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Stomping Grounds: Jill Soloway on Marfa, Texas

Fodor's logoFodor's 8/05/2017 Rachael Roth

An adaptation of the 1997 cult feminist novel by Chris Kraus, Jill Soloway’s new series I Love Dick follows Chris (Kathryn Hahn) as she plunges into an unconventional “romance” with writer/scholar Dick (played by Kevin Bacon) during her husband Sylvère’s (Griffin Dunne) writing residency. The novel is set in Southern California, but the series takes place in Marfa, Texas, a diverse and expansive town, where artists live under a saturated canopy of stars. Photos of the fake Prada storefront in Marfa have been widely shared on Instagram, highlighting the absurdity of a high-end retail store in what looks like the middle of nowhere.

Though dust and tumbleweeds abound, Marfa is none the less a destination, and I Love Dick helps to tell its story. “The show looks at the hip Marfa art scene while also acknowledging the dynamic that exists between that world and the local Marfa natives,” says Soloway, who created and produces the series. And those locals were more than welcoming to the cast and crew during filming. “The community in Marfa is very close-knit, diverse, and artistic. When you arrive there’s this feeling that you’re walking into someone’s house or some big sacred space, so we tried to stay mindful and respectful of everyone and how things run. I found we were welcomed with open arms. People are kind, hardworking, and go through their days with the idea that we’re all sharing this space together and therefore have to look out for it and for each other.”

Going back to Marfa for days or weeks at a time, during which she found herself “wandering amidst all of the art, eating burritos, and partying at the Lost Horse” in addition to shooting the series, Soloway reflects on the small town that became such an integral part of I Love Dick, and explains why the “middle of nowhere” is actually somewhere you need to visit.


I’d never been [to Marfa] before I first went to scout it for I Love Dick. Back when playwright Sarah Gubbins and I were imagineering the show, I was dating the amazing poet Eileen Myles, who lives in Marfa for part of the year. One day Eileen and I were discussing I Love Dick and how I wanted its world to evoke a feeling of artistic hunger, longing, and desire. She immediately said “you have to set your show here.” Maybe it was her sneaky way of getting me to visit her town but she was right. Marfa has so much magic.


Everyone is always talking about Marfa’s “vibe” and it’s so true! The West Texas desert is intense and beautiful and also calm and healing. I feel very held by it. While we were scouting the area we kept running into the same people over and over again and found that everyone knew everyone else. We came to love the idea of our character coming to this small, secluded town where everyone is intertwined, and using that big sky and that small community to discover how open and free it all makes her feel.


On our first scout trip to Marfa my entire group saw the Marfa Mystery Lights and we freaked out! SPOOKY. My theory is that we’re seeing disco lights from a parallel universe where the Love Revolution has finally toppled the patriarchy and the world is celebrating with a gender non-binary love rave…


Our crew went to the Lost Horse every night for glasses and glasses of their local signature cocktail Ranch Water. Every morning I’d take a quiet walk on Mimms ranch, followed by a stop into the coffee shop Frama. It’s owned by an amazing local couple and was staffed with wonderful trans and queer employees when we were there. Luckily, since it’s such a small town, I found I was able to hit all the great food spots like Squeeze and Marfa Burrito without feeling like I missed out on any during my time there. There was also El Cosmico, this really unique glamping campground. My son had a sleepover in one of their teepees and had a blast. Marfa is so laid back; it’s an easy place to wander and explore until you find the magical places that call to you.  


Every time I hear Lhasa de Sela playing, I now think of Marfa. We use her songs throughout the season and listening to her sing about setting the desert on fire just makes me swoon. As for scents: fresh air, literally the smell of nothing in the air but wide open space is what Marfa smells like.


Quintessential Marfa to me is a big open sky, tumbleweeds, and dust. Lots and lots of dust. It’s like going to the beach and tracking sand into your entire life—that West Texas dust sticks to you and doesn’t let go. Then at night Marfa has the clearest air and more stars than I’ve ever seen.


I connected a lot with Tim Crowley, who owns the Hotel St. George and the Crowley Theater. He really welcomed us and made our stay at the hotel flawless. Ty Mitchell, the owner of the Lost Horse, was also incredibly kind to our cast and crew during the hours they spent there unwinding and kicking back. My son met him and couldn't believe he knows a Real Cowboy. One of the lines he said about the "size of a man's ranch" made it into the pilot.

We also had the pleasure of meeting with leaders from the Marfa Education Foundation. They do a lot of great work throughout the year raising money for the school district in Marfa, which is made up of one elementary school that has an integrated Montessori school, a middle school and a high school. Robin Lambaria, who runs the Marfa Film festival, is an amazing powerhouse and can be spotted in a small role at the top of our pilot. She helped arrange a screening of the show at the festival last fall, which was really special for us to be able to share it with the community that became so integral to the creation of the I Love Dick.

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