| Art |

Barnum circus elephant emblem forced into painful cuteness: Kenny Be's Sign Language

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The elephant seen in the photograph above squints his eye and squeals in pain from the burning caused by the car wash cleaning solution. The sign graces the Jumbo Car Wash, which was named after the first elephant purchased by P.T. Barnum (in 1882), and is located near the neighborhood that bears the Showman's name. Where are the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal-Art protesters?

If my many years of watching Flintstones cartoons are correct, Jumbo must also buff the car with his feet and use his trunk to vacuum the floor mats.

This isn't the only instance of circus-elephant-inspired suffering inflicted on the Barnum neighborhood. First up: the painfully cute contortions of "Effie."

The photograph above, taken in March of 2010, shows Effie the Elephant wallowing in sand and self-pity during the winter of her discontent. This sculpture was created with a nod toward P.T. Barnum's famous circus elephant and sits in Denver Urban Garden's Cedar Park at 174 South Knox Court. Effie was created out of rebar in chicken wire in 1996 by artist Calvin Farrow with the aid of neighborhood children who slapped on the concrete. Sadly, in keeping with Barnum's elephantine reputation, little thought was given to Effie's preservation.

Page down to see how a batch of new concrete has now gotten Effies's trunk all out of joint.

The picture above shows Effie the Elephant on the Morning of September 29, 2010. The concrete-patched trunk fracture only adds insult to injury. Instead of an uncomfortably cute elephant, the sculpture looks like the depiction of a swan fighting with a bear. Which I suppose is equally fitting, as I am almost sure that too was a featured attraction of the early Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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