If you stand facing the new building at the Custer County Landfill, you see a large mural of the Sangre de Christo mountains. If you turn around, you see the real Sangre de Christo mountains.
Custer County Landfill is just outside the small mountain town of Westcliffe, Colorado, which is about 60 miles west of Pueblo and some 3000 feet higher. The area was a booming silver, copper, lead mining region in the late 1800’s, and the adjoining town of Silver Cliff which existed before Westcliffe was the third largest town in Colorado in 1880. The remains of the mines can still be seen in the tailings which dot the hillsides. Now it is cattle and hay country, rolling grasslands in the Wet Mountain Valley which lies at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The mountains range for 100 miles and include 54 peaks, Alpine-like, and capped with snow most of the time. Very little snow this June, though, and these days lost in smoke from the Arizona and New Mexico fires.
So who was inspired by these mountains to paint this large mural? No one knows.
When? No one knows.
At least no one I talked to at the Chamber of Commerce or on the main street of Westcliffe. Not only that, but no one I talked to had even seen it.
I noticed the mural right away on our drive up Rosita Road when we first got into town in early June, probably because I have been paying attention to the mural of the Surfing Madonna in Encinitas, California, on previous posts. The landfill mural is either oil paint or acrylic, I can’t tell which, and it is painted on what looks like Masonite or a siding material of some sort. It was attached to the wall before the stucco was added. And, as you can see, cut to accommodate the window and door.
The guy at the landfill told me it was originally four panels but only three of the panels fit on the wall. He said the four panels had been stored at the Westcliffe Chamber of Commerce but when the Chamber had to move to smaller quarters, it was decided to put the mural on the wall at the landfill. How long it had been in storage he did not know. Not surprising, since no one at the current Chamber of Commerce or Visitor Center knew anything at all about it. I left a copy of this post at the Visitor Center and Nancy from the Chamber of Commerce sent me an email. She says there were actually 21 sheets of 4X8 painted mountains stored for at least five years in the old Chamber building. They may have been a backdrop or a school project. She will try to find out more.
Here is a huge undertaking by an artist who respected the mountains. And someone stored the panels in the Chamber of Commerce. And somewhere there is a historian who knows about it.
I’m hoping someone can tell us its history and its artist. And I hope a lot of someones will drive by and look at it.