No country for women
16 March 2010
Loved the Coen Brothers’ film. And an earlier trip to West Texas confirmed it: those enormous skies, the constantly changing landscape, the brutality of the sun in a treeless climate, the pleasure of drinking a beer on a porch as the sun goes down in an orange sky. The incongruities of a town like Marfa, where the best food comes out of the Food Shark truck, which is parked only a mile or so from Donald Judd’s high minimalist installations at the Chinati Foundation. So I went back and spent more time there.
Despite the fact that there are women everywhere — eating at the Food Shark, leading the mostly-female tours and directing the operations of the Chinati Foundation, hiking the canyons of Big Bend, running a run-down motel in Terlingua — it’s only men who have a place there. Okay, maybe it’s not a surprise that the historical markers along the route only discuss the male Anglos, Indians, and Latinos who battled so viciously over a whole lot of empty space. But when Chinati featured only a couple of pieces by a sole female artist, I began to get annoyed. Constant elaboration of a masculine interiority by writers like Cormac McCarthy is one thing — and romanticization of that ethic and space by artists and others — but what is the emotional life of the women who live in that world?
It’s a striking absence. Representations of this part of the world still seem to position women as the subsidiary characters in films like “The Big Country” and “No Country for Old Men.” Oh, for a character like Frances McDormand’s in “Fargo” to appear here.