Artful Equine or Demon Stallion?

Note: Bonnie Gangelhoff is the senior editor at Southwest Art, a sister publication of The Artist’s Magazine. This is the first in a series of a weekly dispatches on art issues out West.

A war is raging in Denver over a 32-foot-tall fiberglass blue mustang that greets visitors at the Denver International Airport. A local developer, Rachel Hultin, has mounted a campaign to get the eye-popping equine corralled and moved to another locale. Her anti-stallion Facebook group is rife with support from people who call the sculpture fiendish, heinous and evil. One woman even said the scary steed makes her afraid to board a plane.

The airport commissioned sculptor Luis Jimenez to create the piece as a symbol of the West and of Denver. But as one naysayer declares, that’s not the message the sculpture sends, “because of this thing, people think they are in hell, not Denver.” Apparently, a main complaint is that the equine’s glowing red eyes make it seem possessed by the devil. (One Denverite has dubbed it “Bluecifer.”)

Meanwhile, the monumental mustang comes with some serious baggage. In 2006, Jimenez was killed when a piece of the horse fell on him in his New Mexico studio. Family members later finished the sculpture and it was installed in 2008. Since the city says public art can’t be moved for five years, the horse detractors may be the ones moving on, not the sculpture.

But the blue horse has its fans, who say art is supposed to stir up unbridled passions. And it could be that the renowned sculptor meant his icon of the West as a wry comment—we travel on red-eye flights rather than our trusty steeds. What do you think? Is the anti-stallion faction over-reacting, or do they have a point?

—Bonnie Gangelhoff

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9 thoughts on “Artful Equine or Demon Stallion?

  1. Roberto Rico

    I was surprisingly attracted at first sight to the First photo, (magnificent sky) on second look the proportions of the horse looked off, the pose unconfortable and a bit stiff and way too simple. I do think that someone else finishing a piece of Art besides the Artist is and will alwasy be a problem, it is virtually impossible for someone else to finish (Art) there is no way that anyone could say, project and end what the Artist vision and idea had intended.

  2. Myrna M

    First of all commissions involve a lengthy submission and approval process so someone somewhere approved the drawings and quite possibly a smaller scale prototype so don’t blame the artist. This artist had a reputation for being controversial and with 15 years in constructing the piece there was plenty of time to get to know the artist. Personally I think it’s a creative expressive piece that is in keeping with the wild wide open west, the spirit of Denver, the Bronco’s, and I don’t see anything wrong with the red eyes. Perhaps the people who object have a guilty or fearful conscience about something else in their life instead of just approaching the piece with an open mind. Where art is concerned there’s always a percentage who don’t get it and think they are important and might even appear knowledgeable if they complain.

  3. Janet Meyer

    I love it! It’s a lot less scary than those David McGarry Indians at the Houston’s Astro Arena. Or those cloying kids by what’shername.

    I think the story should be made into an opera- it has all of the elements. Especially the law suit he was involved in regarding the length of time that passed between getting the commission and completing the piece – and then it literally kills him.

  4. Saltness Parks

    The problem is not always what it seems to be.

    I am betting that prudish folks are really objecting to the horses exposed (maybe eye level) Gentlemen’s equipment. Would a mare caused as much criticism?

    My work has been censored by folks that call Classical partial nude paintings "nudies".

  5. Kathleen Wagner

    The sculpture is fine, it’s the glowing red eyes that make it seem demonic. Can’t we just "unplug" it? Compromise, compromise…

  6. Gail Storey

    The gorgeous photos of the stallion make me like it even more. I don’t have a problem with it–the sculpture has a lot of majesty and power.
    Am looking forward to reading more of Bonnie Gangelhoff’s blog posts. Great writing, a considered view on a current topic.

  7. lisajo

    i have mixed feelings about this piece…but i must admit, it is rather garish and disturbing! It looks like something out of a nightmare…and the red eyes definitely add to the fright. (the fact that the artist was killed by this piece, also adds to the eeriness!)
    However, any time a piece of art evokes a feeling (of any kind), it becomes fascinating and challenges us to understand it better.
    Mr. Jimenez was known for his very large bright sculptures, so we should not be surprised by this piece. Besides, in agreement with M. Stainsby, he looks quite similar to the Denver Broncos Mustang Logo…Red Eyes and all! 🙂

  8. M. Stainsby

    The anti-stallion faction may want to ask the Denver Broncos why they chose a fierce looking wild mustang with a red eye to represent their team.

    I quite frankly think the sculpture is beautiful – red eyes and all.

  9. Alan G

    Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy good sculpture. But all I see when I look at the subject sculpture of your post is a large stallion that should be rotated 90°, skewered with a large pole, preferably brass, and installed on the “Carousel” for which it was surely intended!