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"Tatoo" Tammy Jean Lange, The Bone Zone (Tiny Town/Bone Yard)

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About the Artist/Site

The former mining town of Madrid, New Mexico follows a curve in the Turquoise Trail on the slow byway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and after having passed through a subsequent existence as a ghost town, it now houses a somewhat quirky artist community. There, in addition to a local community theatre and numerous small shops selling everything from handmade clothes and candles to rugs and jewelry, one can find New Age crystals, fortune tellers, and fountains created out of rocks and found objects.

Around 1997, on an acre of land two miles north of Madrid, Tammy Jean Lange began building up a roadside attraction in miniature from objects scavenged from dumps or the ditches along the highway. Originally from Arizona, Lange was known as Tattoo (or Tatt2) Tammy because she learned to tattoo by working on her own body, and then, for 28 years, she made her living tattooing others: in 1981 she was one of the first women tattoo artists in Phoenix, AZ. On this leased property, Lange arranged broken glass, twisted metal tire rims and other auto parts, tossed-out toys, broken branches of dead trees, busted furniture, and more, using them as the primary components in the construction of a series of miniature buildings, including a casino, saloon, a courthouse, a jail, a gallows, a cemetery, a bank, a mansion, a church, and much more. “If it ain’t broken, busted or rusted,” she said, “it ain’t no use to me.” But in addition to these manmade objects, her favorite raw material was bones.

These bones were “rescued” from unfortunate roadkill encounters: she buried and then exhumed and carefully cleaned and bleached them before arranging them into the “residents” of Tiny Town (which she then dressed in other discarded and recycled materials) or her “Gnarley” motorcycle sculptures. These bikes ranged in scale from table-top to full-scale, depending on the size of the bones of the creatures that she found. “I resurrect the dead animals and I give them a new life,” she stated. “It’s art that dies to live.” One full-scale Gnarley, notable for its cow skull seat and deer antler handlebars, moved around: she “rode” it in Madrid’s town parade on the back of a friend’s pickup truck, but it also graced different areas of Tiny Town, from the entrance of the property to the roof of the painted trailer that served as her studio. In fact, it was the bone motorcycle that started the entire process: after completing the bike, it needed a rider, “and then he needed an apartment, and then he needed a shop, and then he needed a jail ‘cuz he got in trouble….”

Other works on the site included a one-lane bowling alley , which was set up with a dozen empty beer bottles instead of traditional bowling pins; if a successful bowler broke the bottles, she replaced them and then used the shards for decoration elsewhere on the property, such as in the “River of Glass,” arranged in a shallow gulley. There was also a golf course (an Astroturf walkway with holes cut out), where bent golf clubs and battered golf balls were provided for visiting players, and a “Better Bones and Gardens Shop.” She also created a dozen or so dioramas, including a Victorian theatre, a Western-style poker game, and a miniature brothel where G.I. Joe visited Barbie.

She considered Tiny Town a place for therapy, as folks would come out to break glass and relieve their tensions. “And they could take anything they want,” she said, “and they can leave anything they want.” 

Despite the eleven-year history she had at this site, and the increasing attention it received from a growing audience, she got into a dispute with her landlord, who accused her of making money on his land, which he said was illegal. He sold the property to another, effectively annulling the 99-year lease she had on the property, put a padlock on her fence and posted No Trespassing signs, effectively shutting Tiny Town down. She removed some buildings and rusted parts, put all of the items that might have had value up for sale, and on December 22, 2008 burned the rest.

Reports are that Lange has moved to Farmington; the site itself is no longer extant.

~Jo Farb Hernández





Map and site information

3051 Highway 14
Los Cerrillos, New Mexico, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 35.426445 / -106.133889

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