Hillstrom Museum of Art Pairs Art, Athletics

Five Gustavus coaches and one student-athlete discussed the works of LeRoy Neiman at the recent event.
Posted on January 17th, 2017 by

Director of Athletics Tom Brown discusses LeRoy Neiman's work in the Hillstrom Museum of Art.

A Coaches Gallery Talk was presented at the Hillstrom Museum of Art on Monday, January 9, in which Gustavus athletic coaches discussed the exhibition currently on display, Action! The Anatomy of LeRoy Neiman’s Champions. The event combined Neiman’s art with commentary from five coaches and one senior student-athlete. The speakers discussed how Neiman’s work was associated and interconnected with their particular sport, and how Neiman depicted the sport itself in his art.

The six speakers were: Tommy Valentini, Head Men’s Tennis Coach; Brett Petersen, Head Men’s Hockey Coach; Danny Carlson, senior Gustavus student and baseball player; Mark Hanson, Head Men’s Basketball Coach; Tom Thorkelson, former Head Track and Field Coach and present Assistant Coach in charge of throwing events; and Tom Brown, Athletics Director.

The presenters discussed historically renowned athletes like Phil Esposito, Sandy Koufax, Venus and Serena Williams, and Joe Namath. They also talked about the significance of LeRoy Neiman and how his work revealed outstanding techniques and traits displayed by the athletes portrayed.

“In tennis we try over and over again to get still shots of the sport. It’s a huge challenge because the images never seem to do the sport justice,” Valentini said. “LeRoy Neiman shows what it looks like when you see tennis up close, the type of motion. He captures what these athletes are really able to do.”

“The style of painting with the style of play is very interesting. That’s what caught my eye right away. Traditional baseball I think is more black-and–white, some of these paintings contrast that. With Sandy Koufax, the coloring shows his electric pitching,” Carlson explained.

Men’s tennis coach Tommy Valentini presents at the Coaches Gallery.

Planning for the Neiman exhibit began nearly three years ago, Hillstrom Museum of Art director Donald Myers said. He was introduced to the idea of displaying the works at Gustavus when Jordana Pomeroy, a long-time friend, contacted him. She worked at Louisiana State University and had organized an exhibition with the LeRoy Neiman Foundation in New York. Pomeroy thought Neiman might be something Myers would be interested in displaying at Gustavus as well.

“I was skeptical at first. Like a lot of people in the art world, I tended to think of him as a commercially successful artist with not a lot of aesthetic significance,” Myers said. “I love it when you have an assumption about something and you find out you were really wrong in some way. To be able to see these pieces of art, I think it’s remarkable how fresh they are. You look at his art and see his interpretation of motion, movement, and the human form.”

There were several reason why the LeRoy Neiman exhibit was appealing for the Hillstrom Museum of Art. Myers explained that Neiman himself was Minnesota born and raised and was a friend and student of Minnesota artist Clement Haupers, who was also a friend to the namesake of the Museum. Neiman appreciated some of the same artists that Hillstrom liked and thus was influenced by some similar artists that are in the museum’s collection.

“It’s nice to draw into the museum a section of the campus and community that isn’t necessarily always coming to our events. It’s a great way to highlight the liberal arts – by putting sports and arts together,” Myers said. “If this has opened the eyes of people who have never been here before, that’s wonderful.”

The exhibit will be on display through January 27, 2017.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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