The Cliffhouse Project: Photo Essay
Formerly the Cliffhouse Restaurant and Inn, now an abandoned, graffiti-deckled, open-air building overlooking Mackenzie Park in the east side of Lubbock, Texas, is being claimed as a "creative" space. Volunteer groups of artists and community members spruced up the time-weathered space (and will continue to do so) in preparation for exhibitions and other events as part of The Cliffhouse Project- a community/arts-based project under the umbrella of the non-profit group the Guadalupe Economic Services Corporation. The GESC was developed in the wake of the F-5 tornado that wiped out the downtown and rural farm housing in Lubbock, with the mission of revitalizing these areas and promoting agricultural education in Lubbock. Headed by Chiemsee Hagy, the long term goals of the Cliffhouse Project are to host artist residencies, organic gardens, and more.
I recently attended the seminal art exhibition in the space, earlier this September, which included a group of emerging and established Lubbock-area artists. In typical Lubbock fashion, there were local food trucks, a bar, children, and live music. The building itself is a space imbued with meaning, history, and a resurfacing chock-full of messages. The graffiti was left alone for the most part, reading “Prom 2017,” “TTU20,” and “to Infinity and Beyond”- the only changes made by the Cliffhouse Project group was to paint over the slew of penis doodles (in an adobe tone- think “Crayola Flesh”.) The artwork that set upon the walls and floors (and on the hill behind) the space were appropriate for the Cliffhouse setting- some politically charged- others a play on formalism in a non-white-walled space.
Josue Galvan (in lieu of a title card, he had “the brown brayon experiment” written on what looked like a plywood almost-flag) took advantage of the gutted space, using chalk like a tag to give context to his installation. His make-shift shower scene further played on language with phrases like “n’ombre” and “also known as ________ .” The dark vibes of the piece, with it’s oversized SOAP and shanty-style shower were offset by the implication that the bather would be humming the Beach Boys “Barbara Ann.” Or maybe that makes it more ominous- I’m still ruminating on this piece.
Maura Fowler used a rotted out doorway, installing ceramic, dangling pieces (reminiscent of archetypal stoner bead entryways) and a semi-circle of tiny, really darling cacti and sea-creature ceramic flora and fauna at the foot of the threshold.
Scotty Hensler (Efren Marrufo on hill)
Scotty Hensler had a more formal installation piece, a pared-down starburst of naked 1x4 beams. While a well-executed design that visually appealed against the busyness of it’s background, it registered humorously- like just another piece of detritus, a tumbleweed that landed just in time for exhibition. Efron Marrufo's cellophane horses had a similar effect- most of the work was incredibly well-suited for the space, for Lubbock, and for the landscape surrounding the Cliffhouse.
Peter Keltz, a Lubbock botany artist, who I usually associate with really house-friendly designs and plant installations, presented some atypical, gross, dead plant works. This expansion in his body of work is a welcome change- even (and especially) as it seemed to compliment the mission of the Cliffhouse- like pouring a bucket of paint on something is not going to revitalize it- only the continued engagement and support of a community and city will keep something like this going.
Victoria Marie Bee
Harrison Bucy (Prints), Josue Galvan (Installation)
Chiemsee Hagy (holding Cliffhouse Restaurant sign)
*The author's opinions are her own. Photos courtesy of the author and Facebook.