Local artist immortalizes past Olympians
||July 8, 2005|
Turner Valley artist Gordon Milne is making his dream come true
while immortalizing former Canadian Olympians.
Milne has entered a unique partnership with the Canadian Sport
Centre (CSC) in Calgary to help raise funds for Canadian amateur
athletes while at the same time giving some well deserved notoriety to
past Canadian Olympic heroes.
"I am thrilled all to pieces to even be associated with these
people," said Milne during an interview at his Turner Valley
home. "The relationship between the arts and sport seems like a big
gap, but really, they are very similar."
The CSC project will endeavour to show just how similar they are.
Milne has been commissioned to complete between 15 and 20 portraits
of former Canadian Olympians. The huge portraits (62 inches by 48
inches) will be purchased by corporations for $15,000 and the funds
will go to support Canadian amateur athletes. Once the collection is
complete, the corporations will donate the portraits back to CSC and
the complete collection will tour Canada. In addition, it is hoped the
project will be featured at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The first four portraits will be unveiled at a special media
conference today (Wednesday) at Banker's Hall in Calgary.
"This is a really special, classy program, " said Colin Young of
CSC. "It is art work that is so unique."
Milne's portraits are not sports pictures.
They offer a vibrant insight into the athlete's personality, the
athlete's soul - a boxer's dark desires or a speed skater's fiery
Milne admits, he is not a realist.
"I have always been attracted to stained glass," he said of his
unmistakable works. "I break the person down into shapes and colour
and every colour reflects off the colour next to it. It is
manipulating colour and if it all works it gives the portrait a real
brilliance and captures the personality of the person I am painting."
Milne idolized Canada's world class amateur athletes and has always
been impressed by their commitment and dedication.
A few years ago Milne approached boxer Willie DeWitt about doing a
portrait of the Olympic silver medalist. Once it was complete, DeWitt
was so impressed he suggested Milne do other athletes and spoke to his
friend decathlete Michael Smith.
"Gordon Milne's paintings of Canadian athletes evoke such positive
memories by capturing the essence and personalities of his subjects,"
said DeWitt on the CSC website.
After completing a portrait of DeWitt and garnering the support of
Smith, the project began to blossom and CSC jumped on board.
"We liked Gordon's passion and he likes authentic Olympians - they
have made an impact on him," said Young.
To date, Milne has completed four portraits including DeWitt,
Smith, Silken Laumann and Catriona Lemay Doan.
"Everyone recognizes the merit of this project," commented
Young. "This is an opportunity to grab a piece of history. This is a
tribute to these athletes and a good reminder to people who these
One of the reasons Milne was so passionate about the project was an
opportunity to praise some of Canada's forgotten athletic heroes
through his art.
"In Canada people don't even know who these people are," said Milne
with a hint of frustration in his voice.
"If they were American they would be heroes. These athletes have
done incredible things and they get little recognition - people
"What is frustrating is we cry for more podium finishes (at the
Olympics), but we don't even remember those who already have."
Three-time Olympian Diane Jones Konihowski said Milne's artwork
will shine a light on the achievements of Canada's past Olympians.
"Canadian artist Gordon Milne has blended his passion for athletic
achievement with his passion for creating works of art by celebrating
Olympic excellence through his own unique and colourful paintings of
Canadian athletes," she said. "The cause is worthy - the portrait is
A list of potential subjects for future portraits has been
established and it does not include the likes of Jarome Iginla, Mario
Lemieux or Steve Nash.
Young and Milne both said the agonized over the list of athletes,
but agreed they wanted to focus on true Olympic athletes.
Young said if a corporate sponsor requested a portrait of Iginla
they would not say no, but they are hoping to promote amateur
The list includes Kurt Browning, Ken Read, Gaeten Boucher, Mark
Tewksbury, Ian Miller, Miriam Bedard, Donovan Bailey and several
"The Crazy Canucks rode around Europe in VW bus going as fast as
they could," said Milne. "Canadians didn't even know who they were,
but the rest of the world did."
Through Milne's artwork Canadians will be given a refreshing
insight into Canada's past Olympic heroes.
To view the collection visit www.canadiansportcentre.com/heroes