In 1973, Stanley Marsh 3, with help form a San Francisco artists’ collective known as the Ant Farm, partially buried ten used Cadillacs in the ground — head first, with their hind ends jutting into the air — at his ranch just west of Amarillo.
And called it art, which, of course, it was.
Collectively, the Cadillacs, ranging in model years from 1948 to 1963, were meant to represent the “Golden Age” of American automobiles.
Tourists — at least those with an appreciation for offbeat — have been dropping by ever since, and in more recent years, they’ve been adding their own touches, with spray paint, which by now, is probably an inch or so thick.
For a while, the cars displayed their original paint jobs – but it didn’t take long before people started scratching in their initials, or painting their names on the cars, or, worse yet, breaking their windows and stealing their innards, like radios and speakers.
Marsh has no problem with the public input. “We think it looks better every year,” he has been quoted as saying.
In 1997, as Amarillo spread, the Cadillac Ranch was dug up and reburied about two miles to the west. Marsh insisted that, in addition to the cars, the old site’s trash — spray cans mostly — be gathered and spread at the new location.,
In 2005, the Cadillacs were painted pink in a tribute to breast cancer victims. Since then, every conceivable color has been added, and the number of spray paint cans littering the site has grown.
Cadillac Ranch is not to be confused with Carhenge, in Alliance Nebraska, where Jim Reinders sought to duplicate Stonehenge — only with 38 junk cars. It opened in 1987.
Our stop at Cadillac Ranch was a quick one. Dozens of visitors were coming in and out, across the dusty pasture in which it sits, many of them having added their mark with spray paint. Some bring their own, some just find leftovers in the spray cans that litter the site.
It was extremely hot, and Ace was only interested in two things — finding some shade and, of course, leaving his tag on the monument. Anything that rises out of the ground, as Ace sees it, is fair game.
Dogs, you see, were the original graffiti artists — making their marks, claiming their turf, spraying, so to speak, long before the first human picked up an aerosol can.
Ace’s tag will remain, invisibly, at Cadillac ranch, probably for longer than most of the graffiti that was being added earlier this week — noticed only by future dogs who take the time to sniff.
They, being fellow dogs, will recognize the work of a true artist. Brilliant, they will think to themselves … ahead of his time … groundbreaking.
Then they will pee on his pee.
(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing tale of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America)