Don't mess with El Mesteno! An impassioned defense of DIA's freaky, blue demon horse of death
As Joel Warner pointed out in "DIA's Promo Photo Kicks Ass of All Other Airport Promo Photos, a blog published earlier today, the Facebook campaign to remove the Mustang sculpture from the grounds of Denver International Airport has garnered national media attention from the likes of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Not since the unveiling of Borofsky's dancing aliens have so many in Denver cleared the nacho cheese film from their throats to articulate such profound hatred for a piece of public art. The $300,000 rearing blue horse is ugly, scary and a waste of tax-payer dollars, they complain. (Oh, and there was also that $9 million the city spent last year to remove a $700 million baggage system that never worked. But the public didn't actually have to look at that piece of art, so apparently it's okay.)
Meanwhile, the sophisticates have reliably risen to the demon horse's defense with water-cooler cliches about how art is supposed to be controversial and inspire conversation. You can tell their beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder rhetoric is empty because of one obvious,indisputable fact: The Mustang is a freaky beast from hell.
I know this because I was privileged enough to commiserate with "El Mesteno" during the official dedication ceremony last June. City officials and members of the media were bussed out to the windy hill off Pena Boulevard to stand in awe at the hooves of the 32-foot-tall sculpture. I went around back and snapped a photo of the horse's rear. One look at the creeping, black ass veins and tortured, puckering butthole and you'll know why I think that beauty was the last thing that artist Luis Jiminez had in mind for the Mustang before a piece of it broke off and crushed him to death.
Needless to say, the ceremony was a little awkward. But then, Mayor John Hickenlooper -- always good for an entertaining speech, no matter how stupid the subject -- mused about the horse's glowing red eyes, an effect that some cultures believe could work to "ward off evil spirits -- a good thing to have at an airport," he noted. That always stuck with me.
So instead of looking at the Mustang as just some ugly sculpture, I consider it to be a gargoyle. Think about it. In the middle ages, the stone statues, known as "grotesques," were placed on the outside of Catholic churches because their hideous appearance was said to scare off evil spirits. These often took the form of chimeras -- figures that blended a man and various beasts, like tigers or birds. One possible origin of the gargoyle comes from the story of a European bishop who sent a condemned man to capture a monster called Gargouille. Subsequent Archbishops in the region would commemorate the day by setting a prisoner free and using grotesques on the exterior of cathedrals to suggest that if one believed, they would be protected from destructive forces.
And if you don't believe? Then, my friends, the terrorists have already won.
One of the big grievances about the Mustang is its prominent placement outside the main DIA terminal. Rachel Hultin, who started the Facebook group "DIA's Heinous Blue Mustang Has Got to Go," told me that a more appropriate context for "Blucifer" might be downtown, not "out at the airport, where it's the first and last thing people see." But I couldn't disagree more. What better place for a modern-day gargoyle than an international airport -- a temple to America's true religion of globalism, free markets and individual mobility? DIA's main terminal even has the look of a cathedral, with white, tented ceilings pointing toward the heavens.
Of course, the airport already has two gargoyles: the Notre Denver sculptures by the baggage claim. But the winged bronze creatures sitting in suitcases only watch over luggage pick-up. We need a bigger, more bad-ass gargoyle to deal with the troubles and anxieties of the 21st century. Clearly, the Mustang's ass is the baddest around. Therefore, I implore those who rely on useless TSA air puffers as their only talisman for safe travel to adjust their thinking on the blue devil beast. What better gargoyle to scare evil spirits from DIA than "DIAblo," a pissed-off wild horse that gallops across the high plains, making children weep and small dogs piddle in their owners' laps?
Love the Mustang, hate the Mustang. But for all that is holy, just don't remove it's hideous visage from the grounds of DIA. El Mesteno would not be pleased.
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