Bronze, edition #15/20,
17.75"h x 12"w x 8"d, Item No. 20551,
"The silver and gold miners of the Old West set off to seek their fortunes in the most secluded and inhospitable regions of the mountains. They lived largely solitary lives as they secretively searched for precious ore hidden among the cracks, crevices, rivers and cliffs. There was only one other soul that they could rely on to help them in their pursuit for wealth and glory, offering companionship, low-cost labor and an assurance that they could keep their secrets from all other would-be gold thieves. With their burros by their sides, miners had the trusted friend that they needed to aid in fulfilling their dreams.
"Occupational Hazard" is a piece with multiple layers of meaning. It depicts a burro precariously scaling down a cliff face with a full load of volatile explosives laden upon its sturdy back. The burro's lead rope has worn loose, so it is just wandering alone with the dangerous payload. Since the burro no longer has the guidance of his owner, one could imagine hearing a huge boom and seeing a tall plume of smoke off in the distance, wondering where it came from. So, first and foremost, the piece provides a 'you decide the adventure' sort of scenario for the viewer. Will he find his way back home? Will he be lost forever? Will the miner be more mindful to take care for the safety of his friend? Is the burro so faithful at this point that he no longer needs a rope to stay by his companion's side? It is just a fun piece to look at, chuckle over and let your imagination fill in the story.
Secondly, in a literal and somewhat comical way, a dangerous story from the Old West is told. It shows what men were willing to go through to make their dreams a reality and who helped them get there. The faithful burro is highlighted as he so reliably and selflessly helps fulfill the dreams of the treasure-seeking miner. For the burro, the danger and heavy load was all in a day's work, as the pursuit of wealth continued for its employer. For the miner, the work of the burro was essential as he also carried the supplies that sustained his existence. We can only hope that the owner of the burro appreciated and appropriately rewarded his companion that made it all possible.
So, on another layer of meaning, "Occupational Hazard" teaches the lesson that the employer-employee relationship should be a two-way street of respect, appreciation and reliability. We can only hope that those that are employed are as reliable as the old trusty burro in the pursuit of sustaining the employer and that the employer treats their workforce with dignity, respect, and fairness, because the employee literally gives their life daily to fulfill the goals and dreams of the company." - Raymond Gibby