Part Interview, part haircut in Marfa Texas with Genevive.
Genevive is an artist, former mayor of Marfa, city council member and the Judd’s family hairdresser.
This conversation happened the 13th of March in Marfa Texas around 4:30 pm. My friend Jan and I were doing a road trip from Phoenix, Arizona to New Orleans, Louisiana and spent two days in Marfa. Jan was determined to get a haircut while on the trip. On our way to lunch from one of the Donald Judd buildings we spotted a small house with a hairdresser sign outside.
The following conversation is recorded from memory.
Jan: Hi, how are you?
J: Do you happen to have time for a quick haircut?
G: Yes, come in.
J: Thanks. I almost didn’t find my way in. The sign outside said Genevieve’s Beauty Salon, but when I entered the building I found myself in a thrift store.
G: That’s my neighbor.
J: Oh, I see. It was nice of her to hand me over to you.
G: You’re lucky I was still around. I was about to go home.
J: Very lucky indeed. As you can see, I badly need a haircut.
G: (smiles) Yes, I see.
J: So why where you about to leave? Did you not expect any customers today?
G: No, it’s very quiet these days.
J: Hm. But you’ve got a beautiful little hair salon here. I like these old chairs and appliances, it reminds me of my hairdresser in Berlin where I used to go as a child.
G: You’re from Germany? What are you doing in Marfa?
J: Yes, but I currently live in Connecticut. We’re just visiting, to see Donald Judd’s work. I suppose most tourists come to Marfa for his art?
Maria: Do you like it? The art, I mean?
G: I do.
J: Me too, I think. But I guess it can be a little off-putting. Especially if one doesn’t know anything about art, like myself. Here, in these warehouses in Marfa, though, I think it really works. It’s visually striking and somehow manages to interact with local architecture and the vastness of the countryside. I don’t know. How did you first encounter it? Have you lived in Marfa all your life?
M: Were you here when Donald Judd first arrived?
J: And how did that feel? I mean, wasn’t it a little outlandish to have this famous artist show up in a little town in rural Texas?
G: I suppose for some it must have felt strange. But I liked it. I’m an artist myself, so I appreciated the art.
M: Oh really? What kind of art are you interested in?
G: I’ve done mostly painting and drawing. All kinds of materials: oil, acrylic, water colours, pencil, … I’m too busy at the moment but I’ll soon go back to art school.
M: Go back?
G: I started drawing a long time ago, when I was young. I went to art school and took lessons. I’ve always been very interested in art and read a lot about it, too. European art, indigenous art, I’m very interested in art history. It’s so wonderful to explore this endless world of creativity. It helps you to stay open-minded, it keeps you busy and creative, I just really like it.
J: But wasn’t Judd’s approach to art a bit of a shock?
G: No, it was something new, for sure. But I’ve always liked it. He was so committed to his work and created some extraordinary work. I’m glad he came to Marfa. He was a kind man, too.
M: Did you know him personally?
G: Yes, of course, he lived just down the road. He used to walk past here every day. His children got their hair cut here.
J: You cut Judd’s children’s hair?
G: Yes. He would come in with them and take a seat in the back on one of the armchairs over there (points at a worn-down leather chair in the corner). He would then instruct me how to cut. The children were never allowed to decide for themselves. He was strict with them. They were nice though, nice children, I liked them.
M: Do they still come around?
G: To Marfa, yes. They still own a ranch outside of town. They were very active setting up the foundation, now they come less and less.
M: And what was he like as a person, Donald Judd?
G: He was nice, too. I found him to be a calm and gentle man, when he was here. He wouldn’t always be around. But I think most people liked him.
J: How did Marfa respond to his presence and his art? Was there ever any backlash at all? Did any among the local population find it inappropriate to put this kind of art in their modest little town?
G: Not really. Of course, some like his art and some don’t. But the talk of the town has mostly been shaped by local politics, along the usual party lines.
M: Mostly Republican here, I suppose?
G: Yes, but I’m a democrat.
J: Actively so?
G: Yes, I was the mayor for seven years from 1987 to 1994.
J: Oh wow. What an honour for me to have my hair cut by the former mayor of Marfa!
G: (smiles) It’s not that big a deal, just a part-time position. That’s how our town council works. I’m still a member of it. It’s an exciting and rewarding job. You get to talk about everything that happens in town. There’ve been quite some changes here over the past years. Tourist numbers have been going up, new restaurants and hotels keep opening up. It’s a good time for Marfa, I feel, it’s brining in people and money. I’m happy to be living here and it’s been nice to work in local politics for a while. But it’s a lot of work and you don’t get paid for it. So I’m quitting in a few months.
M: To have more time for painting?
G: Exactly, I want to go back to art school. I need time to be creative. Besides, it’s time for a new generation to take over. The new mayor is a woman who runs a gallery in town. And now I have tourists like you come to my salon.
J: Well, I hope I didn’t keep you from painting for too long. Thank you so much for the conversation, and the haircut.
G: You’re welcome. Take care.