Sunday, May 10, 2009

Red-eyed, blue-bodied, crazy horse of Denver


“Art, like life, should be free, since both are experimental.” ___ George Santayana, 1905

“Without art, the crudeness of realty would make the world unbearable.” ___ George Bernard Shaw, 1921


Nothing like a big horse statue to shake up the art world and make the natives restless. The recent flap over the 32-foot-tall, blue-bodied, fire-red-eyed mustang at DIA calls to mind other similar arguments.
Earlier this year, local developer Rachel Hultin signed up nearly 8,000 people on a Facebook effort (www.byebyebluemustang.com) to try to get the city to move the big beast.
Others have labeled it “Bluecifer,” “Satan’s Stallion,” and “DIAblo.”
“What exactly was the deal with that horse?” askes Hultin.
Commissioned in 1992, Luis Jimenez began working on the piece that was to represent symbolically, Denver and the West.
“Mr. Jimenez was killed working on the sculpture,” notes a February story in Wall Street Journal by Stephanie Simon. “In 2006, while he was hoisting pieces of the mustang for final assembly in his New Mexico studio, the horse’s massive torso swung out of control and crushed the 65-year-old artist. Mr. Jimenez’s widow and children helped finish the sculpture, and it was installed last February at the airport (2008), at a cost to the city of $650,000.”
I don’t know why, but that sounds vaguely familiar.
I’ve got it. Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I am transported back to 1982 and some crazy rockshaper has just died after working on a piece since 1948, -- it is going to be a 563-foot-tall, 641-wide Indian Chief on a granite stallion.
Let’s see, could it be Korczak Ziolkowski building a statue called coincidentally “Crazy Horse?” And his widow and 10 children were going to finish it?
Ziolkowski, who worked with Gutzon Borglum on Mt. Rushmore, was reportedly approached by Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear in the form of a letter saying "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.”
Naturally, old Korczak couldn’t resist.
On two different occasions, Ziolkowski turned down $10 million in federal funding to build the steed-mounted Indian icon. The work has been primarily supported by visitor fees and donations for the more than 61 years now. “My lands are where my dead lie buried,” a quote attributed to Crazy Horse, is the intended interpretation of the statue’s expansive gesture. The face was unveiled in 1998 and work continues now on the extended arm.
Some folks, including many Native Americans, think the big “Crazy Horse” statue is a big, bad idea, of course.
But back to the 32-feet, 9,000 –pound, red-eyed Mustang at DIA... The city of Denver has policy in place that provides a five-year “no move” period for new art and that basically means the big blue “devil” horse can’t be moved until 2013.
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