Monday Muse

I'm happy to share with you all the good news about what our friend Scott Thurman has been up to! He's in the midst of a new documentary focusing on the artworks of Stanley Marsh 3 and the Artist he commissioned for works around the Amarillo area. The following article was published in this morning's Amarillo Globe News.

Scott Thurman was driving along the border of Nevada and Utah four days ago. His destination was Palo Alto, Calif., for an interview with Chip Lord, a college professor.
“I want to understand how he sees art, and how as a credible artist, what his perspective is on Stanley Marsh’s art,” Thurman said. “The whole process of making Cadillac Ranch — I think it’s pretty cool — and I want to know what role he had, what role Stanley had.”
Thurman is in the beginning stages of a film documentary on Marsh 3, who died June 17. It won’t delve into his legal controversies, but instead focus on the art and the artists he commissioned for his quirky pieces.
“My interest is showing how much impact Stanley had on the Amarillo art scene,” Thurman said, “and how he put Amarillo on the map in that regard.
“It’s interesting how he brought art out of the gallery and put it into the streets. Some would argue he further alienated people with his conceptual art pieces, but in a weird way, he informed and enlightened Amarilloans a little bit.”
Thurman is an Amarilloan as well, having graduated from Amarillo High in 1998, went to Amarillo College, and then got a degree in photography from Texas Tech University in 2006. For the last three years, he’s been a film documentarian.
This proposed documentary on Marsh and his artists is not his first rodeo. Thurman etched his name in a tough industry to crack two years ago with his film, “Revisionaries,” a look at the controversial Texas State Board of Education.
The documentary was featured in New York’s Tribeca Film Festival in 2012, one of the top 10 film festivals in the world. That year, a record 5,950 films were submitted, but only 150, less than 2 percent, were selected.
Thurman’s 84-minute film was one of 32 chosen in the feature-length documentaries category. The film won a duPont-Columbia award for excellence in journalism and was featured on “Independent Lens,” a PBS program that showcases the nation’s top documentaries.
“‘Revisionaries’ put me on the map,” Thurman said. “It exceeded my expectations. It started as a grad thesis film project, and slowly gained momentum and funding. It was absolutely a breakthrough.”
Who knows if this documentary will have that impact. But it’s a different one, a film that will focus as much on the Marsh’s artists as it does Marsh.
That’s why Thurman was traveling to interview Lord from the old Ant Farm, two architects and an artist in the 1970s who looked for the unconventional in architecture and art. In June 1974, they created Cadillac Ranch.
“It became this iconic image, and it overshadowed the original artistic intent, I think,” Thurman said. “But maybe that’s what Chip intended. Personally, I think it was this roadside stop that became this icon for generations.”
The film won’t be solely on the Cadillac Ranch. He plans to stop in Minnesota to interview public artist Andrew Leicester, who created the Floating Mesa northwest of the city, in which a flat-topped hill is bordered in metallic screens.
And there’s Amarillo’s Lightnin McDuff, who created Marsh’s last project, Ozymandias, the two lonely legs off I-27 near Randall High School.
“I’m looking to further paint the portrait and talk with those who worked for Stanley,” Thurman said. “I’m looking for artists who worked on the signs.”
That especially would be those in Dynamite Museum, the 1990s group who placed signs with nonsensical, off-the-wall sayings in yards throughout Amarillo.
Time is somewhat on Thurman’s side. He expects the project to take from one to three years to complete. He has the security of a new position teaching documentary filmmaking at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., and the summertime to pursue his projects.
Already he’s uncovered Rick Spalsbury in Amarillo, whose 1949 Cadillac was the last vehicle purchased by Ant Farm for the Cadillac Ranch project. Spalsbury worked on the car, fixed it up, and held on to the high sale price of $700 because his wife was pregnant.
“They told him it was going to be put in the ground, and he said, ‘No way,’” Thurman said. “Then they said they were going to California to resell it.”
When Ant Farm artists came to get the Caddy, there were nearly 200 at Spalsbury’s house.
“He’s still thinking they’re going to resell it somewhere, but with smiles on their faces, they smash the front end of the car,” Thurman said. “He had to have known at that point this must be for some sort of art. But they paid me, and a deal is a deal.”
Jon Mark Beilue


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