As you disembark from your flight at the Denver International Airport (DIA), you are greeted by a sight both grand and eerie. A massive, rearing blue horse with fiery red eyes that seems to be more at home in an H.P Lovecraft tale than in front of an airport. This is the Blue Mustang, commonly known as ‘Blucifer’. This sculpture, unlike most public art installations, has been shrouded in controversy, mystery, and even death, from the moment it was commissioned. It has captivated, puzzled, and terrified both locals and tourists alike with its stark coloration, demonic eyes, and tragic history.
Despite its moniker, Blucifer, the statue is not intended to be a demonic creature but is, in fact, a tribute to the wild spirit of the Old West. The 32-foot, 9000-pound fiberglass statue embodies the rugged independence and freedom that the American West has symbolized for centuries. Yet, for a statue, Blucifer possesses a dark past, one we will dive into in this blog.
Its glowing red eyes, said to symbolize the ‘wild spirit of the West’, light up the Colorado night, creating an ominous silhouette that continues to be a source of fascination. The overall impact of the sculpture, intended or otherwise, has ignited discussions on the boundaries of public art, the symbolism of color, and the impact of an artist’s creation on their legacy.
The Origin of Blucifer
Blue Mustang was commissioned in 1992 for $300,000 by the city of Denver, to be placed at the DIA. The man behind the creation was Luis Jiménez, a well-known Mexican-American artist who was known for his large, colorful, fiberglass sculptures that often drew upon his Hispanic heritage and American Southwestern culture.
The original proposal for the Blue Mustang was to create a symbol of the wild spirit of the American West. This spirit, characterized by exploration, adventure, and endurance, was to be embodied in a larger-than-life horse sculpture. The horse was partially modeled on Jiménez’s own stallion, adding a personal touch to the project.
The commission stipulated that the horse had to be large enough to be seen by passengers in planes and cars, drawing their attention to the power and majesty of the creature. It was to be cast in bright, vibrant colors that would stand out against the starkness of the airport’s architecture and Colorado’s rugged landscape.
Health Issues and Legal Disputes During Blucifer’s Creation
However, the journey of the Blue Mustang’s creation was far from smooth. Jiménez faced severe health issues during its creation, suffering a heart attack which required him to undergo surgery. Furthermore, he injured his hand while working on another project, which further delayed the work on the Blue Mustang.
As years passed and the completion date of the statue kept getting pushed back, the city of Denver sued Jiménez in 2003 for breach of contract. The litigation further slowed down the progress of the statue, adding to the already mounting frustrations and tension. The project, originally meant to be completed in two years, was now over a decade in the making.
Blucifer, the Murderous Statue
The most tragic part of the Blue Mustang’s tale, however, came in 2006. The statue, which had already caused its creator so much pain, ended up being the cause of Jiménez’s untimely demise. A section of the 9000-pound statue fell on Jiménez, pinning him against a steel beam. The injury was catastrophic, severing an artery in his leg, and ultimately, leading to his death at age 65.
Jiménez’s tragic death added a macabre layer to the already contentious statue. The fiery-eyed horse was now seen not just as a controversial piece of art but as a killer, earning its nickname, Blucifer.
The Final Completion of Blue Mustang
After Jiménez’s death, his family decided to complete the Blue Mustang. His children, who had often assisted him in his studio, took on the herculean task of finishing the project their father had started. They worked from their father’s maquettes and sketches, breathing life into the horse that had consumed so much of Jiménez’s time and, ultimately, his life.
The Blue Mustang was finally installed at the Denver International Airport in 2008, 16 years after it was originally commissioned. Its unveiling stirred a mix of emotions in the public – from awe at its size and striking colors to a sense of unease about its sinister gaze and tragic history.
Despite its controversial origin and its dubious reputation, the Blue Mustang has become an iconic part of Denver’s landscape. Its glowing red eyes continue to welcome travelers to Denver, serving as a reminder of a vision that was both majestic and haunting, and a testament to the enduring legacy of its creator, Luis Jiménez.