Nail Bear

Bear Witness

A quirky sculpture has seen it all on the mall.

By Carly Siegel November 1, 2015 Published in the Holiday 2015 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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Image: Anne Reeser

He may be the most photographed Aspenite of the past decade, but no one knows his name. Despite a gruff exterior, he’s never said a bad word about anyone. Tough as nails yet a magnet for kids, he stands at his perch rain, snow, or shine.

Naturally, the local in question is the bear sculpture on the Hyman Avenue Pedestrian Mall. The brainchild of Pennsylvania-based artist Bill Secunda, the “nail bear” so beloved today resulted from three months of welding together more than fifty thousand collated nails fashioned to resemble fur. Originally crafted in 2004 for the Festival of the Masters at Walt Disney World, the bear migrated to Aspen for a 2005 art show at Wagner Park, at which it was sold to a local man who temporarily put it on display just outside Elliott Yeary Gallery. After a few years, Aspen’s bear friend was donated to the City of Aspen and permanently installed in its current location.

But why no name? Secunda left his sculpture untitled “so as to encourage the community to come up with its own name and story,” he says, and it seems the bear’s Aspen neighbors have embraced the ambiguity. They also seem content to leave unsolved a mystery that confounds its maker: early in its local sojourn, the 1,200-pound sculpture seemed to have moved twenty feet down the sidewalk from where it was first placed.

One thing’s certain: the bear knows how to fill an Instagram feed. When you’re up against the likes of Smokey, Fozzie, and that grizzly from the Dr Pepper commercials, you’ve gotta keep generating traffic, especially when your brand is ill-defined. Name or no, it seems Secunda’s bear’s best bet for immortality—or at least continued relevance—is a steady stream of selfies. 

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