I won’t be posting here for the next month or so. The savvier of you can probably figure out why. But if you can’t, try here.
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?
If there’s one thing Denverites love doing, it’s bitching about public art projects. We’re a timid, whiny lot, and anything edgier than that inane blue bear outside the Colorado Convention Center (which always reminds me of Dorothy Parker’s response to The House at Pooh Corner: “Tonstant Weader fwowed up”) sends the LoDo loft people and satellite yuppies of Highlands Ranch gnawing on their hardwood flooring. Usually with head Puritans Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman leading the charge.
One of their longest-running targets has been a sculpture titled “El Mesteno” by Luis Jiménez, which Dan Caplis has dubbed “Ol’ Meth” (and, yeah, I’m admitting that’s almost funny). It’s a lean, mean piece, and there’s nothing cutesy about it. Unlike almost every other public sculpture in our fair cowtown, it’s actually fucking interesting. And not just because it killed its maker. It’s got a wildness to it, a sense of the wonder and terror that comes with unbridled freedom. As I recall, though I’m having trouble tracking it down, the piece is based on a San Luis Valley legend about a wild blue mustang with glowing red eyes who led other wild horses to the best grass and water.
Anyway, as to be expected, all the greasy whining by our local pinch-mouthed shits has garnered national media attention. Replete, as usual, with the kind of commentary that’s sure to make the rest of us shudder with embarrassment.
Two of my favorites:
“It’s evil looking almost. It’s intimidating, I think,” said John from Centennial. “And the color is awful, it should match the white of the airport,” added John’s wife, Hazel.
Well, of course, shouldn’t all art be color coordinated?
“It looks like it’s possessed,” said one city resident of the bright blue sculpture with red neon eyes. “I have a huge fear of flying anyway, and to be greeted at the airport by a demon horse — it’s not a soothing experience.”
See, now, Mr. Jimenez could’ve avoided all this controversy if he’d just cleared the piece with every phobia-prone, tender little twit in Denver. Wonder why that thought never occurred to him?
Anyway, you get the gist, and if you wanna continue dragging your brain through this particular ditch, you can always check out the official Facebook page of the poor darlings leading this campaign. Me, I’m gonna go prop myself up against a bar somewhere and pretend I live anywhere, and I mean anywhere, else.
Update: Found one reference to the San Luis Valley legend in the San Luis Valley Dweller.
In the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, the old ones will sometimes tell the story of a mustang who led all the others – one who could run even faster than the wind. He would gather the herd from the plains and lead them to where the sweetest grass and water were to be found. They tell of a blue mustang whose eyes glowed red – he could run so fast some said he could fly.
A good one from Winona LaDuke, writing in Orion Magazine.
Pilfered from Colorado AIM. Just like half of all my other posts.
In a Dine Creation Story, the people were given a choice of two yellow powders. They chose the yellow dust of corn pollen, and were instructed to leave the other yellow powder-uranium-in the soil and never to dig it up. If it were taken from the ground, they were told, a great evil would come.
The evil came. Over one thousand uranium mines gouged the earth in the Dine Bikeyah, the land of the Navajo, during a thirty-year period beginning in the 1950s. It was the lethal nature of uranium mining that led the industry to the isolated lands of Native America. By the mid-1970s, there were 380 uranium leases on native land and only 4 on public or acquired lands. At that time, the industry and government were fully aware of the health impacts of uranium mining on workers, their families, and the land upon which their descendants would come to live. Unfortunately, few Navajo uranium miners were told of the risks. In the 1960s, the Department of Labor even provided the Kerr-McGee Corporation with support for hiring Navajo uranium miners, who were paid $1.62 an hour to work underground in the mine shafts with little or no ventilation.
All told, more than three thousand Navajos worked in uranium mines, often walking home in ore-covered clothes. The consequences were devastating. Thousands of uranium miners and their relatives lost their lives as a result of radioactive contamination. Many families are still seeking compensation. The Navajo Nation is still struggling to address the impact of abandoned uranium mines on the reservation, as well as the long-term health effects on both the miners and their communities, many of which suffer astronomical rates of cancer and birth defects.
As a college student, I worked for Navajo organizations, trying to inform their people about the uranium-mining industry and the large corporations-EXXON, Mobil, United Nuclear-that proposed to mine their lands. It was a humbling experience, seeing some of the richest corporations in the world faced by courageous peoples who fought for the two things that mattered to them more than money: their land and their identity. The Navajo people joined with many others across the country who felt that there was a much better way to make energy. In the end, the people did prevail-new mining proposals evaporated as tribal resistance and legal and administrative battles merged with economic forces. Eventually, contracts for uranium were canceled by utilities, which no longer sought to build unpopular nuclear power plants.
Now I feel like I am having very bad déjà vu-only this time nuclear power is seen as the answer to global climate destabilization. In 2005, the Navajo Nation passed a moratorium on uranium mining in its territory and traditional lands, which was followed by similar moratoria on Hopi and Havasupai lands, where mines are proposed adjacent to the Grand Canyon. “It is unconscionable to me that the federal government would consider allowing uranium mining to be restarted anywhere near the Navajo Nation when we are still suffering from previous mining activities,” Joe Shirley Jr., Navajo Nation president, explained at a congressional hearing on opening uranium mines in the Grand Canyon area. To the north, the Lakota organization Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way) is an intervener in a Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing to allow the Canadian corporation Cameco to expand its Crow Butte uranium mine, just over the Nebraska border from the reservation.
I recently traveled to Australia, the country with the largest known uranium reserves in the world. In my Sydney hotel room the television broadcaster summarized Australia’s economic strategy: “We dig it up, and they buy it.” The mining industry, in a world bent upon combusting and consumption, looks to be very healthy. Australia’s uranium mines include the Beverley Mine, which is in the territory of the Kuyani and Adnyamathanha peoples. Olympic Dam (operated by BHP Billiton-the largest mining corporation in the world) is the country’s second-largest uranium operation and is in the traditional territory of aboriginal people as well. In fact, most major mining operations in Australia are within aboriginal territory. These are some ancient civilizations-resilient in the face of a deep history of genocide and destruction, which continued well into the twentieth century. Aboriginal people did not even get the right to vote until 1967. Due to their relative isolation in the outback, many of these tribes have had few interactions with outsiders. That is, until recently.
The Boulder International Film Festival will be showing a documentary titled American Outrage about the Western Shoshone land rights struggle on Saturday, February 14th at 2:30 pm. Part of it was filmed at an 2006 anti-Newmont Mining action right here in Denver.
Tickets are 9 bucks for non-students, 7 bucks students. Carrie Dann, the only superhero I believe in, will be speaking.
Update: The trailer.
From the Rocky Mountain News:
Former Gov. Bill Owens said in a deposition it’s a good thing the University of Colorado ignored him when he urged that professor Ward Churchill be fired over a controversial essay.
“I’m glad that the university, its counsel, and others who had a chance over a period of years to look at the law and look at the case didn’t follow my advice and, in fact, chose to ignore it,” Owens said in the deposition, taken one week ago today.
Had CU fired Churchill for the essay – as Owens wanted – the school would have violated Churchill’s free-speech rights, Owens said.
CU fired Churchill in 2007 because a faculty committee concluded he plagarized and lied about historical facts in his writings.
Churchill maintains he was fired for writing that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were a response to a long history of U.S. abuses. He is suing to get his job back.
Churchill’s attorney, David Lane, on Thursday released a copy of the deposition to the Rocky Mountain News.
“The real story here is that the governor admitted he violated Ward Churchill’s rights,” Lane said. “In his deposition, he swore that he was going to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, but he gave CU advice to violate the Constitution.”
Owens countered that Churchill is trying to claim he was fired because of “pressure from the top” but he won’t be able to prove his case. In the deposition, Owens said “the faculty and the University of Colorado ignored me most of the time.” He also noted the regents are elected and he had no power over them.
. . .
Lane suggested CU launched its investigation of Churchill’s academic record after Owens talked about reducing the school’s budget.
“When you’re saying ‘Do something about Ward Churchill or we’re going to look at your budget, isn’t that a threat?” Lane asked.
Owens said no and pointed out that the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee sets the budget.
“We didn’t try to reduce the university’s budget. And, in fact, the university’s budget during this time was very probably increasing,” Owens said.
When Lane suggested Owens tried to cut the funding to Churchill’s department, the governor said that was incorrect.
This thing is chock full of horseshit, which isn’t a surprise. Off the top of my head:
- Bill Owens didn’t just encourage Ward Churchill’s resignation in interviews; he released a formal statement to that effect.
- Bill Owens most certainly did threaten the Ethnic Studies budget.
- When Owens “pointed out that the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee sets the budget”, he’s being remarkably disingenuous. As is the Rocky Mountain News hack who penned the story, Lynn Bartels, although that’s to be expected. Yeah, the Joint Budget Committee sets the budget, but it’s subject to final review and revision by the Governor, who has line item veto power. Something which makes Owen’s claim that the University of Colorado pays no attention to him just about laughable.
These are three quick points. I can only imagine how much fun David Lane is having punching holes in Bill Owen’s deposition. I’m no legal scholar, but it seems to me that this kind of out-and-out lying on the part of the then-Governor has to brutally undermine CU’s defense.
From the New Statesman.
The following information came round on the Rappahannock grapevine. If you had purchased $1,000 of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49; the same investment with Enron would have left you with $16.50, Delta Airlines $49 and United Airlines nothing.
If, however, you had purchased $1,000-worth of beer a year ago, drunk the beer, and then turned in the cans for the aluminium recycling fund, you would now have $214.
This piece of retrospective investment advice is only one of many arguments to suggest that drinkers have done rather better than abstainers in the current crash. And winos have done best of all.
The reason for this is simple. When faced with a sudden excess of money, your average wino will spend it immediately on wine, knowing that he is thereby providing for his future and for the future of his family and friends. A well-stocked cellar is a far greater hedge against disaster than any other material asset known to man – a comfort in times of dearth, and a means to celebrate in times of plenty.
And if the excess of money is too great to be spent on wine, as happens when some near relative slips through the exit before remembering to change her will, a wino will seldom squander it on stocks and shares, which are mere abstractions, far removed from the known and tried comforts that have sustained him down the years.
Instead he will buy land, on the sound principle, announced by Mark Twain, that they ain’t making any more of it. And although Americans have witnessed a decline in the value of real estate, it in no way compares with the decline in the value of unreal estate that is traded on Wall Street.
Never once in the history of mankind has land been worth nothing at all, and sitting on a square of American pasture, with a cellar full of wine, your average wino will enjoy the best that can be had in the way of estate, both real and imaginary.
Even better off is the wino who lives in some remote corner of the continent where nothing ever happens apart from the occasional death by lightning, avalanche or grizzly bear.