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Merlion 10-03-2006 10:21 AM

42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
A huge 42-ft tall bronze equestrian statue, 10 years in the making, has since April 2006 moved into the international airport of El Paso, Texas. But it is still under wrap until the official unveiling in April 2007.

The first link below is to the El Paso local news article talking about the decision of the sculptor John Houser and the city council to keep it under wrap for six more months.

But we are now in the age of blogging, which means not many things can be kept under wrap. :) The second link below is to a blog showing photos of the giant of a statue being moved in and assembled inside the airport building. Enjoy.

To veil or not to veil? City, sculptor think it over

El Pasoans have waited almost 10 years to see the completed Equestrian, sculptor John Houser's new monument.

The project is in its final stages: It is being assembled inside the El Paso International Airport before the moved to its prime location outside. But Houser wants to create an element of suspense and have the statue covered until its official unveiling in April.

So far, he's come across a lot of people telling him no. ....

"I think it's a neat idea and it would be great publicity for the city. It would create a strange image of a very important piece," he said. "I think it will create more interest in the press."

The official unveiling of the statue will be April 21, but it will be installed on the airport grounds next month. If Houser gets his wish, it will be covered for about six months, adding to the suspense. .....

This is gonna be *huge* !

The Spanish horseman who has conquered El Paso, Texas finally made his triumphant entrance into the city on Friday, April 28, 2006. He was late. People had been expecting him since 1998. ....

Originally designed as a tribute to Don Juan de Oñate, his historical reputation as explorer and conquistador turned out too unsavory for many to honor comfortably. History can be messy. History can be brutal. So rather than stir up unpleasant realities as history sometimes does, Oñate simply morphed into the more innocuous "Equestrian."

But controversy isn't all that has evolved around this statue. Aside from its reputation, this "Equestrian" has also grown in cost, time delays, as well as his stature. Originally 21 feet in height, he has grown to 36 feet. When installed atop its base, the Oñate/Equestrian will stand four and one half stories in height. It will be the largest equestrian statue in the world. ....

jOe~ 10-03-2006 10:49 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
I think this is it. I was at Shidoni foundry a couple years ago and they were working on the parts. This is the head of the horseman who will be sitting on a horse that is rearing up on its hind legs.

jOe~ 10-03-2006 10:57 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
I should add that most people took their photos by the horse's behind, but it was too big and I didn't want to be associated with a horse's ass. Below is the maquette.

GlennT 10-03-2006 12:47 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
That is a gorgeous work of art, irrespective of scale. That head is fantastic! The movement of the horse, and the modeling all are top rate. What a great thing for El Paso and America to have. It was worth the wait. Thanks for sharing the pictures. It gives me hope for the future of figurative sculpture in America.


iron ant 10-03-2006 07:16 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
Wholy sheet bronze,what a steed .Would love to know the budget on this horse,could probally buy a small country.Hey Joe I saw the bust in Shidoni several years ago too,I was wondering why it was just sitting there,now I know.Hey,I always sign my horses on the ass,people alwys enjoy ribbing me for that.Thanks Merlion,I would have had to wait until o7 to here about it..................eric

Merlion 10-03-2006 08:24 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
This may be of interest, a brief account of how and where this huge Equestrian statue was made, taken from here.

The sculptor and artistic team completed the enlarging and mold making from 2002 to 2005. During the same period, Shidoni Foundry (Tesuque, New Mexico) cast the huge bronze from nearly 500 separate molds. Eagle Bronze Foundry (Lander, Wyoming) assembled the huge horse and rider on April 4th, and completed the foundry finishing process (welding, chasing, patina application & construction of the internal armature). Eagle Bronze transported the colossus in five sections to El Paso on April 28, 2006 in celebration of the 408th anniversary of El Paso's First Thanksgiving (April 30, 1598). The monument will be erected following completion of the base.

For those not familiar, here is a link to a biography of John Houser.

By the way, this 'Equestrian' statue is the enlargement of one of 12 statues that Houser has been asked to make in a series called XII Travelers Memorial to the Southwest.

Berinje' 10-04-2006 02:41 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
A beautiful piece of sculpture! John deserves all the accolades and hopefully financial success received from this magnificent monumental bronze. What an undertaking and responsibility. It gets a little scary when it gets that big, you really have to trust your foundry and make sure that you've charged enough to cover it from start to finish.

I love success stories for sculptors such as this one!! And GlennT, I agree that it also gives me hope for the future of figurative sculpture.

Merlion 10-04-2006 04:03 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso

Originally Posted by iron ant
.... Would love to know the budget on this horse,could probally buy a small country. ...

Iron Ant's simple request got me burrowing into an extremely complex story about the artist, the vision, the construction, the financing and the politics. Huge sculptures always attract controversy. The Spanish figure on the horse has cruely genocide so many natives in his days that activists are now campaigning to bomb the statue.

About cost and the artist's motivation, this article below from the local newpaper seems to be most concise and relevant. The full article can be found here.

The big horse

John Houser has never stopped working in the public eye. The sculptor and painter was born in Rapid City, S.D., where he developed his talent in the studio of his father, sculptor Ivan Houser, who was first assistant to Gutzon Borglum in the early years of carving Mount Rushmore.

In his 20s, John Houser studied with Avard T. Fairbanks, a sculptor and teacher known for many large-scale projects. All of which meant that when Houser saw an opportunity to create the largest bronze equestrian statue in the world, he had no qualms about tackling the project.

If all goes well, Houser’s $1.2 million creation, currently titled “The Equestrian,” is scheduled to grace the entrance to El Paso International Airport by late summer. At 36 feet, the bronze horse and rider is billed as the tallest statue of its kind in the world.

“Size was not a problem,” the sculptor says. “And the problem was not even raising the money. The problem has been the politics.”

“The Equestrian” was originally meant to depict Don Juan de Oñate (1550-1626), the first European .....

The city kicked in $250,000 for “The Equestrian,” and the private Twelve Travelers Committee raised the rest of the money. El Paso International Airport is contributing about $700,000 from its lease revenues for the statue’s base.

Houser said the idea to make “The Equestrian” the world’s largest bronze of a horse and rider came to him when he realized: a) There was nothing in his contract, which stipulated the 12 figures must be at least one-and-a-half times life size, that prevented him from doing something even bigger; b) He felt Oñate’s legacy was extremely important for the entire Southwest; and c) He was aware that the largest bronze horse and rider in the United States at the time was a statue of George Washington in Philadelphia.

“And that one was just a little bit bigger than what we’d originally planned,” Houser said. More research revealed the largest bronze horse and rider in the world was a statue erected in 1998 in Milan, Italy, based on drawings by Leonardo DaVinci. The DaVinci, as it turns out, was only slightly bigger than the Washington bronze.

“So I thought, well, if we’re going to do it bigger, then why not go for the record? It’s not much more,” Houser recalls. “So, to give myself a little leeway, I decided to make mine about six or seven feet longer from the chest to the rear of the horse than the DaVinci horse. That adds a lot of bulk to it, but, of course, it also ensures a world record.” .....

The real problem, he said, “is in making people share and believe in your vision so they’re willing to support it. When we started this project, it was very difficult in El Paso because there was no history of doing anything like this.” .....

Houser said he’ll undoubtedly use the same process to create something “much bigger” somewhere in the Southwest, possible near El Paso, in the years ahead.

He declined to reveal the details.

deborah4923 10-04-2006 03:38 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
This piece was started at Shidoni and then finished at Eagle Bronze Foundry in Lander Wyoming, where I saw it. It is absolutely beautiful. Gratuitous detail cheapens a piece quicker than anything else but the detail on this piece is exquisite. The subject matter has raised a lot of controversy but the fact remains that it is a beautiful work of art and that is how it should be viewed, not as a political statement. And this comes from someone who was raised on an Indian reservation.

Landseer 10-04-2006 09:23 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso

Originally Posted by Merlion

I went to that blog, there's a good side view picture with the artist on a scaffold, thing is massive! 42 feet doesn't register till you see the guy on a scaffold by it.

I was reading the comments and chuckled at this entry quoted elsewhere by the writer;

"On the other hand, jokesters seem to be focusing on the size of the horse's genitals, and what it will be like to gaze up at them from underneath."

LOL funny, mysterious, especially since the few photos I found so far only show the SIDE, either the editors are hiding "unmentionables" by the angle of view, or the horse could be a mare...
Still, one has to wonder what was going through the guy's thoughts and mind day to day as he sat up there on the scaffold for hours and hours modelling beanbag chair sized testicles haha.

Merlion 10-25-2006 05:35 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
I have further information on this statue, as reported in their local online newspaper, El Paso Times. The parts of this huge statue is going through the tasks of being installed apparently on site.

The news report has a link to the video of the statue at the foundries, and during transportation and installation. (For some unknown reasons, I find the uploading of this video much slower than normal).

Landseer 10-25-2006 08:41 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
Good find merlion, video IS slow, actually it's not even a real video- just a slide show and it had to stop and rebuffer at least 3-4 times. Either thay have a lousy server or 5,000 people are all watching it at the same time.

Mary Johnson 10-25-2006 11:35 AM

A very big horse calls for a very big scoop.
Coming from a town with its own very big horse, I thought it might be prudent to share this important information: A very big horse makes for very big poop and very big poop calls for a very big scoop.

There is such a scoop called PALETTA GRANDE at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan that perhaps can be of service. PALETTA GRANDE is currently in use by Leonardo Da Vinci's American Horse, at 24 feet high now only the second largest equestrian statue in the world.

Merlion 10-26-2006 05:26 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
Thanks Mary for the info on this large bronze horse based on Leonardo Da Vinci's proposal.

I was curious about the artist and the story behind this bronze statue. Now I managed to get hold of perhaps the official website. It seems to be quite a recent work, 1999. The one at Grand Rapids is the second cast. The first cast was presented and installed at Milan. The sculptor is Nina Akamu.

cash is clay 11-15-2006 03:11 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
What a great thread...I just found out about the DaVinci Horse project last week while Googling horse sculpture to get some tips on a racehorse I'm doing. If you want to read a really inspiring story, click on this link to read about Charles Dent, a really charismatic Pennsylvania man behind the Milan project who was touched by the story on DaVinci's horse commission in National Geographic. I'm such a sap, :rolleyes: I get all choked up at stories like these!

iron ant 11-15-2006 03:29 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
Merlion, you never stop amazing me withthe information you locate.Folks might think I am crazy,but 1.2 million for this sculpture is a lot lower then I thought.Chuilys chandeliers cost that,well I dont know for a fact,but with foundry cost,fabrication,models being built,instalation,years on the job,The artist is lucky if there is any money left over.........IA

cooljamesx1 11-15-2006 04:02 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
wow that thing is big! just an observation: the statue has no stirrups. I would think it should, but I don't know much about saddle technology.

Merlion 11-15-2006 08:50 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
Thanks, CashClay, IronAnt and CoolJames, for your good words and link.

I'm digressing from my own thread. Apparently this Grand Rapids city likes huge sculptures. They are next putting up a 33-ft tall sculpture by a Dutch artist. This one "will commemorate the city's role as one of the first in the nation to put fluoride in its water supply".

I do find this a very tough theme to create a huge public sculpture. So we'll wait and see. In the meanwhile, here is the article and some excerpts. See the cute comment at the last paragraph.

Dutch artist's new fluoride-themed sculpture going up in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan: A new 33-foot(10-meter)-high sculpture by a Dutch artist will commemorate the city's role as one of the first in the nation to put fluoride in its water supply.

Cyril Lixenberg said the blue metal sculpture evokes cascading water — a reference to the nearby Grand River and the Grand Rapids water supply.

The city began fluoridating its water supply in 1945 after dentists had discovered that fluoride helped prevent tooth decay and dental cavities.

"We specifically asked that (the sculpture) be fine art and that it not be a tooth in the river," said Wieland, referring to an earlier campaign to commemorate the fluoridation program

marblecutter 11-16-2006 12:29 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
1 Attachment(s)
Oñate in November

Merlion 11-16-2006 01:06 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
MarbleCutter. Thanks, but the photo is too small to see any details. Could you try to re-post the photo in a bigger size? And do you have more shots?

fused 11-16-2006 12:54 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
There is a thread buried deep in the message board about this project.

The XII Travelers Memorial of the Southwest has a very nice website.

dilida 11-17-2006 04:52 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
I don't know how much info is on the web yet, but the tallest bronze statue in the world will be put in Tulsa Oklahoma soon. Shan Gray is the artist, and the piece is titled "The American". The record height came about kinda the same way as the horse's height- if we're gonna make it that tall, why not go for the record? It's been pretty interesting watching it unfold. When the idea was first talked about, we were pretty skeptical, that was maybe 5-7 years ago, now it is starting to get exciting. Shan does beautiful work, we cast for him on a regular basis, and our foundry may get to cast some of the "American", like the inside of the nostrils! Which would be ok if we can sign our names in them. I'm not sure on the numbers, I think it is gonna be 127 feet tall, with an elevator going two-thirds of the way up, and then you can climb stairs up to the forehead to an observation tower. Merlion, if you are interested maybe you can find a link to post? I don't know how to do that. This is all private money, and because of the way the financing is set up, the group can't solicit money, investors have to come to them, (I don't understand why, but that's what Shan says) so it's been pretty quiet, other than a few stories in the Tulsa newspaper, and news shows. The land is bought, they have been working on the computor programs to do the enlarging, and I'm starting to believe it's really gonna happen. So it does seem that figurative public sculpture is alive and well in the US.

Merlion 11-17-2006 07:05 AM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso
Thanks for the information Dilida.

From a very quick search, I understand this project is for a very tall 217 ft statue by Shan Gray, called 'The American'. It seems to be ongoing since 2004 and due to complete in 2007.

This is an up-to-date announcement.
Funds sought for huge Indian monument in Tulsa
Thursday, November 2, 2006
Funds are still being sought for a 21-story bronze monument of an Indian warrior in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 207-foot-tall monument, known as "The American," will cost $23.5 million. It will be created by Osage artist Shan Gray. It would be the largest freestanding sculpture, according to Wikipedia. ....

Here is the Wikipedia entry.

And here is the official website.

Merlion 11-17-2006 09:25 PM

Re: 42-ft Equestrian Statue at El Paso

Originally Posted by dilida
Merlion, if you are interested maybe you can find a link to post? I don't know how to do that. This is all private money, and because of the way the financing is set up, the group can't solicit money, investors have to come to them, (I don't understand why, but that's what Shan says) .

Dilida. By now, searching for information from the web is not difficult. It wasn't so say 10 years ago. I think the most convenient is still Google. For your specific enquiry, I keyed in Shan Gray Tulsa, and within a split second I have a whole list for me to see which ones are of interest. By the way, if you keyed in the wrong spelling, for small mistakes Google will promot you to ask if it is something else you want. It has a bit of built in intelligence.

Actually for your enquiry, it takes me less time to find the three links of interest than for me to type and edit in a reply posting. :)

By the way, about funding, somewhere in the links it was mentioned that public funding was not available because of the danger of tornados. :rolleyes:

marblecutter 11-17-2006 09:45 PM

Oñate Statue in El Paso
2 Attachment(s)
Oñate today

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