'Art of the Athlete' at Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
What do football and art have in common?
All you have to do is look at a piece of art by UO running back Kenjon Barner, who used photographs and spray paint to create a landscape of a football field for an exhibition starting May 30 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
The “Art of the Athlete” will present the work of more than 50 University of Oregon student athletes, starting May 30 and running through Sept. 30. Athletes from football, track and field, basketball, soccer, golf, cheer, baseball and club sports are represented in the exhibition.
The photo gallery at right highlights a handful of the works.
The public is invited to attend a free, public reception on Wednesday, May 30, from 5-7 p.m.
Barner’s piece depicts some of the temptations facing popular athletes.
“It displays the vices that might get in my way… that I must avoid in order to fulfill my dreams,” writes Barner in his artist’s statement.
Lisa Abia-Smith, the museum's director of education and outreach, was looking to encourage this sort of interdisciplinary meditation when she started the project. She also works as an adjunct faculty member teaching art administration and has had many student athletes in her classes.
“I thought, ‘It would be great to have them focus on their own craft, their own ideas about what they do, and show that to the public,’” she said. Abia-Smith worked with athletes in the classroom and at the John E. Jaqua Center this term, encouraging them to find ways that art can fit into their rigorous daily routines.
“When you’re an athlete, you’re focused on a lot of detail. There’s a lot of sequence,” said Abia-Smith. “When you’re studying art, it’s that same process. It’s that same idea of getting from A to B, and you have to be a critical thinker.”
The results of the project have been diverse, from an intricate wire sculpture of a Nike shoe to an acrylic painting of the Buddha.
Even former Duck and current San Francisco 49er LaMichael James has a piece in the show. His contribution to “Art of the Athlete” shows four figures on a football field, each representing the NFL-bound player at a different point in his career.
“It kind of changes my whole viewpoint,” James said. “Putting my football into artwork and making this progression, it kind of makes me feel creative.”
Track and field distance runner Allison Woodward created a mixed media collage dotted with paper flowers and inspirational words.
“I always liked art class in high school, but I never take the time to do fun projects like that anymore,” said Woodward. “Making art can be the same sort of release or relaxation time that practice can be.”
The exhibition will include voice recordings of the athletes talking about their work and several awards for standout pieces. Abia-Smith said the lessons the athletes have learned are the real prize.
“When they leave this class and this project, they’ll still be thinking about art as a way to become part of their expression,” she said. “They’re not sitting down at an easel seven hours a day, but art is a part of their daily lives.”
“Art of the Athlete” is sponsored by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, UO Department of Arts and Administration, Oregon Folklife Network and UO Services for Student Athletes at the Jaqua Center.