It probably wasn’t a good omen when Mustang pulled a Frankenstein’s monster and turned on its master, sculptor Luis Jimenez, crushing him to death during the final stages of its creation. Jimenez, an award-winning, “exuberant” Latino artist, was well-intentioned and did not craft Mustang to scare little children. He meant it to symbolize the boldness of the West, we’re told.
But the statue has become a target of growing controversy, even gaining national attention on television and in a recent front-page article in The Wall Street Journal. It’s been described by its critics as the “Meth Horse,” been compared to the Ringwraith horses from The Lord of the Rings and is reported to have brought on nightmares (or, perhaps, nightstallions) in the aforementioned little kids.
Rachel Hulton, a local real estate agent, has created a Facebook page at byebyebluemustang.com in hopes of exorcizing the beast from DIA. Support for Mustang has come, not surprisingly, from the arts community which, in the face of widespread public revulsion, defends the city’s decision to buy it and to put it on prominent display at the airport. They argue that the purpose of art is to engage, provoke or rile you up.
Erin Trapp, director of the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, regards the Blue Demon as a success because it stimulates passion, even in the people who hate it. Artist Shawn Tolliver condescendingly scolded Hulton about her “ignorance as to what art is.” Tolliver’s Web site goes by the name “deviantART.” Need I say more?
Listen, there’s nothing new about this argument between enlightened artists and the rest of us uncultured cretins. One such sensational incident was the 1989 flap over Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ photograph depicting Christ on the cross submerged in a glass filled with the artist’s urine. What angered the public was that the National Endowment for the Arts had rewarded Seranno with $15,000 of the taxpayers’ money.
Similarly, the DIA controversy is all about public art. Art is subjective. I’ll confess that my layman’s tastes favor the traditional, the grand, the uplifting and the tasteful. I don’t want to be provoked or “engaged” by the Blue Demon on my journeys to DIA. I don’t like it and I don’t think it gives a good impression of Denver to out-of-town visitors.
If artists choose to create – and private individuals choose to purchase – controversial or deviant art, that’s their business. If it’s public art paid for with public dollars, the greater public ought to have a greater say. It seems that artsy types dominate the selection process. Funding what the “ignorant” public regards as repugnant art with public dollars disserves the public interest. This isn’t a First Amendment issue or an art appreciation issue, it’s a political issue.
Denver’s Office of Cultural Affairs claims the public is evenly divided on the Blue Demon. I don’t believe it. Deane Knox, president of Knox Galleries, has offered to donate a magnificent bronze sculpture, The Pegasus, by Sandi Scott valued at $180,000 to replace the Blue Demon at DIA. On my Web page at www.850koa.com (click on “Shows,” then on The Mike Rosen Show), in a head-to-head match with the vote count approaching 2,000, The Pegasus is trouncing Mustang, 80 percent to 20 percent.
And this is the statue he’s proposing. I shit you not.
I’ve got a better idea. How’s about we commission a statue of a Care Bear performing cunnilingus on a unicorn?