Amarillo, Texas is a city rich in history and culture, built on cattle and cowboy lore, graced with vast canyons that define the landscape. So, who would have thought that one of the city’s top attractions would be a bunch of old cars upended in the dirt?
For more than 30 years, Cadillac Ranch has attracted visitors – car lovers, curiosity-seekers, graffiti artists – who all come to see the row of 10 classic Caddies, slightly angled, buried nose-deep in the Texan soil. The slant isn’t random: it corresponds to the angle of the pyramids in Giza, Egypt. And like the pyramids are one of the Seven Wonders of the World, so has the Cadillac Ranch become one of the wonders of north Texas.
Cadillac Ranch was conceived as a public art installation in the mid 1970s by a group of artists who were inspired by the vehicle’s tail fins. With the help of a wealthy sponsor, they were able to procure the cars and the land for the project.
I’m a sucker for Americana and Texas icons so I love the ranch. I’ve been here before and I when I’m driving along the road and see its outline on the horizon I always have to pull off and check it out. It looks different every time. That’s because graffiti is not only allowed here, it’s encouraged. Every inch of each car is bubbled over with layer after layer of paint, creating a wild, bright mosaic. I wonder if this is what the original artists had envisioned – a living, evolving, crowd-sourced artwork. Considering it’s become one of the most-visited attractions in Amarillo, I would assume it’s more than they ever hoped for.
This time, for my umpteenth visit to the ranch, I’ve come prepared to leave my mark. On my car seat next to me are two cans of spray paint, a red and a white, ready to leave a new shiny layer on the Caddies. I stroll up to one of the cars, give the can of red a shake and…realize I have no idea what to say with my spray. I think for a minute…then do something incredibly original: I write my name. Then I write a few more names of family members, and then a couple of silly phrases, and I’m done. I’ve contributed to the art and left my mark on the Cadillac Ranch. At least until the next artist comes and covers it up.
I hand my cans of paint to a couple of young boys and head off, watching in my rear-view as the kids leave their mark, and think about how lucky Amarillo is to have this special place among its list of assets.