Thursday, August 03, 2000

Statue honoring jockey damaged

Sculptor suspects racial motivation

        LEXINGTON — Damage to one of the city's many colorful Horse Mania statues may have been racially motivated, the statue's sculptor said.

        “Isaac Murphy's Last Ride,” named for a black man who was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbies, is decorated with references to black heritage and spirituality. It also includes African-American writings affixed to the sides, 40 feet of chains and a spiked saddle.

        In recent days, vandals have broken off hands that extend from the horse's body, punched in sculpted faces, and swiped a photo and key that were part of the statue, located at the Swahili Elks Lodge.

        Damage to part of the horse labeled “HATE” — decorated with a Ku Klux Klan-type figure — has led sculptor Garry Bibbs to think that the vandals were not random passers-by, but rather people who didn't like some of the statue's symbolism.

        “My statement had a lot to do with the struggles of African-Americans,” Mr. Bibbs said. “They tore quite a bit of that up.

        “There was a real concept in what I was trying to say with my work. When I made that statement, I knew not all people were going to feel comfortable with what I was trying to say.”

        The Lexington Arts and Cultural Council will pick up “Isaac Murphy's Last Ride” soon and take it to Mr. Bibbs, who said repairs will take a week and cost about $200.

        Mr. Bibbs, officials with the arts council and members of the African American Forum, which sponsored “Isaac Murphy's Last Ride,” first heard about damage last Thursday. But Charles Yates, a member of the Swahili Elks Lodge, said vandalism started a few weeks ago.

        “I don't think teen-agers are doing it,” Mr. Yates said. “I believe grown-ups are doing it.”

        The lodge has a bar that's open to the public, Mr. Yates said, and he thinks some customers may have abused the statue after too many drinks.

        Debbie Cole, vice president of the African American Forum, said the organization may consider providing extra protection to the statue after it's repaired.

        “I think someone went out of their way” to damage the horse, Ms. Cole said. “That's just somebody doing a malicious job.”

        Isaac Murphy's Last Ride now joins the ranks of other sculptures that have been damaged accidentally, either by visitors, weather or the weight of materials, said Dee Fizdale, executive director of the council.


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