Often the first sight to greet Colorado’s visitors and the last sight to bid them farewell, the giant blue horse statue on the route to Denver International Airport has raised plenty of questions over the years. Officially named “Blue Mustang,” but often called “Blucifer,” due largely to its haunting red eye, the story behind this horse sculpture is an interesting one.
Originally imagined to be a pull-off for travelers, this piece of art was commissioned for Denver International Airport in 1993. Oddly enough, it wouldn’t actually be installed for roughly 15 years, largely due to legal issues, airport security scares, and the death of an involved party.
Legal issues came in the form of slow development on behalf of sculptor Luis Jiménez. Denver paid an initial $165,000 (of a total $300,000) up front for the project. Though after repeatedly missing deadlines, the city filed a lawsuit against the artist to get this money back. Nothing came of the lawsuit and Denver would eventually pay a total $650,000 for the work.
Death also delayed the installation. In 2006 a large section of the horse fell on sculptor Luis Jiménez in his workshop, crushing his leg and severing an artery in the process. Eventually, the sons of Jiménez would complete the work, though the original sculptor would never see his finished project.
Weighing in at 9,000 pounds, the 32-foot tall fiberglass sculpture was initially designed to capture the feel of the American Wild West. With bulging veins and articulate muscles, Jiménez felt that his horse would represent the power and freedom of the American mustang.
Prior to the final construction of this work, Jiménez built smaller, but similar horse sculptures as a way of familiarizing himself with the concept. One nearly identical sculpture made by Jiménez is called “Mesteño,” created in 1997. This work is also of a stallion in the powerful reared pose, smaller, but with similar red eyes.
But why is the horse in Denver blue? The inspiration for this coloring actually comes from a legend floating around Colorado’s vast and rugged San Luis Valley. People here used to talk of a power stallion that was a leader amongst mustangs, always capable of finding water and grass for the herd. This mustang also happened to have a blue coat, with red eyes, and at times, was said to be capable of flight – fitting for an airport.
While the aforementioned myth explains some of the oddities of the sculpture, including the red eyes, there’s still the question of the eyes’ glowing nature. Why would the sculptor add something so distracting and potentially terrifying to his masterpiece? These were actually installed by Jiménez as a tribute to his father’s neon sign workshop where he was employed as a youth.
Since its installation in 2008, the horse sculpture has remained an ongoing topic of debate, often resulting in confusion, shock, and fear among passersby. From claims of bad taste surrounding the issue of displaying a deadly sculpture to the revealing nature of the horse’s genitalia, people have found plenty to complain about. There’s also no shortage of demeaning nicknames. Aside from “Blucifer,” people have called the sculpture things like “Satan’s Stallion,” “Denver’s Demon Mustang,” and “DIAblo.” Some have even gone as far as to build websites and Facebook pages calling for its removal. In spite of the controversy, most recent sources suggest that it’s here to stay.
What type of statement do you think the blue mustang makes? Is it a symbol of Colorado’s wild, untamed nature? Or is it another component of the many conspiracy theories of Denver International Airport?
This writer thinks it’s nothing more than an artist trying to make a visitor’s time in Denver memorable, from start to finish. After all, suddenly spotting a big blue horse with glowing eyes while you’re trying to catch your flight is definitely an experience that’s hard to forget.