Amarillo, Texas philanthropist Stanley Marsh—a major figure on creating two of the most iconic art works in America—considered himself an “artist and a prankster.” The patron of both Cadillac Ranch and Robert Smithson’s Amarillo Ramp (1973), the third in a trilogy a trilogy of spirals that also included Spiral Jetty (1970) and Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971), Marsh was an heir to his family’s oil-and-gas fortune.
Chip Lord of avant-garde architecture and design group Ant Farm—the creator of Cadillac Ranch—has many fond memories of the prankster Texan:
Stanley was a correspondence artist and we met via the mail before we met in person. He had giant size stationary and envelopes, and of course large rubber stamps. When we met in person in 1973 he invited Ant Farm to make a proposal to do a project in Amarillo. It was called Cadillac Ranch from the get go as you can see from the blueprint proposal we sent him.
In a letter he sent us dated March 8, 1974, Stanley wrote, “It’s going to take me awhile to get used to the idea of Cadillac Ranch. I’ll answer you by April Fool’s day…If we put the Cadillac Ranch on Highway 66, near my airport, would the bodies of the Cadillacs lean towards the highway (south) or would they lean towards the prairie (north)? That’s an important consideration.”
He was already thinking about publicity and wrote, “I like publicity. I want to see my name in lights in Times Square, but I do not want publicity in Amarillo, Texas. That is because I own a television station here and nearly any publicity concerning me would affect the station and post possibly would be distorted by some of the competitive media trying to harm me or the station…So I would want a media blackout as far as television, radio, and the newspapers in the Texas Panhandle are concerned. Of course, if they want to resurrect LIFE magazine for me, that would be fine.”
Marsh has recently been accused of sexual harassment which he denied. He was hospitalized for two weeks with “various health issues, and was 76 at the time of his death. He wanted his epitaph to read “Thanks, everybody. I had a good time.”