Wynn Las Ve­gas carves out spe­cial prepa­ra­tions for the Year of the Horse.

As the Year of the Horse gal­lops into its chrono­log­i­cal place in the Chi­nese horo­scope, visi­tors to Las Ve­gas will see no other re­sort prop­er­ties pre­pare for the Chi­nese New Year the way Wynn does. Three 800-pound ex­am­ples? The gallant horse stat­ues that will proudly greet guests in Wynn’s atri­ums. Although Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent of De­sign for Wynn De­sign and De­vel­op­ment Roger Thomas con­ceives of an artis­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion for each year’s re­spec­tive an­i­mal, horses are per­haps near­est to his heart. “I love horses,” says Thomas. “I’ve rid­den horses since I was a young child.” For Thomas, there was only one way to be­gin the pro­ject. “I iden­ti­fied sev­eral of my very fa­vorite horses in the history of Chi­nese art,” he says. “I’d pre­vi­ously ac­quired some mag­nif­i­cent Tang Dy­nasty horses for our com­pany col­lec­tion,” he says. “So we looked for a proud, beau­ti­ful, and, to a cer­tain ex­tent, friendly, Tang horse. We lo­cated one, and we are hav­ing it carved by a sculp­tor here in Las Ve­gas.” Master carver Sil­li­pachai “Mod” Toon­rud of Forté Spe­cialty Con­trac­tors will make the con­cept a re­al­ity, start­ing with a small-scale model made from clay. Upon ap­proval by Wynn De­sign and De­vel­op­ment, a fullscale model will be hand-sculpted from a Sty­ro­foam block. The de­tails that are tweaked dur­ing the re­vi­sion process are cru­cial, says Thomas. “Pro­por­tion of the tail, how much curl there is in the mane… I like horses that look like they’ve just no­ticed you’re there and turned to ad­dress you, so that the neck is turned slightly, and they seem aware and at­ten­tive,” he says. “It gives them an an­i­ma­tion and a live­li­ness.” The fin­ished Sty­ro­foam sculp­ture will then be en­cased in a fiber­glass­re­in­forced plas­tic mold. Fi­nally, the nine-foot-tall, 10-foot-long horses will be painted red and gilded in gold leaf be­fore be­ing po­si­tioned in the Wynn atrium. Forté, whose co-owner, Scott Ac­ton, had Trea­sure Is­land’s pi­rate ship built for Steve Wynn decades ago, will over­see the pro­ject un­til its in­stal­la­tion. Thomas, mean­while, has started think­ing ahead. “We start work­ing on the an­i­mal of the year about 15 months in ad­vance. I’m al­ready look­ing around for roost­ers.” n

here and right: Master carver Sil­li­pachai “Mod” Toon­rud at Forté Spe­cialty Con­trac­tors’ stu­dio in West Las Ve­gas.

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