"Let's make a gigantic agricultural plowshare," is the thought that inspired artist Emmett Culligan to create "Plow," the large sculpture that resides at the County Line light-rail station. Culligan answered a few questions about this piece in our latest installment of our RTD art series and discussed the purpose he hopes it serves.
Westword:Where are you from? Where do you reside now?
Emmett Culligan:I am from Arvada and live in Denver
How did your collaboration with RTD come about?
I answered the request for qualifications. Initially I was shortlisted for the Colorado Boulevard station but wasn't chosen. Eventually they did choose me for the County Line Road light rail station.
How did you come up with the idea for this piece?
Interaction with the community is what makes public art interesting. In this case, I wanted to create a dialogue that was straight forward and to the point. The theme for this particular station was "the country side." I kept thinking about how much we as humans have changed the natural landscape for better or worse, starting with the use of the horse drawn plow. From there it seemed logical -- let's make a gigantic agricultural plowshare.
What or who inspired this piece? And how?
I kept referring to the regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. His rather sophisticated take on folk art depicting rural agricultural Americana has always been important to me. Concurrently, I had the opportunity to visit Mark di Suvero's studio in New York and his monumental sculptures at Storm King Sculpture Park. I think the marriage of these two influences helped to solidify my vision.
When people are on their daily journey and walk past your work, what do you hope they are thinking and feeling?
It was really interesting for me to realize that most young people who see the "Plow" actually don't know what it is. So in this way I hope the work serves as an educational example of how we are connected to the land. Some might even imagine the poor farmer who actually stood behind the thing making sure that his family had something to eat. For others of the older set, the work might as well stir some lingering nostalgic sentiment and that's okay too.
How do you feel about public transportation?
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I think it's an important investment in the future of our nation. Recently in China, I had the opportunity to travel between the adjacent cities of Beijing and Tianjin, going over 220 miles per hour. The technology is there if we could just transcend our car culture a bit.
What is your favorite piece of public art?
On the local level I would have to say Bernar Venet's "Indeterminate Line" at the Colorado Convention Center followed by Ilan Averbuch's work entitled "The Eye and the Horizon" in the Stapleton development.
To view more of Emmett Culligan's work visit his website.