The Cadillac Ranch
Created in 1974 by a group collectively known as the Ant Farm, Cadillac Ranch consists of 10 Cadillacs from 1949 - 1963 that are buried nose-first into the ground.
The group claims that they were given a list of eccentric millionaires who would be able to finance their project in 1972. They approached Stanley Marsh 3 and the rest is history.
Legend has it that the 10 Cadillacs were buried at the same angle, 60 degrees, as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
One thing is for certain, the Cadillacs are buried in chronological order, starting with a 1949 Club Sedan on the west and ending with a 1963 Sedan de Ville on the east. This was intentionally done in order to highlight the evolution of the tail-fin.
Cadillac Ranch was actually created to make a statement about innovation, the American Dream and consumerism. The evolution of the tail-fin actually highlights the absurdity of car design that made vehicles increasingly unsafe at any speed. The sharp lines and protrusions of tail-fins made cars dangerous to even walk into, I'll spare you the gory details.
The death of the tail-fin represents the beginning of a focus on safety and a deemphasis on ornamentation that persists in the automobile industry today.
Make Your Mark
Route 66 was the perfect place for this one of a kind art installation, it provided accessibility that facilitated interactive experiences where visitors had the freedom to express themselves. Simply put, if the Cadillac Ranch were in the middle of nowhere, nobody would have ever experienced it and the Cadillac Ranch never would have become the cultural icon that it is today.
The Ant Farm and Stanley Marsh 3 encouraged visitors to take pieces of the cars and to make their mark on the Cadillacs with spray paint. The tail-fins didn't last long because their removable pieces were taken as souvenirs but it also created a living piece of art that is perpetually changing with every visit.
Cadillac Ranch originally was located in a wheat field two miles east of its current location. In 1997 urban sprawl and increasing property values made moving the art installation necessary in order to keep it on the outskirts of the growing city. Local contractors were hired to dig up the Cadillacs and to move them to the cow pasture that they rest in today.
Bring your own spray paint and plenty of film for your camera.
You'll want closed toe shoes on because you have to walk through an active cow pasture from an open perimeter gate over to the Cadillacs. Visitors stop by from dawn to dusk and tend to come in groups. Parking is on the shoulder of the eastbound I-40 access road and there is a gas station nearby where you can score refreshments. The access road is two-way, for all you Texas city folk that are used to one way!
On one of my visits I met an old truck driver who told me all about the lake house that he's planning on retiring to in Northern California. He got into photography trying to capture pictures of all the wildlife that he sees while he sits with his wife and passes time when he's between runs.
A Measurable Cultural Impact
People come from all over the world to experience the Cadillac Ranch, some would go as far as to make it a ritual to stop by anytime they travel in the area.
The Cadillac Ranch has been featured in songs, music videos, movies, tv shows, paintings, photographs and advertisements. The Cadillacs have even been used to make statements - in June 2020 the cars were painted black and tagged with the words "black lives matter."
I arrived right before dusk on my first visit to the Cadillac Ranch with a camera loaded with ISO 50 black and white film and a red lens filter on a f/4 lens. I'm glad that my gear wasn't setup for the lighting conditions because it allowed me to focus more on my experience.
I was there all alone in a cow pasture with 10 Cadillacs face down in the dirt with the purple hues of dusk low on the horizon. The ground was littered with empty spray paint cans and the wind was growing colder as the sun set. I knew that I'd return early in the morning to try to beat the crowds and take some pictures, so I took my time and took in the magnificence of one of the most unique works of art that I have ever seen.
The Cadillac Ranch is located in Amarillo, Texas and was created in 1974 by a group collectively known as the Ant Farm. The Cadillac Ranch consists of 10 Cadillacs from 1949 - 1963 that are buried nose-first into the ground in chronological order at a 60 degree angle. The Cadillacs were used to make a bold statement about innovation, the American Dream and consumerism. Visitors are encouraged to spray paint the Cadillacs and to make their mark on this interactive art installation.
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