Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

"Mustang:" Is DIA's devil horse the ugliest public art in the world?

"Mustang" is ready for its close-up -- but don't get too close to the genital area of Luis Jiménez's giant horse, as The Colbert Report did in its hilarious piece on all the phallic symbolism at Denver International Airport. And Blucifer also just made Travel + Leisure's list of the "World's Ugliest Public Art."

Flights to Iceland aside, the inclusion of "Mustang" on a list of the world's ugliest public art at least puts the "international" in the airport.

"To come up with candidates for the world's ugliest public art, we sought pieces that shot for the moon and...missed," John Rambow writes in the December issue of the magazine. "Size counted: a weird little mural might not be your cup of tea, but it's a lot easier to overlook than a gargantuan sculpture of a starlet captured exposing her underwear, or an awkwardly proportioned monument that casts a pall on a whole neighborhood."

Or the entire traveling public.

Travel + Leisure's dozen ugly-art picks range from a Michael Jackson sculpture in London to a thumb in a horse in Denver. Here's the justification for including "Mustang":

Between unmanned check-in kiosks, overpriced sandwiches, and stressful security lines, the modern airport holds much that's unpleasant, but to our knowledge only DIA makes you face down a 32-foot, darker-than-a-Smurf hell beast. The rearing, 4.5-ton fiberglass horse seems poised to stomp on innocent travelers just trying to leave town. All joking aside, the statue really is a killer -- its creator, Luis Jiménez, died when a section fell on him in his studio.

Does "Mustang" deserve to be on this list? DIA recently completed a survey of its public art, which found that "Mustang" was definitely the most recognized piece. But beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, because people were evenly divided between loving and hating it.

I'd argue that "Mustang" isn't even the ugliest piece of public art at DIA: that honor would go to "Children of the World Dream Peace," by Leo Tanguma -- although you have to give the work added points for inspiring all the DIA conspiracy theories.

(Note for DIA: Time to update your website: "Mountain Mirage" dried up years ago.)

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Metro State College's identity crisis continues, no new name yet."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun