Amargosa Opera House & Hotel

About five miles past the border line, in the middle of nowhere and well underway to the Death Valley, a building complex housing a hotel, a café, an exhibition space and an opera house. Marfa, for all its artistic weirdness, does not even come close – not by a long shot.

Here we are, at the Death Valley Junction, looking in amazement at the Mexican Colonial adobe building, constructed in 1924 to house the Pacific Coast Borax Company’s offices and labourers’ quarters, and a twenty-three-room hotel welcoming the mining town’s many visitors. Next to it, Corkill Hall – an entertainment centre with a built-in stage where the dances, weddings, movies, church services and other community events took place. 

We learn that in 1967, a flat tyre brought Marta Becket – a New York City born artist – and her husband, to this very garage you see in the first picture for repairs. While her husband was taking care of the car, Marta walked around the building, realised it was an abandoned theatre and decided there and then that it was waiting for her to bring it back to life.

Marta wrote in her memoir: “As I peered through the tiny hole, I had the distinct feeling that I was looking at the other half of myself. The building seemed to be saying, ‘Take me… Do something with me… I offer you life.’” [source: The Mojave Project]

Amargosa Opera House was born and it became Marta’s stage, home and life. She only stopped performing in 2012, at the age of eighty-eight. I was not fortunate enough to catch one of her performances – I hadn’t even heard of Marta Becket or the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, before our trip in 2019!

I didn’t even realise then – not before I started reading more about it, that the hotel would probably be better known to many as the ‘Lost Highway Hotel’ from David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997). But at the time, I was too busy peeking through windows, staring at Marta’s costumes and photographs….

April 21st, 2019

Pioneer Works: Thinking Differently Together

Pioneer Works is an artist-run cultural center that opened its doors to the public, free of charge, in 2012. Imagined by its founder, artist Dustin Yellin, as a place in which artists, scientists, and thinkers from various backgrounds converge, this “museum of process” takes its primary inspiration from utopian visionaries such as Buckminster Fuller, and radical institutions such as Black Mountain College.

Pioneer Works encourages radical thinking across disciplines by providing practitioners a space to work, tools to create, and a platform to exchange ideas that are free and open to all. We are driven by the realization that humanity is facing unprecedented social, intellectual, and spiritual challenges; our programs explore new ways of facing those challenges by using the arts and sciences dynamically as both a lens and catalyst. When humanity comes together and combines the ideas and talents of many, we have the ability to engineer what once appeared to be impossible. [source]

Images from The CryptoFuturist and The New Tribal Labyrinth
Atelier Van Lieshout

Second Sunday – April 14th, 2019
[Second Sundays is a free event series including open-doors to artists’ studios]