I can imagine three reactions:
1. Twittering glee. "Cool! Egypt!" The statue is, after all, ostensibly erected to celebrate/advertise the King Tut exhibit headed to the Denver Art Museum.
2. Shot nerves. "Aaargh! We’re doomed!" Nervous fliers, you know, might not be so into walking past gods of the dead. I mean, what’s next? Perhaps stocking the seatbacks with a guide to surviving a fall from a plane without a parachute (which is, incidentally, brief enough--it claims--to actually be followed, step-by-step, while plummeting to Earth in free fall)?
3. Bug-eyed whispers. "Now They’re just f-in’ with us, man!" It's almost as if it were designed to feed the conspiratorial minded who have pulled together a rather impressive body of symbology (Nazi, Masonic, etc.) to support fears of a cabal plotting the fate of the world from within secret underground tunnels beneath Denver International Airport. (Here's a skeptic's response.)
Let’s take a moment to consider option 3.
Take a few steps back--before strolling by Anubis, airport visitors are greeted by an enormous, murderous, blue stallion. "What’s this?" you ask. “How can a statue kill?” Well, legend has it that a part of the statue fell and crushed its own maker, leading him through the gateway to death. A sacrifice to the gods? An ominous omen? Coincidence?
Only after strolling by the killer horse do we see Anubis.
But Who Is Anubis?
The Denver statue is, I believe, a replica of a statue of Anubis that was placed prominently in King Tut's tomb. While Anubis is commonly referred to as the "Egyptian god of the dead", this title seems to obscure the richness of his mythology, which evolved over time during ancient Egypt's long history. (Think of how Christianity has evolved, for example, and then pause to consider that Egyptian religion extended over a longer period of time).
For me, one of the more interesting roles that Anubis played was that of a gatekeeper to the afterlife, meeting and judging the dead. From Wikipedia:
In the Hall of Two Truths, Anubis weighed the heart of a person against Ma'at, the goddess of truth, who was sometimes depicted symbolically as an ostrich feather. If the heart was judged to be impure, Ammit would devour it, and the person undergoing judgment was not allowed to continue their voyage towards Osiris and immortality.That image of a scale--ostrich feather on one side, heart on the other--is chillingly beautiful to me. They say that "an ostrich's eye is larger than its capacity for love"--and I'm quite certain that my heart would tip the scales.
These days, of course, security guards play the gatekeeper between heaven and Earth, carefully judging the pureness of each departing soul--those judged pure are allowed to board their flights upward, while the impure are cast downward into security cells to be devoured.
Speaking of creepy-eyed statues and all-seeing security (x-ray scans and what-not), Chicago is also planning a whimsical new installment:
Big brother? Perhaps this is not just coincidence.
The 4th Way
I opened with 3 potential reactions to Anubis welcoming you to the friendly skies--but all this talk of big brother and Kafka-esque security has opened my eyes to a 4th reaction.
What if Anubis is part of a larger movement in public art installments that are reflecting back our fear and paranoia? Consider the USA as a nation of people who feel themselves coming disjoined by attacks from a host of threats, threats that pile upon each other, new ones seemingly each day: mail bombs, buildings exploded, school shootings, cyber attacks, dirty bomb threats, fertilizer bombs, shoe bombs, airplanes as bombs, cyanide envelopes, snipers on freeways, father and son sniper teams in our capital, the great recession, government-sponsored torture, nebulous wars without end...
Surely we should not be surprised to find our airports and cities filling up paranoid and threatening images--from the giant eyeball of Chicago to the god of the dead and the towering demonic stallion of Denver?
May I suggest that it might actually be much odder if we were to find, instead, happy, playful art, stuff that made you giggle and feel warm inside?
There’s a quick way to test this hypothesis--take a quick glance around to see if our public places are filling up gleeful glib or fun house mirrors.
Oh wait ... Welcome home, my friends! ...