Anyone visiting downtown Denver and the convention center will see an unusual sight: a 40-foot tall, 10,000-pound blue bear stands on its hind legs on the sidewalk. It leans with its palms against the glass of the convention center, and peers inside as if watching the humans carry on their business. The piece is officially named, “I See What You Mean,” and was created by the late local artist Lawrence Argent in 2005.
Asked to design a piece that represented the Colorado landscape, Argent felt trees, mountains, and rivers were worn out and overused and wanted to create something new and unusual. As he mulled over possible ideas, he came across a picture in a newspaper of a bear looking into the window of a house.
As a Colorado local, Argent understood that locals know what it means to interact every day with their outdoor environment. Around Denver, wilderness and wildlife are part of daily life. Argent had been planning for a more traditional color, like sandstone, but when he printed the mockup, the tone was set to blue. Though initially a mistake, he thought it popped out and moved forward, with the color representing the sky and the symbolic connection of the color blue to the indigenous Ute people.
The YouTube video below provides a humorous interpretation of the connection between the famous blue bear, and the surrounding wilderness:
Not everyone loves the blue bear and its hefty price tag of $395,000. Some Denver locals have criticized the amount of money the city has spent on public art. The bear was vandalized in 2013 when green paint was poured over its shoulders. The culprit and the cause were never discovered.
Cover image: "Lawrence Argent: I See What You Mean" by Karen is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.