Exhibit explores intersection of athletes and art

“Student-athletes are often recognized for their accomplishments in their respective sports. However, UO student-athletes are well-rounded students with diverse interests that extend beyond their athletics pursuits.”

These are the words of Rob Mullens, director of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Oregon, lending his perspective on a remarkably unique new exhibit that just opened at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

The world of sports has always sat across a rift, in a position adjacent and wholly juxtaposed to art. It’s fairly rare to hear about athletes and artists converging to become a super-identity, but apparently folks in Eugene said to hell with the crevasse and bridged the gap.

“My drawing represents my chasing my dreams,” reads football player Tacoi Sumler’s artist statement. “It shows me and football.” Sumler is one of more than 50 student-athletes whose artwork is on display at the Schnitzer’s exhibition, for which an opening reception was held Wednesday, May 30. Among the athletes featured are some famed faces from years past: namely LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. 

The road to the NFL has been long and arduous for James, and his art not only expresses this with wholesome, heartfelt sincerity, but it’s also surprisingly good — not that there’s any particular reason the dude shouldn’t be a solid artist, but this is one of those “who the fuck knew?” moments, right?

The exhibit isn’t only reserved for footballers. Indeed, a plethora of different fielded athlete-come-artists adorns the bill.

Rak Cho of Brea, Calif., is a golfer for the UO, and his collages have more meaning behind them than meets the eye. Cho’s artist statement explains that his work likens the path of life to the path a golf ball must take in order to reach its destination. This shows “the path I must take to reach mine,” says Cho.

So if you feel like discovering that these folks aren’t one-trick-ponies, stop by the Schnitz and check out their shitz. It’s wild to see performers of a different caliber placed in an alien world and pulling it off in style.

“Art of the Athlete” runs through Sept. 30 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

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