Artist behind Denver's ‘Big Blue Bear' sculpture dies suddenly

You may not know the name, but you know his art.

KUSA - The Douglas County Coroner has confirmed that the artist behind the iconic “Big Blue Bear” sculpture next to the Colorado Convention Center died suddenly after surgery on Oct. 4.

Lawrence Argent is a highly-accomplished and well-known sculptor who was born in Essex, England in 1957. He attended the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia and received a master’s in fine arts from the Rinehart School of Sculpture in Baltimore in 1986.

"He's a world-renowned artist,"  said Victoria Medina. "He was one of the greats."

She is an art student who went to study directly under Argent at his studio.

"I reached back out to him and I asked if I could be his protege," Medina said. "I was like I'll work for free."

She describes Argent as polite, humble and professional.

"He wanted to make an impact," she said. "He wanted people to feel his work, not just see his work, but to feel his work and that's why I respected him."

According to his website, he has been behind public art installations all over the country and was the head of sculpture at the University of Denver’s School of Art and History.

This weekend, thousands of people will walk by the 40-foot “Big Blue Bear” on the way to the Great American Beer Festival. This bona fide Denver icon is actually called “I See What You Mean” and was first installed in 2005. 

In an interview with Visit Denver, Argent said he got the idea for the sculpture after seeing a picture in the newspaper of a black bear looking into someone’s window. 

The bear was initially supposed to “reflect the colors of Colorado” and look more like sandstone, but Argent said he fell in love with blue after that was the color used on a printout of the design by mistake.

“And it was serendipitous, because [I learned later] that the black bear was very important to the Native American Ute tribes that lived in Colorado – and also that one level of spiritual enlightenment for the Utes was the ‘blue’ level,” Argent told Visit Denver.

Medina said Argent always had a strong desire to teach calling him a walking body of knowledge.

"Sad to hear that I'm not going to be able to ask him a lot of the questions that I wanted to ask him and learn what I wanted to learn from him," Medina said.

DU released the following statement about Argent's death: 

The University of Denver is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Lawrence Argent. For nearly 25 years he was an award-winning artist and faculty member in the School of Art and Art History. He was a beloved mentor to countless students and a respected colleague. His public art—installed on DU’s campus and on sites around the world—will have an impact for many years to come.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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