Marfa ISD and Chinati collaboration connects students to local art community

Marfa High School students walking through Storehorns. Photo courtesy of Chinati Education.

MARFA — STOREHORNS, a whimsical one-night-only art exhibition featuring sculptural works by Marfa ISD students in collaboration with the Chinati Foundation Education Department, connected emerging artists to the Marfa community — who, in this case, were also their collectors. 

Last week’s event, inspired by Claes Oldenburg’s 1961 exhibition The Store, was staged at the Marfa Book Co. Students waved a generic red and white “SALE” advertisement on the main street, ushering in viewers, and distributed fliers. 

After passing through a crowd of students and locals lingering outside of the building, gallery goers were greeted by pops of color and friendly, imaginative shapes — a blue plaster platypus with a neon orange bill, the height of a bedside table, acted as the show’s ambassador. 

Tucked away to the left was the main indoor gallery space, cluttered with people and the students’ creations that effectively played with scale and material. A 3-foot-tall plaster lighter with fiery felt flames sat atop a shelf next to a tiny red wooden truck. A felt goldfish donning a cowboy hat hung from the ceiling, casting a shadow onto the white wall. Purchases were marked with stickers, and almost all the work was sold. 

STOREHORNS was the result of an annual four- to six-week-long classroom project between Chinati’s education team and Adele Powers’ art students, though this marks the first time the work was for sale — ranging in price from around $50 to $200. Proceeds will fund a field trip to an entertainment center with laser tag, movies and bowling a few hours away. 

Senior Janelly Pereira posing with her molcajete. Photo courtesy of Chinati Education.

Senior Janelly Pereira, who sculpted a larger-than-life molcajete for the show, said she “enjoyed seeing everyone’s works” and “eating free hotdogs.” 

Sophomores Ash Marquez and Memo Guardiola said they weren’t anticipating that their artworks would sell, but they were glad they did. 

“I didn’t think someone would buy a plaster telephone made by a teenager,” said Marquez. “But it was really fun to socialize with all the folks at the opening.” 

“I had a great time working with Chinati too,” Guardiola added. 

Student Andres Solis echoed Guardiola’s appreciation for the Chinati Education team — Michael Roch, Molly Bondy and Angela Pastor — and said he had fun mingling with fellow STOREHORNS attendees. 

“It was such a good event. I met a lot of cool people — someone from California, someone who lives in Chile,” said Solis. 

Sophomores Andres Solis and Tenessa Hinojos Levya hugging. Photo courtesy of Chinati Education.

While some students stuck more closely to the store prompt, reimaging everyday objects, others leapt out of the bounds of the project perimeters –– the show’s centerpiece, for example, was a green dinosaur in a top hat, not something you’d necessarily expect to find on the shelves at Dollar General. 

Solis’ sculptural offering — a plaster bathtub paired with pink hair dryer — had a dark, satirical take on a traditional electrocution warning label. “Do it if you want to, we don’t care,” it read. Solis, upon opening night when the tub didn’t attract a buyer, said the object was “too good to sell,” though Bondy reported a collector called the following day to secure Solis’ sardonic take on self-destruction. 

Wry humor was on display with another sculpture, a humongous felt JIF peanut butter jar, whose creator, Aundrea Garcia, has a peanut allergy. Bondy, education and intern programs manager with Chinati’s education department, said the annual project typically revolves around utilizing materials less accessible to students: in this year’s case, plaster of paris. 

Students were instructed to explore the concept of objects, she explained: what constitutes them, reimaging size and texture. “Wacky Tea” by Juan Bautista envisioned an off-kilter, rather than traditional, serving vessel, for example. 

“With that teapot, rather than it being this really refined porcelain-looking object, it ended up being more expressive,” said Bondy.  

Marfa High School students gathered outside Marfa Book Co. Photo courtesy of Chinati Education.

Pastor, an intern with Chinati Education, said working side by side with students in the classroom allowed her to observe their collaborative nature. They helped one another problem solve, finish their projects on time, and showed overall support for one another, she said. 

“Everyone had their individual objects, but it was very much a collective piece. Nothing could have happened if it wasn’t for them working with each other,” said Pastor. 

Bondy and Pastor said they were thrilled with the sizable turnout from the Marfa community who showed up to champion local art students and STOREHORNS

“As soon as the doors opened, we had people coming in, buying work,” said Bondy. “The collectors were so excited. It was really great to see someone’s face light up over an object that just really spoke to them, like the big nail polish.” 

Sophomore Amber Hinojos and Ross Cashiola celebrating his purchase of her Hot Cheetos sculpture. Photo by Adele Powers.

One of the highlights of the evening for Bondy was the moment where a giant bag of Hot Cheetos with tubular chips tumbling out of the bag sold. The artist, Amber Hinojos, came in from outside to give the collector, Ross Cashiola, a handshake. She then told Bondy, “We need music to celebrate,” and instructed her to play “Baby” by Justin Bieber. 

“Then there was like a small dance party with Ross and Miss Powers and a couple of students. It was really joyful,” said Bondy. 

Seeing the conservations which took place between Marfa community members and Marfa ISD students, who may not interact with each other in their day-to-day lives, was refreshing and important, said Bondy and Pastor. 

“Not only was the community learning who these students were, but the students were also expressing their way of making or that passion they have for that item — just conversations that need to happen,” said Pastor. 

“It was really nice to see the collectors really treat the students like serious artists,” Bondy  added. “Marfa is this art town, and I think it’s so important for students to feel like they’re part of that.”