Stone Circle, Marfa Lights, and ‘The Desk’: Things We Missed on the Journey West

by Christopher Blay July 29, 2021
Outdoor installation from Donna Huanca's Espejo Quemada at Ballroom Marfa

Outdoor installation from Donna Huanca’s “Espejo Quemada” at Ballroom Marfa.

While in Marfa last week, we had and then missed an opportunity to check out the full-moon activation of Haroon Mirza’s stone circle from Ballroom Marfa. For those considering a trip out west to see stone circle, you still have a couple of years; it’s scheduled to remain in Marfa through 2023. (Ballroom Marfa also commissioned Prada Marfa from artists Elmgreen & Dragset back in 2005.)


“stone circle,” by Haroon Mirza via Ballroom Marfa. Photo Credit: Rowdy Dugan.

Ballroom describes stone circle as follows:

“Mirza’s stone circle refers to prehistoric monuments such as Stonehenge and Nine Ladies, standing stones erected by humans and used for mysterious practices of communion with the Earth. Each of the eight stones in the circle is carved to integrate LED lights and embedded speakers. The ninth stone, the ‘mother’ stone, sits apart, mounted with solar panels that charge a bank of batteries to power a sound and light score that is activated with each full moon. Visit on a full moon to hear for yourself the complex patterns of electronic sound and light translated from energy generated by the sun.”

Espejo Quemada from Donna Huanca at Ballroom Marfa

Espejo Quemada from Donna Huanca at Ballroom Marfa.


Donna Huanca's paintings at Ballroom Marfa

Donna Huanca’s paintings at Ballroom Marfa.

We got a chance to view Espejo Quemada from Donna Huanca at Ballroom. The exhibition included GUERRERA PROTECTORA (pacha), 2021, an earth installation in the courtyard of the gallery.

Not from a lack of trying (and by trying I mean hiking up into the hills behind Sul Ross State University in Alpine) to find The Desk, we failed in our mission, but were treated to really great views of the city of Alpine from the hills. We were comforted to hear that most folks climb back down having never laid eyes on the readymade.

Trail to "The Desk" in the hills of Alpine, TX. Photo Credit Tina Blay

Trail to “The Desk” in the hills of Alpine, TX. Photo Credit: Tina Blay.

Our trek to find the desk was preceded by a really beautiful drive into Big Bend National Park, and later through the town of Terlingua. By the time we realized that a quarter of a tank of gas would be dangerously close to not cutting it for our round trip, we were halfway there. Fortunately we had enough to get us back to Terlingua to refuel.

The drive into Big Bend and our subsequent stops along the way were simply breathtaking, and with apologies to Dennis Blagg, far surpasses any photograph or painting.

Unidentified peak, Big Bend National Park

Unidentified peak, Big Bend National Park.


Christopher Blay's snapshot of Mule Ears peak at Big Bend National Park

Snapshot of Mule Ears Peak at Big Bend National Park.


Entrance to Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park

Entrance to Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park.

We tried, but the Marfa Lights eluded us. My only other drive out west to see the mysterious desert illuminations, ten years ago, produced the same level of disappointment. Perhaps it was the near full moon, or the proximity to the highway, or even the light pollution from distant oil rigs. Whatever the impediment, the light show was a no-show. We did enjoy the moon,  which cast an almost day-for-night pale across the desert, and a cool breeze gave us fall weather in the middle of July.

In the end, we saw more than we missed, and being in Marfa was the perfect blend of desolation, art, and nature.

Night transformed to day, Marfa Lights Observatory, Marfa, Texas

Night transformed to day, Marfa Lights Observatory, Marfa, Texas.

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