El Paso-centric info and commentary from the Center of North America

NPT Culture: The Denver devil horse v. El Paso’s big guy

ob-dc011_denver_d_20090206131655Think we got problems with a horse sculpture? All ours does is represent conquest and brutality in the course of European expansion. And it’s really big. At the Denver airport, a Luis Jimenez sculpture is causing controversy over art. In a nutshell, a Denver developer started a petition to take it down, realized it wouldn’t happen, and now is turning her efforts toward educating visitors: She envisions brochures in the Denver airport, articles in in-flight magazines, and plaques describing the artist’s style and intent mounted along concourse walls. She’d even like to hold workshops for taxi and shuttle-bus drivers so they can respond to startled comments from visitors coming across the mustang for the first time. Her goal: Instead of being scared, “when people see it, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ ” she says. [link]

180px-donjuan_deonateThat’s Denver. Here, it’s just about another project that was sprung on the public, went way over budget, and pissed everybody off. Mostly. There was some good discussion about identity as well, and maybe a smattering of thought regarding the place of public art. Here is a piece from former NPT publisher Anthony Martinez, and here is a piece by artist and writer Richard Baron.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

February 11, 2009 at 10:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. It is unfortunate that such a beautiful and expensive piece of public art is so hidden in its present location. I understand the offense those of Native American origin take with regard to the statue, however, I am of Mexican descent and “my ancestors” were abused by the Spaniards too. The fact is, history is history. The conquistadores came and conqured – deal with it. It is over – indigenous peoples lost.
    The statue should be called EL Conquistador – plain and simple. It is obviously too big to move but it should play a role in EP tourism as it is truly a beautiful work of sculpture.

    La mich

    February 11, 2009 at 4:03 pm

  2. If the Onate statue at the El Paso airport only represents “conquest and brutality” to the writer, then what a bitter, narrow and pitiful view they must have of the world and human history.

    The history of civilization, and most certainly human existence prior to recognized civilization, was all about “conquest and brutality”.

    It was, and is, the norm of human existence. Resent it all you like, it makes the past no less brutal and secures nothing for the future.

    Of the great civilizations, we know some. Through what survives of their art, architecture, laws and literature we have cherished records of past human accomplishments. When an ancient artifact or city is found, be it Greek, Asian or Mayan, we as humans celebrate the find as it adds to our knowledge base of who we once were.

    Of the lesser civilizations, the forgotten ones conquered and subjugated or outright destroyed by superior or stronger or smarter civilizations, we know little, except perhaps that their demise served a useful role in the ascension of others.

    The European conquest of the Americas was brutal to be sure, just as the Mayans and Aztecs conquest over the dozens of other indigenous competitive tribes they sought dominion over.

    If you compare the brutality exerted by Europeans over the indigenous peoples of the Americas to their own brutality to each other before the white man showed up, you find one not significantly greater than the other.

    Europeans were no more brutal than any other conquerors of their time (or any other) and in many ways, they were more humane and accepting (as long as the natives adopted the state religion).

    While it may be vogue to say that from a purely indigenous perspective that indigenous society was “lost”, the truth is their society greatly influenced those to come and still does today.

    The Spanish and the Aztecs (and the dozens of other tribes that inhabited what is now Mexico and the southwestern US) did not fight a war that wiped out the losing side, they married and merged and melded their cultures, sometimes violently and sometimes peacefully, into a new and unique one. Compared to how the indigenous peoples in French, English and Dutch colonies fared, the ones in Spanish colonies got off easy as a conquered people.

    Denying that Onate was also your ancestor, while embracing only your native family roots is akin to a White Southern family keeping their African grandmother hidden in the family closet with the other skeletons. It is small minded and probably racist.

    As to the statues (and please note I’m a student of history and not art), the Houser statue is an expensive self-portrait of the artist himself in Conquistador attire, but it has classic artistic and sculptural merit. And it’s damn impressive in size. The bizarre, cartoonish plastic Jiminez works don’t even belong in front of art galleries, much less degrading the skyline and scaring little children in outdoor public venues. DJ


    February 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm

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