SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
A sculpture of five larger-than-life cyclists hurtling toward an imaginary finish line got the highest score Friday in a competition to create a piece of bicycle art to commemorate this summer’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
“Endurance,” by Boulder-based artist Joshua Wiener, got 224.5 points. It was followed by “Gearflakes” by Durango artist Shan Wells, with 197 points, and “Game On!” by Mary Ann Baker from Mimbres, N.M., which got 186 points.
“Gearflakes” plays on the similarity in the shapes of bicycle gears and snowflakes. Baker’s “Game On!” is a sculpture of three arches of cyclist images spinning “freely in the wind.”
Models of the three finalists’ art proposals will be on public display at the Squeaky Wheel Art Gallery, 125 E. 10th St., on April 19. The city’s Artwork Selection Panel will then decide on the winner April 20 after private interviews.
As the host city for the Aug. 20 start of the 2012 Pro Cycling Challenge, Durango is required by contract to publicly commemorate the event. The city decided to commission a piece of art so it could also “celebrate the city’s cycling legacy,” said Cristie Scott, a member of the Durango Public Arts Commission.
Wiener, a former Fort Lewis College student who lived in Durango from 1993 to 2001, plans on taking advantage of the art’s designated space in the Florida Road roundabout to create an illusion of motion.
“Endurance” is intended as a kinetic sculpture without any moving parts. Instead, it relies on “controlled perspective” to create an illusion of racing cyclists since views of the sculpture will be dictated by the contour of the roundabout.
“When you have a controlled change (in perspective) there’s a lot you can do with it to animate a piece,” said Wiener in a phone interview.
If the art was placed in the middle of a plaza and people were free to approach it from any direction, Wiener could not pull off the same effect, he said.
Each of Wiener’s five cyclists is a layered composition of half-inch bars of solid steel which “will be allowed to rust so they will never need maintenance and always look beautiful in the surrounding landscape,” he said in his proposal.
This impressed city officials conscious of Durango’s tight budget.
Sherri Dugdale, the city’s public information officer, said the city could never afford to a commission a new piece of public art without a $25,000 donation from its sponsor, Bank of Colorado.
When deciding on the finalists, selection committee members were guided by practical considerations. They wanted the art to be easily recognizable as an homage to cycling. So they gave low marks to art that looked more like serpents and windmills on the Nebraska prairie. They had 15 proposals in all.
“There has been such a backlash against abstract art by the public,” said Marilee Jantzer, an art historian at Fort Lewis College.
Because the art must be ready for the Aug. 20 race, the selection committee also appreciated how well artists thought out their proposals and their experience in putting a project together.
“Their work history has to be rock solid,” said Shannan Campbell-Wells, owner of Sorrel Sky Gallery in Durango. “We cannot miss this deadline.”
The seven-day race will bring some of the world’s top cyclists to Colorado. The seven-day event ends in Denver, with the first stage going from Durango to Telluride.