Jon de Vos: What the Heck is up with Denver and the Giant Blue Animals?
February 29, 2008
Being born in downtown Los Angeles means that I know three things about horses ” first, they give milk; secondly, all movie horses are named Blackie and finally; they’ll bite your hand, feeding them or not. Fences were invented to protect mankind from horsekind. Did you know there are places where you can rent real horses? How can that be? Why would anyone pay money to fall off something taller than a barstool?
As you can see, I know a lot about horses, but I admit that I don’t know much about art. What I do know is that a thirty-two foot tall blue plastic horse with flashing red eyeballs is the stuff of nightmares. Such a critter is the new ambassador to Denver International Airport, an airport where many bad dreams have already come true.
Straddling the median on Pena Boulevard, this giant blue bear ” oh, wait, no, the giant blue bear is holding up the east wall of the Colorado Convention Center. The giant blue horse has been holding up traffic on the way to the airport since it was put up a couple of weeks ago.
The “Mustang” is the final masterwork of New Mexico artist, Luis Jimenez, accidentally crushed to death in his studio when the head of his massive creation slipped from a hoist and fell on him. The tragedy aside, this raises an important question, “What the Heck is up with Denver and the Giant Blue Animals?”
Back in 1977, the Colorado General assembly passed the Art in Public Places Act, requiring that one percent of capital construction funds for new or renovated state buildings be set aside for the acquisition of works of art for the project site. Help me count, a $4.8 billion airport means a $48 million windfall for formerly starving artists. A giant blue bear, a giant blue horse, hmm, apparently the public told the legislature to “turn blue” and they did.
The horse at DIA was named “Mustang” because the name “Bronco” had already been spoken for. The sizable blue sculpture was commissioned back in 1992 by then Denver mayor, Wellington Webb. Then suddenly, 16 years later, it finally wanders in off the range. Jimenez used up all his “artistic license” by missing four deadlines for the delivery of the “Monster” er, make that “Mustang”, but try to see it from the mayors’ side: If you’re heart’s set on a big blue pony, what’s a couple of decades? The new statue puts Denver ahead by a nose in the urban race of the hooves and the hooves-not.
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Jimenez’s “Mustang” cost the city of Denver $350,000 and rises 32 feet into the air. By comparison, the Blue Bear at the Convention Center cost $395,000, but tops out at 40 feet, eight feet taller, making the per-foot price a bargain for taxpayers if ever there was one.
Seeing these big blue pieces of art for the first time, many folks ask the same question, “How much Bear should a taxpayer bear, if a taxpayer should bear Bears?”
The shipping on the Jimenez horse was negligible, but the horse trailer it would fit in added $300,000. Too bad they couldn’t hitch up with a cattle drive coming this way.
The surprises aren’t over. Get past the horse, march right up to security and you are faced with a choice of ski runs, DIA’s new organization scheme designed to make strip searches more fun. If you’re an experienced traveler, traveling light, take the Black Run. Families should take the green run and multiple carry-ons take the Blue. TSA officials are asking terrorists to take the Red Run. That run winds up in a tiny room in the stomach of a giant blue horse, where they will be separated from their secrets.
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