Travel Photo Thursday: Denver’s Photographic “Icon”

October 24, 2013

in Travel Photo Thursday

  • SumoMe
Colosseum

(Madprime Flickr Photostream)

Photographic “icons” make the identity of cities around the world.

Here are a few of the best known of these:

  • Paris: The Eiffel Tower
  • Rome: The Colosseum
  • San Francisco: The Golden Gate Bridge
  • Seattle: The Space Needle

But Denver’s got one, too.

It’s an animal.

A very, very large animal.

Normally I wouldn’t be spending time at a city’s convention center unless, of course, I was attending a convention. And that wasn’t the case when I was in Denver at the beginning of this month.

Denver Convention Center Big Blue BearBut my wife had heard about a piece of colossal “street art” at the Denver Convention Center. So on our way to a scheduled tour of the U.S. Mint, we took a right turn out of hotel and headed west to it.

And there we found artist Lawrence Argent’s “Big Blue Bear.”

One of my favorite books is nature guide Lynn Schooler’s The Blue Bear: A True Story of Friendship and Discovery in the Alaskan Wild in which he recounts his search with Japanese photographer Michio Hoshino for the rare “blue bear” (also known as a “glacier bear”) in Southeast Alaska.

Those blue bears are a variant of the more common black bear. And if one stood on its hind legs, face to face with you, you might literally see eye-to-eye.

But Argent’s bear is much, much taller. Like four-stories tall. It would tower over you. And it looks like it is trying to push its way into the convention center.

Denver Convention Center Big Blue BearIn 1988, Denver established its Public Art Program which called for “1% of any capital improvement project over $1 million undertaken by the City be set aside for the inclusion of art in the design and construction of these projects.” Argent’s “Big Blue Bear,” which was erected in 2005, is one of the 150 works of art installed under that program.

But how did Argent come up with the design for his Lapis Lazuli Blue urban ursine project whose formal name is “I See What You Mean”? Here’s what he said in an interview published on the “Visit Denver” Website:

“There’s iconic Colorado imagery – the Rockies, the Flatirons and all that – that I think is a little bit overused, a little passé. So I thought about what it is like to be a resident here and the journey one takes down either corridor (14th St. and Speer Blvd) when one notices there is a convention occurring.

“I’m always interested in what might be going on in there, the exchange of information, ideas and ideologies. But there’s never really any indication from the outside what’s going on inside.

“ I had recently seen a photo in the newspaper of a black bear looking into someone’s window and that resonated with me. As for the blue color, that was actually an accident – originally the bear was going to reflect the colors of Colorado, with sandstone colors and things like that. But a printout of the design came back blue by mistake, and I thought that was much more exciting.

“And it was serendipitous, because [I learned later] that the black bear was very important to the Native American Ute tribes that lived in Colorado – and also that one level of spiritual enlightenment for the Utes was the ‘blue’ level.”

No convention was taking place in the center during my stay in Denver. Except for a few employees, including a guy cleaning the lobby carpets with a machine akin to the Zamboni used to smooth the ice at hockey rinks, not much was going on.

Denver Convention Center Big Blue Bear

But the Big Blue Bear was still curious enough to keep peeking in the window, as he has done, day in and day out during the last eight years.

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots. Purchasing The Blue Bear: A True Story of Friendship and Discovery in the Alaskan Wild through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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