LAS COLINAS (CBSDFW.COM) – You may have seen the bronze equestrian sculpture of half-wild horses running through water. They’re known worldwide as “The Mustangs of Las Colinas.” But the man who created them simply calls them “the horses.”
Robert Glen started work on the sculpture more than 30 years ago. CBS 11 News caught up with the African artist for a rare conversation about what his work means to him.
“It’s [the sculpture] a big piece and it has to be the ‘signature,’ I think,” Glen said reflecting on his creation. “Every piece I’m very involved in, but this one takes the cake.”
Glen spent nearly 10 years bringing the mustangs to life. He was born in Kenya and met Las Colinas developer Ben Carpenter in Africa.
Carpenter wanted his Williams Square high-rise office project designed around an iconic sculpture depicting wild horses of the American west.
Glen created a clay tabletop model in his Nairobi studio, and remembers that Carpenter’s first reaction to the piece was to increase the number of horses from six to nine.
Glen recalled Carpenter’s answer when he asked whether to use bronze or a cheaper manner of reproduction. “So he said, ‘No, I want them in real bronze because they’ve got to last forever.’ So I said, ‘Ben, do you have any idea what’s involved in that and how much that’s going to cost?’ and he just looked at me and said, ‘We’ll just build it in somehow.’”
Glen doesn’t work from photos and likes dealing with real animals, for depth. So, he went to Spain to study the Andalusia breed, from which the American wild mustangs evolved.
After making another clay tabletop model, he created nine half-size models from resin. One of those models is still on display at the Mustangs Museum in Williams Square. “And I made all the horses like that [from resin] and took them to England and had them with me so that I could see what I was going to work on.”
Using the models as a guide Glen then cast the larger-than-life sculpture at a foundry in England, which once made the famous lions at London’s Trafalgar Square.
Bronzing is a process that is both expensive and time-consuming. The animals, in their final forms, are one-and-a-half times as large as real horses.
The forms for pouring the bronze had to be broken up into smaller pieces, and then welded into the final product. “Every day you’re up and down a ladder. You’re not working on a whole thing in front of you. You’re working on that section of a piece,” explained the artist.
Glen says the tail on the last stallion alone consists of 73 separate pieces and weighs some 700 pounds.
The sculpture was finally installed in 1984. Glen claims he actually lost money on the project, but acclaim from the mustangs sculpture helps promote his other works. Today Glen does much smaller pieces from his adopted home of Tanzania.
The horses in the sculpture actually tell a kind of story, according to Glen. The “lead” horse is a mare nicknamed Agnes. “Any group, even in humans, is led by females,” Glen stated factually, “We all think males are big guys that lead things, but basically we are in matriarchal society, whether we like it or not.”
To further explain the story Glen says the stallion to Agnes’ immediate left is trying to nose in and get Agnes’ attention. “He’s actually encroaching in the group and trying to steal the female away from the herd; he’s staying close to her and he’s worried about the stallion in the back.”
Looking back on the experience, Glen says “the horses” is likely his signature work. “People come and look at it and you hear nice things, and so on, and it’s very flattering,” he said with a sense of satisfaction. “But now, after all these years, what’s interesting to me is, I still like it.”