Denver Needs Another Version of Oldenburg's "Dropped Cone" | Westword

Lips and Their Many Uses: A Modest Proposal

Denver needs a yummy new piece of public art.
Joe Weeg
Share this:
I do love lips. Who doesn’t? Lips can say hello or whisper goodbye. Lips can pout provocatively, turn up in derision, or whistle while you work. Lips can spit and curse and bellow with rage. Or lips can blow a kiss.

As I sit outside the Ritchie Center at the University of Denver, I think of lips. Not my own, of course, weathered by decades of self-importance and buffoonery, but the lip sculpture upon which I sit.

It turns out that an artist and faculty member at the University of Denver created the multiple sculptures that make up this exhibit. It’s described in notes from the Vicki Myhren Gallery.

“Faculty member Lawrence Argent (b.1957) completed the limestone, bronze and sound sculpture 'Whispers' in 1999. Based on 3D digital scans of the faces of several students in Argent’s classes, its over-sized limestone and bronze lips appear closed and mute. As one approaches the sculpture, however, voices of actual lectures and public events on campus emerge softly from concealed audio speakers nearby.”


I first sat on one of these sculptures when I was lost while looking for a gym. By the way, the gym was about ten steps away (the story of my life). However, the search for a workout was forgotten when it dawned on my razor-sharp intellect that these were lips. Sculptured. And more than one set. And I was sitting on them.

I jumped up in excitement.

And look, even smaller lips made out of black blocks sitting on top of poles.


And the lips are modeled from students in the artist’s class nearly twenty years ago. Wow. A student from the University of Denver today could be sitting on the lips that belonged to her own mom or dad. It gives a whole new dimension to the traditional family squabble where the student is able to say to a parent, “You can kiss my $&*.” I’ve always liked a visual.

But hold on for just a second. What makes you lick your lips in anticipation?

A line snakes out to the street from where I think someone must be giving away free lottery tickets.


Ice cream for sale. The elixir of the gods.

Little Man Ice Cream, in fact. Besides making amazing ice cream, Little Man goes a step further, according to its web page.

“For every scoop of ice cream purchased, Little Man matches that scoop with a donated scoop of rice, beans, or other essentials to a community in need anywhere around the world. To date, Little Man has delivered to communities in 9 countries spread across 4 different continents.”

Ah hah! “We are actually taking food from communities in need if we don’t order a second scoop of salted maple pecan,” I argue to my wife. She is not impressed with my sweet lawyer skills.

In any case, ice cream is something to lick with those lips.

Which  brings me to my proposal for the University of Denver. It needs to contact Claes Oldenburg for a small work of art. This should be quite easy. Denver already has Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s "Big Sweep" — the gigantic broom and dustpan just outside the entrance to the art museum. So why not order the perfect mate for Argent’s oversized lips? Oldenburg’s and Van Bruggen’s giant ice cream cone.

Take their "Dropped Cone" in Cologne, Germany. When my wife and I turned the corner and saw this upside-down cone, we thought we might have inhaled too deeply when we visited Amsterdam. Nope, it is not a hallucination. A masterpiece right there on the building.

Clearly, a newly created relative of the "Dropped Cone" needs to be on the Ritchie Center. It’s a no-brainer.

But the university needs to act fast. Sadly, Coosje van Bruggen has died. The creator of "Whispers," Lawrence Argent, died last year. And Oldenburg is not a young man.

Perhaps Oldenburg and Little Man could collaborate. Why not? And every tenth scoop could go to those in ice cream need. Like myself.

Mmmm, let’s see, Raspberry Love or Chocolate Whopper?
Can you help us continue to share our stories? Since the beginning, Westword has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver — and we'd like to keep it that way. Our members allow us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls.