I couldn’t help smiling at recent articles about the discontent with Luis Jimenez’s 32’-high bright blue Mustang, which was installed a year ago at the entry to Denver International Airport. Mustang’s glowing red eyes look down upon you as you drive to the terminal. The anti-Mustang troops have garnered attention from every major media outlet, including the NY Times and Wall Street Journal.
It was déjå vu for me!
When I worked at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, a smaller version of Mustang evoked similar responses. The red eyes were “demonic” and the horse “possessed.” The horse was on the corner of a lot in a prominent campus location and the university even built a rose garden around it–which was weird at first, but then it strangely seemed perfect to grow beautiful, thorny roses around a kitschy fiberglass sculpture with glowing red eyes.
How sad if everyone liked public art immediately! Think of how boring art would have to be in order for it to be 100% likable. It would blend into the background.
Great art provokes dialog. It gives us something to talk about, something to rant about, something to embrace. Pleasant art quietly blends into the background.
I am a staunch supporter of this sculpture, which tragically fell over and killed the artist while it was being fabricated. I love driving by it and showing it to visitors I drive to the airport.
I think of this controversy as being related to the “obscene art” brouhaha that erupted against the National Endowment for the Arts when it was associated with (didn’t fund directly!) the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit. Testifying in a US Senate Subcommittee in 1990, Garrison Keillor said:
It’s kind of how I feel about Mustang. Those of us who really love it didn’t have a reason to express our appreciation publicly before those who despised it spoke out against it. Sad indeed. And if it were to be removed, I can just imagine the outcry and the rallies of support. Fortunately, all public art in Denver must remain in situ for at least 5 years. That ought to be enough time for people to get used to it.