Wednesday, July 1, 2009

About Art - Grandfather Cuts Loose...

Running on a ridge along Interstate 90 in the state of Washington is a series of steel structures meant to resemble wild horses. Their manes have been designed to whip in the wind. Their muscular bodies are meant to be silhouetted against the blue sky. But these horses never move, and instead are captured in mid-stride. They are made of rusted steel and are much larger than one would think when viewed from the freeway.

It has been nearly 20 years since the first 1,200-pound, steel horse was bolted into place, and after two decades the project, "Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies," is only half finished.

The 15 galloping horses, each of which weighs 1,200 pounds, are supposed to be running out of a 25,000-pound, 36-foot-diameter steel basket. The artist, David Govedare, of Chewelah, Wash., sees the steel ponies as a gift from "Grandfather Spirit." He says the idea is that the horses have been contained in a "Great Basket," but then Grandfather Spirit tipped the basket, cutting them loose to spread the gift of life.

The permanent installation is also located in the area where the last grand roundup of wild horses happened in 1906, and is an homage to them, according to the 57-year-old artist. The first horse was erected in August 1989. It would cost the state an estimated $350,000 to finish the project. John Roskelley, a former Spokane County commissioner and a member of the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, has for years tried to find money for the project.

Since the horses began to be installed 20 years ago, some 100 million vehicles have driven past, based on state Department of Transportation figures. The monumental sculpture of figures atop a hill is just East of the I-90 freeway and a little North of the Vantage bridge across the Columbia river in central Washington. There is a scenic pull-out from the freeway from which you can view the sculpture. On the East bound pull-out, you can take a trail up to the figures. The Chewelah Indian artist has a long history of public art projects, such as metal renditions of runners at Riverfront Park in Spokane completed in 1985. His background includes studying architecture, surfing in Southern California, and hauling hay in Montana. He has no formal art education. Find out more about Eastern Washington at:

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