Arts and Culture / News

Argent turns California travel hub into a ‘hare’-port

DU’s Lawrence Argent installed Leap at the Sacramento International Airport. Photo: Ed Asmus

No one has ever accused Lawrence Argent of being a miniaturist.

A renowned sculptor and DU faculty member celebrated for his public art projects, Argent is known nationwide for I See What You Mean, the massive, 40-foot-tall blue bear peering into the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. In the six years since it was installed, it has become a tourist attraction and a landmark, as well as a testament to Denver’s appetite for the creative and unconventional.

His most recent public art installation, Leap, places a fleet-footed red rabbit in the ticketing and baggage-claim areas of the newly remodeled Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport in California. The 10,000-pound, 56-foot-long lagomorph, which appears to have sprung from the outdoors on a mad dash to a suitcase bedecked with a swirling vortex, promises to do much the same for Sacramento that the big blue bruin did for Denver.

In fact, says Shelly Willis, art in public places director for the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, fans of the piece have taken to identifying its setting as “Sacramento International Hareport.”

“The last thing I wanted to do was another big animal,” says Argent, lamenting the fact that he has become branded as a specialist in oversized, primary-colored mammals. Nonetheless, as he began work on the $800,000 commission, the rabbit kept materializing in his imagination. Rabbits, after all, are associated with good luck and fortune — think rabbit’s foot. And in Native American cultures, Argent explains in a narrative complementing the installation, rabbits serve as a symbol for “overcoming limiting beliefs.” What’s more, a hopping hare calls to mind the leap that travelers take with every journey.

Argent was given free reign in the commission, charged only with creating a signature piece. One of his primary goals, he says, was to conjure something that would capture the wonder and perplexity of the modern journey.

Given the generic personality of most airports and given the daze in which most travelers negotiate the check-in kiosks and security lines, Argent also wanted to nudge, if not jolt, the jet-lagged, stress-boggled traveler back to full consciousness.

“One is not in a normal state,” Argent says of the airport experience. “I wanted it to diffuse the cacophony of the energy that exists in the airport.”

Leap took three months to install. Made of 1,400-plus aluminum triangles, it is suspended from the terminal’s structural frame by seven cables. The accompanying suitcase, as large as a queen-sized bed, is made of granite. It represents the baggage — metaphorical, checked and carry-on — that we bring with us on every journey.

“Everything in the suitcase,” Argent says, “is a symbol of who we are.”

Willis attributes the piece’s success to several factors. First, it is scaled to raise questions and make people think.

“The rabbit is whimsical,” she says, “but there is a seriousness about it. It’s not a one-liner. It can take you lots of places.”

Second, she adds, Leap relates seamlessly to the architecture.

“It has definitely become totally integrated into the place,” Willis says. “I think it makes the building stronger, and the building makes his piece stronger as well.”


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