A few weeks ago Edith Zimmerman wrote a newsletter about the various conspiracy theories around Denver Airport. These conspiracies had been in my periphery, I think — I remember hearing about the tunnels, but not specifically what about them. Anyway, Edith’s drawing of the Blue Mustang sculpture sent me down a wormhole.
Blue Mustang is equally panned and celebrated. It’s literally a large blue horse with glowing red eyes, and it’s based on a smaller statue by Jiménez (also with glowing eyes) on display at the University of Oklahoma. Some people call it Blucifer.
Jiménez was born in El Paso and worked in his father’s neon shop as a kid. He was especially influenced by pop art and classical sculptures like Rodin, but also proud of his Chicano heritage. One of his biggest influences was lowrider culture.
That detail helped me remember where else I’d seen Jiménez’s work. Last year the Houston Museum of Fine Arts held a show called “Between Play and Grief,” featuring selections for the museum’s modern and contemporary Latinx collection. A centerpiece of that show was a work called End of the Trail by Jiménez. I was immediately drawn to that sculpture because it was a clear reference to a work of art I’d spent much of my childhood in Oklahoma contemplating — James Earle Frasier’s tribute to the suffering endured on the Trail of Tears.
Jiménez’s version puts a flashy, custom car culture spin on that tribute — the candy-colored sculpture is made of fiberglass, after all — but the meaning is not cheapened. If anything, it’s doubled, portraying the marginalization and fortitude of both Latinx Americans and Native Americans.
Anyway, I loved it, not just because I love pop art, which is frequently referential, but also because I felt a personal childhood connection to the reference. I got it, immediately. (There’s also a connection here to the 1970s Frank Frazetta character Death Dealer.)
But back to Blucifer. One of the reasons people think Blucifer is cursed is because, in 2006, at the age of 65, Luis Jiménez died in his studio while working on Blue Mustang. A portion of the sculpture fell on him, severing an artery in his leg. The sculpture was finished according to his plans and installed at the airport in 2008.
For Houstonians, there is another Jiménez sculpture in town — in Near Northside’s Moody Park. This sculpture, called Vaquero, honors the Hispanic cowboys who originally drove cattle through West Texas. (Sidenote: did you know the word “buckaroo” is a bastardization of the word vaquero.)
Bail Out Black Mama’s This Mother’s Day
The hundreds of promotional emails in my inbox inform me that Mother’s Day is this weekend. I don’t celebrate in a traditional way, and I know holidays like this are hard for lots of people for lots of reasons, so instead, I’d like to encourage you to donate to Black Mama’s Bail Out this year. This org coordinates bail outs specifically for Black moms to be with their kids on Mother’s Day. It also seeks to call attention to the inhumanity and eco-racial disparities caused by cash bail. Last year they were able to bail out 160 women of color!
Girl with the Pearl
Speaking of art, I am so proud of my friend Abbie Vandivere. She’s a paintings conservator at the Mauritshaus in The Hague and just spent two years leading an in-depth scientific and technical examination of Vermeer’s Girl With The Pearl Earring. The findings of that research were released last Tuesday, and Abbie walks through some of the results in a series of short videos on the Mauritshaus website. If you really want to dive deep, she also kept a blog through the project where she talks about things like the atomic weights of the various pigments Vermeer used. Super nerdy shit, in the best way.
In this time of fragmentation and blurring of the spacetime continuum, the Pedestrian’s Society of Space and Time has resurfaced. We are committed to advancing and restoring the magnetism of your localized sphere. Keep your eyes peeled and have your tuning wands ready.
Salty & Sour? Sounds like me.
Forget bread-making. My go-to quarantine culinary project has been fermenting stuff. My latest project has been making Moroccan-style preserved lemons, which I now put on everything. I had to make a second batch because what was left of my first batch ended up going into this recipe for Alton Brown’s Salty Lemonade. It’s the perfect drink for summer as Houston started to heat up.
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