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Mystery sculpture installed in woman’s yard

JOHN AGUILAR
Daily Camera
Donna Coughlin of Boulder, Colo. looks a sculpture that mysteriously appeared in her front yard on Dec. 13, 2010. Coughlin wonders if it's a repeat from the same artist who deposited a giant metal bug in her yard 23 years ago. (AP Photo/The Daily Camera , Marty Caivano)
AP | DAILY CAMERA

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – It came in the middle of the night – 15 feet tall, lit up by white lights, antennae protruding from its head – set down in the middle of Donna Coughlin’s front yard with nary a blade of grass out of place.

“It startled me so much,” said Coughlin, who spotted the object out the window of her Boulder home around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. “I said to myself, ‘What in the dickens is that?'”

The hulking visitor stands sentry on her lawn at the corner of 25th Street and Valmont Road, quiet and still. It doesn’t look as though it means to do Coughlin any harm. It simply looks like it’s there to…

“Who knows?” the 80-year-old Boulder native said Monday. “I have no idea.”

Neither do police, who paid a visit to Coughlin’s home over the weekend to try and determine how and why a towering steel-and-cement sculpture suddenly appeared on her lawn.

“Detectives can’t figure out how they got the darn thing in there without leaving any drag marks behind,” said Cmdr. Kim Stewart with the Boulder Police Department. “It’s odd, it’s like it’s perfectly placed there.”

She guessed that four to six people would have had to carry the piece to where it sits today. It’s too large and heavy for police to remove without a more concerted effort and possibly some heavy-duty equipment, she said.

The sculpture is made of a 15-foot-tall steel-reinforced post, which juts out of a sturdy concrete base. At its top is a chaotic grouping of rusty chains, mirrors, solar-powered lights, a padlock, and oddly shaped pieces of metal, veering off into different directions.

There is no artist’s name attached and no calling card left behind.

But the abstract work of art wasn’t without a clue. Attached to its base was a box holding a pair of earrings, much like the earring-filled box that Coughlin found appended to a sculpture that mysteriously appeared on her lawn more than 23 years ago.

As odd as it sounds, this isn’t the first time Coughlin has been the target of a sculpture drop.

In 1987, she said, an object in the shape of a giant bug landed on her lawn and stayed there for two weeks. It got some local press coverage and gave Coughlin, who has lived in her house for 53 years, a few minutes of small-scale fame.

“People would come by and look at the thing,” she said. “It was cute.”

The bug’s origins might have remained a mystery if Coughlin hadn’t happened to look out her window in the middle of the night to see people disassembling the sculpture in an effort to take it away.

“I caught him,” she said.

The mystery artist turned out to be Mark Guilbeau, a University of Colorado-Boulder master of fine arts graduate. After being accosted on Coughlin’s front lawn, he invited her up to the CU campus for a tea party and a sculpture viewing.

“The guy was just as nice as can be,” Coughlin said.

But she said she lost contact with the sculptor over the years and eventually he faded from her mind. Until early Saturday morning.

“I’d sure like to know if there’s a connection between then and now,” said Coughlin, who has no idea why Guilbeau would choose her front lawn as his tableau more than two decades after first using it to express his artistic tendencies.

However, the evidence that the 50-year-old CU grad is behind the latest art drop is strong.

Not only were a telltale pair of earrings left with the latest offering, but the sculpture’s base is wrapped in sections of printing plates from a 1984 Lafayette, La., newspaper, a town that Guilbeau claims as his hometown on an artist’s Web site.

That’s where police began their search, calling a woman in Lafayette who knows Guilbeau and learning that he has been in Denver on a visit. So far they haven’t been able to track him down.

Stewart said police just want Guilbeau to contact them and confirm he is the artist that placed the sculpture on Coughlin’s lawn this past weekend. They don’t plan on treating the incident as a crime and Guilbeau is not considered a suspect.

Poilce just want to know what he wants to do with his piece.

“It’s kind of interesting, but what are we going to do with it?” Stewart asked.

Coughlin wants to leave it right where it is for now.

She had plans to have a towing company come out Monday and remove it, but she has since had a change of heart. Really, she’d like to see if she can catch the artist red-handed again when he comes to retrieve his work of art. She intends to let it sit in front of her house for a week or two.

But Coughlin has no intention of making her property a permanent home for the sculpture. She said it’s not really to her tastes.

“I can’t exactly say that the thing is cute,” she said.


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