Gun fight puts Fort Worth sculpture in cross hairs

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on June 8, 2011 at 10:56 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 9 at 1:33 PM

Poll:
Should a gun be a part of the vaquero statue?

FORT WORTH — What was supposed to be a proud occasion for Fort Worth's Hispanic community has turned into somewhat of an artistic standoff.

A massive sculpture of a Mexican cowboy due to be unveiled in two weeks is now being held hostage, you might say, by a gun.

The showdown is taking place near the Stockyards in Fort Worth.

At issue: A 10-foot sculpture of a Mexican cowboy, a vaquero, commissioned by the City of Fort Worth and crafted by two Dallas artists who pride themselves on historical detail.

They also received  input from the Fort Worth Art Commission, which has funded half of the $250,000  project.

 "We discussed a gun, a pistol with the artist involved and we as a committee told them 'no pistol,'" said Judge Manuel Valdez, chairman of the Vaquero Project Committee.

But last year, after the sculpture had already been cast, and as Valdez was inspecting the nearly-finished project, it hit him.

"This thing just kinda just  —  poof, right in your face,"  Valdez said. "I said, 'Whoa, wait a minute here.'"

There on the vaquero's right hip was the gun that the art commission they said they didn't want.

Why?

"In my mind, it's just not historically correct,"  Valdez explained.

However, the artists —  David Newton and Tomas Bustos —  say they added the gun after learning side arms were very much a part of the vaquero culture, as depicted by numerous photos, paintings and printed accounts.  

What's more, just blocks from where the sculpture is to be placed in Fort Worth, is a bronze statue of an American cowboy proudly packing a  pistol as he tends his cattle. 

Can there be a compromise?

"Our position at this point is the pistol needs to be off,"  Valdez said.

"No, no; we're are not going to do that,"  Newton insisted.

The City of Fort Worth has now cut off funds and ordered the artists to stop, claiming a breach of contract.

"We don't know how this is going to play out, but it's not going to be us saying 'Carve our piece up,'" Newton said.  "Cut it up, mutilate it, deface it... that's not coming from our lips."

And that means there may be no end in sight to what is shaping up to be a... monumental debate

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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