In Marfa, an arts destination with few artist residencies, a curator transforms a historic home into a hub for creatives

Add this one to your artist list: Brite Force, a new invitation-only artist residency, has opened in Marfa, one of the most coveted destinations in the art world. Curator Yvonne Force Villareal established the program in the ancestral adobe home of her artist husband Leo Villareal, whose family was among the founders of the Texas town more than 100 years ago.

“So many artists want to be in Marfa, but there are so few residencies here,” Force Villareal told Artnet News.

The residency made its debut with a bang earlier this month at the Marfa Invitational Art Fair with a series of new works by inaugural artist-in-residence Will Cotton, a longtime friend of the couple. Last August, Cotton spent his time in the remote Texas desert — travel time from New York is around 16 hours — visiting the Big Bend Ranch Rodeo in nearby Alpine.

“Initially, the image I had in mind was purely the movie cowboy – John Wayne,” Cotton said. “But it was a working rodeo. They’re not show cowboys, they’re ranch hands doing really complex jobs.

Will Cotton at the rodeo. Photo by Christina Hejtmanek.

Photographs he took of cowboys at work formed the basis for a new series of paintings, now on view by appointment at the Brite House, pairing cowboys with unicorns painted in his signature saccharine pink. the artist. (Cotton also rented a cotton candy machine and photographed cotton clouds under Marfa’s sky in the backyard of the Brite House.)

“It combines the cowboy sniper mythology of the American West with this pink unicorn, which is really the domain of young girls these days,” Cotton added. “I wanted to force the feminine, even if paradoxically the unicorn has this very long phallic horn and is this very androgynous beast.”

(“It’s pretty hard to do a cowboy painting after Richard Prince,” Force Villareal said, “but Will figured out how to do it.”)

Will Cotton, <em>The Cowboy</em> (2022).  Courtesy of the artist.” width=”1024″ height=”775″  data-srcset=”×775.jpg 1024w, https ://×227.jpg 300w, Cowboy-1536×1162.jpg 1536w,×1550.jpg 2048w, upload/2022/05/2022_003_P_The-Cowboy-50×38.jpg 50w,×1453.jpg 1920w” sizes=”(max- width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p id=Will Cotton, the cowboy (2022). Courtesy of the artist.

As the Brite Force initiative grows, Force Villareal hopes to expand the residency beyond visual arts to include poetry, writing and music. The only requirement is to show up and know the house and town.

“I want to build a relationship with the artist, our family and the local community of Marfa,” said Force Villareal. She may possibly work with a curator to help select residents; about five artists will be invited each year.

Will Cotton shoots clouds of cotton candy at the Brite House.  Photo by Christina Hejtmanek.

Will Cotton shoots clouds of cotton candy at the Brite House. Photo by Christina Hejtmanek.

His own relationship with City dates back to 1998, when she and Villareal visited his family during their engagement.

The trip helped plant the first seeds of Prada Marfathe oft-photographed Elmgreen & Dragset public art installation commissioned by Force Villareal’s Art Production Fund organization with Ballroom Marfa in 2005. The piece is a locked Prada store in the middle of the desert, both utterly absurd and perfectly modern at ease in desolate surroundings.

The Brite house in Marfa.  Photo courtesy of Brite Force.

The Brite house in Marfa. Photo courtesy of Brite Force.

In the years since, Force-Villareal have spent more and more time in Marfa, particularly since purchasing the Brite House from the Brite Family Trust in 2014. The couple have worked with architect Louis Yoh and interior designer Fernando Santangelo to painstakingly restore the house and its guesthouses.

“For a long time it was empty,” said Force-Villareal. “No one lived here. We have done so much work to restore the house to its full glory.

Artists in residence will have carte blanche to install their work in the main house, which features a carefully curated collection of six generations of Brites and Villareals.

Pièce <em>Rejection</em> by Will Cotton (2022).  Photo by Makenzie Goodman.” width=”1024″ height=”768″/></p>
<p id=Will Cotton’s play Rejection (2022). Photo by Makenzie Goodman.

Villareal’s Marfa roots go back to great-great-grandfather Lucas Charles Brite, who started working as a rancher in Big Bend in 1885 and bought Brite House in 1902.

The new program allows the couple to strengthen their relationship with the legendary arts community, which continues to grow decades after artist Donald Judd first moved to the area.

(The debut of the Brite Force residency coincided with the opening of ‘Cosmic Reefs’, a sold-out exhibition of Villareal’s first NFT project, presented at digital art platform NFT’s brick and mortar Marfa. Art Blocks by Eric Calderon until September 2022.)

A historic photo of the Brite House.  Photo courtesy of Brite Force.

A historic photo of the Brite House. Photo courtesy of Brite Force.

“We’ve had a whole plethora of people, from locals who’ve always wanted to come, to friends and family, to the art world, to curators,” Force-Villareal said. “And the best thing is the dialogue with the art… drawing on the history of this house and adding something to it.”

“Will Cotton: Marfa” can be viewed by appointment at the Brite House, 601 North Ridge, Marfa, Texas, May 4 through September 2022.

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