The Texas multimillionaire art prankster and philanthropist who buried 10 Cadillacs nose up in the 1970s as “a monument to the American Dream” has died.
Stanley Marsh 3 — he considered Roman numerals in names pretentious — passed away Tuesday at age 76 in his hometown of Amarillo. He had been incapacitated by a series of strokes, the Amarillo Globe-News reported.
At the time of his death, the creative mind behind “Cadillac Ranch,” along a stretch of Interstate 40 that replaced the legendary Route 66, was fighting criminal charges filed last year that accused him of sexually molesting several teenage boys. In 2012, he settled lawsuits with two other teens who claimed he had paid them for sex.
Marsh inherited petroleum wealth, but made his fortune owning local TV stations. Far from being a stuffed-shirt businessman with a degree from the Wharton School, Marsh was a free-spirited oddball notorious for the high life and hi-jinx. An old friend once described him as “the most wonderful renegade that any of us had ever known.”
In 1974 he commissioned “Cadillac Ranch,” hiring San Francisco artists known as The Ant Farm to bury a westward-facing line of cars in the bone-dry Texas Panhandle. The tail-fin tribute begins with a 1949 Club Sedan and ends with a 1963 Sedan de Ville, all bought from used-car lots, private owners or junkyards. They allegedly tilt at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
In 1997, they were moved a mile west and repainted once again. Today the cars are battered, graffitied hulks long ago stripped of their parts.
Some of Marsh’s other public artworks include a painted mesa that appears to be floating in the air, a football-size pool table that can only be seen from an aircraft, and the “Dynamite Museum,” a series of strange, mock traffic signs around Amarillo. Examples: “Road does not end”; “I Have Traveled a Great Deal in Amarillo”; “I Don’t Suppose Anyone Has a Tomato”; “It Begins With a Hanging”; and “My Grandmother Can Whip Your Grandmother.”
“Art is a legalized form of insanity, and I do it very well,” he once said.