People really need to grow up and stop using the facade of being offended as a vehicle to advance their socio-political beliefs.

    Interesting that most of these censors are “liberals”, who we should refer to as “Oppressives”

    1. Jay, I have no idea from what part of the aisle the people in this group hail from. It’s rash to assume they’re liberal, especially when that part of the Texas Panhandle is overwhelmingly conservative.

      1. Well put, and I agree ( see comment below).

        Replace “oppressives” with “ambulance chasing Houston attorneys”

  6. I feel sickened by Marsh’s criminal behavior against children! However the Cadillac Ranch is something people flock to see and perhaps leave their mark. Really isn’t a tribute to this awful man. It’s just an attraction for people to enjoy.

  7. I say, paint it all black and remove any sign of that awful graffitti…hideous…as for his crimes, it goes to show you that you never know who is sick! I pray for his victims that they get some relief over the years. It is sad that our lives are affected by these sick persons
    We must teach our young ones to watch out for predators they will always be here, unfortunately.

    1. @Shirley: On the one hand, I agree. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and, in my own subjective opinion — about which no one cares, thank goodness! — the graffiti is an eyesore. Would that the Cadillac Ranch had been preserved as installed by Ant Hill. It was more interesting THEN. On the other hand, however, Art doesn’t have to be “pretty” to be Art. And many artists disagree with me, saying that (1) the best kind of Art is that which invites public participation and (2) old Art should be allowed to decay (to DIE) in order to make room for new Art that meets our changing needs in the Here & Now. I defer to their greater knowledge and expertise.

      In my view, painting the CR black to make it more acceptable to you is little different than wanting it removed. But since the CR is an installation of public art upon which so many other visitors have left their mark, I suppose you are as welcome as anyone to exercise your prerogative with as much black paint as you think you need for the job. But the CR has nothing to do with Stanley Marsh or his crimes. Painting or removing it will change nothing of the past or deter future sexual predators

  8. As horrific and disgusting as these crimes are, I doubt that any took place at Cadillac Ranch. It’s a real stretch to suggest that it serves as a reminder of the things this Marsh scumbag did. There is no reason whatsoever to level it. There are so many other things to crusade against. I certainly don’t mean to be insensitive. Roadside attractions like the Blue Whale and Cadillac Ranch are known worldwide and have become destinations for Route 66 travelers. Very few people know or care who was responsible for building them.

  9. Hard to believe, that some moralists want to destroy a unique work of art. They would penalize the artists (not the sponsor), that created this artwork.
    They would also demotivate other artists, to get inspired by the Cadillac Ranch, such as the nearby Cadillac Ranch in Tractors and the Slug Bug Ranch, as well as some other.
    They would demotivate visitors as well, to stay in and around Amarillo, that means a negative economic impact on Amarillo and the surroundings.
    We have passed this area three years ago. “At 66: 66 days on and off Route 66 and the canyons.” We are still having the vision, making this trip through beautiful America again and we wouldn’t like to miss Cadillac Ranch.
    Silvia and Hugo Panzeri
    Route 66 roadies from Zurich, Switzerland

  10. I have seen the ranch and know I did not know march or care the cars are just cars for people to see I came from Texas to see them. the man is dead and long gone. why don,t these people look to end children going hunger or without homes. it makes more sense to fight for food and homes than cars painted up beside a road

  11. I’ve never seen the Cadillac ranch as it’s a low priority for me but I feel I must weigh in on the controversy. As heinous as were Stanley Marsh’s crimes, erasing public art is a precedent we definitely do NOT want to establish! Once set, it becomes permissible to remove or destroy any art — or books, or anything else, including people — for whatever trumped-up reason. The problem is that moral indignation is often a facade for a political ideology about what is (acceptable) art. Lawyers should NEVER be allowed to make those kinds of decision! The construction of the ranch had little or nothing to do with Marsh the man. It was there YEARS before the crimes and is separate from those events. The Cadillac Ranch should remain untouched.

  12. Let me correct an earlier statement. While I don’t know that this action was launched by Oppressives , ten minutes of research would show that it is associated with an aggressive “personal injury attorney” (you know…the face on the billboard type) who likely stands to make bucks while championing this great public outcry.

    If Marsh did these things, I hope he’s getting his just rewards, but the push for this is hardly altruistic….

  13. I’ve got an idea! If people who are offended by someone else’s private property want it removed, how about BUYING IT and then you can do whatever you want with it.

    Otherwise, TRY and act like a civilized adult and quit acting like spoiled children demanding that the world conform to your preferences

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