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A miniature "National Velvet" gets a rise out of its owners

Yes, there's a miniature version of one of Denver's most controversial sculptures, but it's not Denver International Airport's fearsome blue "Mustang" — the subject of a Life on Capitol Hill April Fool's sendup that claimed Luis Jiménez's final work would be moved to the new Colorado History Museum when it's finally built. It's a sculpture by contemporary artist John McEnroe, the creator of "National Velvet," called "Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him," which is displayed in the Seventh Avenue back yard of art collectors Svein and Sandy Reichborn-Kjennerud.

The portion of "Lulu" visible from the street looks almost exactly like "National Velvet," the squishy, glob-like piece located on the plaza of the 16th Street Pedestrian Bridge. And although the Reichborn-Kjennerud version is just as red as "National Velvet" and also lights up at night, it was commissioned much earlier than that controversial piece and is much smaller.

But size doesn't matter, according to Sandy Reichborn-Kjennerud, who owns several other pieces by McEnroe and considers him the most talented sculptor in Denver. "We absolutely love it," she says.

"Lulu" was installed last April. "National Velvet," which was commissioned by Denver as part of its public arts program, didn't take its place until November. Since then, it's received praise from many in the art community, including Westword's Michael Paglia, who described it as a marvelous "cross between an obelisk and a Christmas tree." But it's also inspired groans and giggles from others, who've nicknamed it everything from the "Wet Salami" to "Saggy Boob Electric Penis."

That last revelation makes Sandy laugh. "Why not Saggy Penis Electric Boob?" she asks. "That's why it's a good sculpture — because it can be a lot of things to a lot of people."

As for "Lulu," it got its moniker from a novel of the same name. Written by Danielle Ganek, the book is a satirical take on the world of artists, collectors and gallery owners. "It seemed like an appropriate title," Sandy says.


Love hurts: While public artwork gets a thumbs up from the city, sidewalk chalk gets no love at all — despite a massive guerrilla marketing campaign that began this week in Denver with the message "Love Heals." The mysterious message can also be seen on yard signs, magnets, bus boards, billboards and e-mails, as well as heard on the radio. And every mention leads curious consumers to www.letloveheal.com, an even more mysterious website that focuses on the ways that love, human touch and compassion all help people heal.

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the privacy policy, however, and you'll discover that the campaign is the work of Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. The company plans to reveal its identity on April 20 after generating buzz from the campaign.

But in the meantime, Rocky Mountain may have to wash off its sidewalk-chalked Love Heals signs — just as the State Tobacco Education & Prevention Partnership had to do last December after it created an anti-smoking campaign that included chalk stencils. Using public sidewalks as a means to advertise is illegal, says Denver Department of Public Works spokeswoman Christine Downs, who plans to say just that to Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers.

Rocky Mountain spokesman Aaron Groote says that his group will comply with any city requests. And according to Al Banisch, a partner at Rocky Mountain's ad firm, the Sterling-Rice Group, the sidewalk chalk is just a small part of the campaign.

"We regret that anyone may have been offended by it," Banisch says. "The good news for any objectors is that — unlike love — chalk leaves no permanent marks."

 
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