Mystery of the Missing Horse

With our Wild West tradition, it’s not surprising that horses play such a big role in the public art around here, an interest that underscores our worldwide image long ago established by old Hollywood Westerns. But surprisingly, this local taste for art about horses is not limited to historic pieces like the Pioneer Monument of 1911, by Frederick MacMonnies, at Colfax and Broadway. It continues to this day with “Mustang,” by Luis Jimenez, which was finally installed out on the lawn at DIA more than a decade after it was commissioned.

Another contemporary piece, “Yearling,” by Donald Lipski, on the Civic Center just north of the Denver Public Library, is surely one of the most popular sculptures about a horse in town, especially with children. In this piece, a life-sized yearling is placed on top of a big red chair. The sculpture was donated to the DPL by Nancy Tieken’s NBT Foundation in 1998; before it arrived in the Mile High City, it was on temporary display in New York’s Central Park and made a cameo appearance in an episode of TV’s Law & Order.

“Yearling” spent a year out in the elements back East, and it’s been here in the open air for a decade -- so the chair's red paint, one of the most fugitive of all colors, is fading; there’s even some rust starting to show up. That means it’s time to give “Yearling” a facelift, a process that will be overseen by the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs.

In order to repaint the chair and have the paint cure and dry properly, the horse, made of fiberglass, had to be removed to storage, and that’s why it's suddenly gone missing from the sculpture. It will be absent for the next couple of weeks, while the work of redoing the chair is under way.

Let’s hope DOCA gets the color right for a change. That didn't happen when the Tony Maygar on University Boulevard in Cherry Creek was restored, or the Gerald Cross on Speer Boulevard near Auraria -- no matter how sure DOCA is that it did. -- Michael Paglia

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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