Outrageous New Icon for Rocky Flats!

RF Horse at sign

Artist Jeff Gipe’s horse with the Rocky flats closure sign off of Hwy 93.

UPDATE: To donate to the artist for repairs of the recent vandalism, please visit his “go fund me” site.

A local artist has decided to match the outrageous, radioactive history of Rocky Flats with a large, surprising work of art. Looking at Colorado’s newest historical horse sculpture conjures up images of the well know conversation-starting Bronco icon at Denver International Airport. It’s just as bright and confusing with a touch of disturbing, but it seems to have a much sweeter soul—which speaks to the “Wildlife Refuge” designation of Rocky Flats. It’s sure to leave viewers with more questions than answers. The life-size horse is wearing a magenta hazmat suit with black booties. A respirator partially covers a beautiful realistic face with thoughtful eyes.

The artist, Jeff Gipe has been interested in issues surrounding Rocky Flats for quite some time and was relieved when a local group, Candelas Glows, began raising alarms about new housing developments being built adjacent to the former nuclear weapons plant. But Jeff has a much more personal reason that he’s spent thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and lots of sweat and tears making his horse creation come to life. Jeff’s father worked at the plant for 20 years and like many of his co-workers, now suffers devastating physical effects of working at one of the world’s most notoriously polluted plutonium processing sites. In talking with members of Candelas Glows, Jeff became intrigued with the idea of memorializing the site.

Local activist riding sculpture with matching respirator.

Local activist riding sculpture with matching respirator across from rocky Flats.

Along with Candelas Glows and many community members, Gipe is concerned that Rocky Flats’ history is being ignored and that because of it, more people will be harmed. Located in a pristine-looking and beautiful part of the Front Range, the contaminated history of Rocky Flats is invisible: the radioactive accidents, the midnight plutonium incinerations, the corroded storage tanks, the sealed court documents, the historical FBI raid and the leftover plutonium waste buried there. “It’s up to people who know the history of the site, and artists,” says Gipe, “to make the invisible visible. To keep memory and even respect for the history of a critical Cold War site alive.” The horse may be shocking, but nothing compared to the controversial and sometimes shocking history it is trying to invoke. And its timing is perfect. After the September floods, activists and scientists are concerned that some of the waste buried at Rocky Flats may have risen to the surface and/or further contaminated groundwater. And in the last week of 2013, a land swap was completed which is considered to be a critical ingredient of the toll road proposed on the infamous site.

The 400-600 lb horse is lining up a couple of appearances, but is looking for a more permanent home. Gipe’s hope is that it be placed on Rocky Flats or land facing it to begin to memorialize the site and bring attention to its tumultuous and sure to be long-lasting history. For more, check out the  Facebook page for more or email at candelasglows@gmail.com .

Close up of respirator-clad activist and horse sculpture.

Close up of respirator-clad activist and horse sculpture.

The artist's icon with Candelas logo.

The artist’s icon with Candelas logo.

The sculpture in front of Candelas' recreation center and playground.

The sculpture in front of Candelas’ recreation center and playground.

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9 comments

  1. I read about your sculpture and your organization this morning in the Denver Post. The story left me wondering, among many other things, if you are looking for a name for the horse.

    1. Thanks bj! Well, naming the horse is probably at the bottom of the list…though would probably be quite fun. Finding some homes/appearances for it is probably higher priority.
      Raising awareness and MEMORIALIZING the site and taking care of its veterans, workers, neighbors? That’d be #1.

      1. You seem to have a very good start on the raising awareness part. When I saw After seeing the reference to an “as-yet-unnamed Cold War horse,” it occurred to me that naming it with some input from the community might further increase awareness and get you closer to achieving the rest of #1.

      2. You seem to have a very good start on the raising awareness part. After seeing the reference to an “as-yet-unnamed Cold War horse,” it occurred to me that naming it with some input from the community might further increase awareness and get you closer to achieving the rest of #1.

    1. Wow! It’s up for de-commissioning now?! Just when we all finally got used to it and its strange history.
      Maybe it, our stallion, and the bull at the Art Museum could all be moved to the “Wildlife Refuge.” …Then we could name the whole fam/clan!

  2. Having read this I thought it was very enlightening.
    I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this
    information together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

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