Its ironic really, but quite fitting, that I will just meet this blog deadline (attempting to sell my sport prints), right before the end of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Also ironic is that my body now feels the lockdown lack of exercise that the Olympics make me remember. And the mirror shows it. Who is this overweight person pretending to be my once svelte figure?
So I speak to my physical therapist about my bad knees and go a few times a week to swim at a local outdoor Olympic swimming pool. Geez…those are long suckers!
As I swim I’m thinking maybe this is the last chance (ok, yes there is a pun here…on purpose. Art by chantz…get it?)
But I have always loved sport, just as I loved these prints. For personal reasons such as, they are unlike any of my other work. That they ran along side me throughout my life…
Picture the image in my head of the baton being passed from one part of my life to the next. From Los Angeles, to Amsterdam to London, back to Amsterdam.
I hurry to type this and post it tonight, (since techies say that Thursdays at 8 pm, California time is the best market to read my blog).
Do I believe this? Hmmmm, not really.
It is more that I now have a deadline to work towards…an end in sight and the gold at the end.
I mean of course, the Olympics.
I am not sure if I can actually post this word without the owners or organizers swooping down on me to pick my cadaver for cash payments. I mean…maybe they will bust me for using their name in my blog.
But hey…it is also part of MY history. No, I did not win gold medals. But I have lived in cities where and when two Olympics had been hosted. It started like this…
When I first came to this country, I had no job except to make art- which is why I moved here.
So, my first big break came in the form of a commission, well two commissions actually: a sculpture and a painting. They were to commemorate the closing of the old Ajax football (soccer) stadium and the opening of the new stadium, as well as the adjacent young players football practice field named Sportcomplex De Toekomst (Dutch for Sporting complex, The Future)
I will not write about all the steps taken to be awarded the commissions, nor the time and effort to create the images in both oil paint and alabaster stone.
Suffice to say, the acclaim I received was wonderful, what little of it I could understand.
See, I had not lived here long enough to learn the language, but Hey! I have the press clippings in my portfolio and press releases with my photographic image as the artist, at the unveiling. Not fake news, I have proof.
But these moments, as wonderful as they were, did not hand to me the keys to the city. Nope. This is why I had to run with the ball- that is, to build on the press and what tiny fame (Fifteen minutes, according to Warhol) I had achieved.
I came up with this:
Painted in May, 1996, images of Olympic sports, in color, the style of 1930 men’s shirt advertisements or prints of soviet factory workers of the 1930’s. These were my inspirations, minus the Tom of Finland muscles. Painted in acrylic, each image one of several different Olympic sports. I threw in a few non-Olympic sports to round out the choices. I must admit that I regret I forgot to paint the baseball player, perhaps because I had never attended in my whole life, even one baseball game while I lived in America. “Sinner! Traitor!” I heard in my head, yelled at me from the stands.
In 1984, my home town and where I was born, the city of Los Angeles, won the prize to host the Summer Olympics. It was the second time. My grandparents had seen the first in 1932.
Despite then working full time in an art store, I was thrilled to hear from my boss that she agreed to let me leave for an hour or two, run to the corner and watch the marathon of runners pass through the city.
I pushed though the crowds and caught sight of hundreds of semi- naked bodies moving in one flow through the city, in one direction, toward one goal: the Gold.
The sculptor Robert Graham had created one of a kind images of a man and a woman, Greek god style, and headless as well. These stood atop the newly built Memorial Coliseum Gateway, that I proudly marched through several times to attend the games. Ironically, Graham was also the owner of a huge home and property that was being looked after by my sculpture teacher. She had the name of a porn star and the artistic talent of a genius.
In those days, I was a boxing fan, inspired by American school of painters named, the Ashcan school, of the 1930’s.
During the games I had watched several boxing matches, one of which Muhammad Ali had climbed into the ring to announce the winner. He was by then retired in 1979. The ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, champion, had fought a good fight but father time was closing in. In the end, it was early Parkinson disease that ravaged the champion.
I remember too in that time I bought a gold coin to hold this memory in history. The Olympic gold coin was also created by Graham . Years later I gave it to my nephew, a newly appointed American History high school teacher. I hope he still has it. Its worth at least $10 by now.
From 2000 to 2010, I traveled back and forth from London to Amsterdam to sell my sculptures. Also during this time, the city of London’s east end had been awarded to host the 2012 Olympic games.
I had then a studio in the famous east end, and wonderful tiny corner of the city with its own unique character of greasy spoon diners, Sunday roasts, cockney speak and pubs with Black and Tan beers.
It was in this east end that I carved sculptures from alabaster stone in the only terrific studio I’ve ever rented. It had a glass ceiling (believe it or not.. and not the kind women needed to smash in order to have make their careers). There was a huge glass window that looked out, not onto the main street (where huge Red busses, black cabs, cars and people rushed as only east enders can do: honked, shouted and yelling the rush hour into the night sky).
No, my window looked out the other side, toward the boys school, they in uniform, some having ditched school (and the coach’s prying eyes) by escaping from the playing field through the side gate. I watched as they smoked first cigarettes acting worldly and tough. Affectionately I thought to myself, ‘Ahh, exactly what I did at their age’.
I watched them as I listened to the radio- in English! What a joy to hear my own language on a radio!
The whole city was on tender hooks, anticipating the news: Will London be awarded to host the 2012 Olympics or not?
The announcer was interviewing every local estate agent. Why? Because if the city won, property in the east end would be worth a bundle. The locals could sell (or rent out) at top price, the investors (aka opportunists) could take the opportunity, to invest in the city, (aka make a bundle).
Before the answer had been announced, the whole area that was the east end, what had survived the worst bombing in WW2, famous for their cockney speak, their poor proud lower and working class, beating the rich at their own game, while loving their Queen, every home, apartment, shack, parking lot and warehouse had been sold. Homes built from wood and passed to each generation, mom and pop corner shops, all these buildings went up for sale at fire sale prices.
The announcer spat out his words in a heated rush asking the agents, “…so how many houses have you sold?” He answered back, “I don’t know exactly…its been like this since we opened at 8 a.m.! They’re selling lickety-split, like hot cakes!
All I know is that we have only two housed left…no, they just sold…none left at all.” The announcer shouted, “None!? Wait, what? I just learned that every local estate agent is completely sold out of property! My god, what a day!.”
The city held it’s collective breath, while remaining traditionally British, with the “Keep calm and carry on”, mentality the Brits used to be famous for, before the Brexit fiasco, for the answer to:
Will London, our city of London, host the 2012 Olympic games, or not?
Tick, tick, tick…
As I listened, I watched across the street, a live silent movie; the coach walked up to the boys on the field: tiny circles of boys in uniform, I watched as their leader, teacher, coach, walked toward them. The faces turned to him in anticipation.
As the radio spoke into my dusty studio air:
“Wait for it! What did you say? You’re sure? I have just learned that the city of London, our proud, and vibrant city…
I just heard that the city WILL Host the 2012 Olympic Games!!!!
And as the literal buzzers and whistles screamed in English from my radio, I watched boys cheer, scream and jump up and down…all as a silent movie, no sound.
Never before had I laughed and cried at once. Cried, because These boys had no idea what this “Win” would do to their tiny corner of the city. Some parents, mostly single mothers, poor with kids, barely scraping by, maybe some would get some money by selling their several generations owned home.
But the true killing would be by the rich. And the renters? They will be lucky to find any affordable accommodations in the east end.
I was watching the silent destruction of the what the Nazi’s couldn’t do but what this winning prize was: Leveling an area the size of Amsterdam, and not one bomb in sight.
(I could have told them. I’d seen what happened in the poor, Black community areas of downtown Los Angeles, in 1984, 28 years before.)
It seems this blog has become less about sport, and more about how hosting the Olympics by a city effects those who live there.
Even now, there are protestors yelling about the pandemic, filling a city with people when the hospitals are full. “All pain and no gain”, was the opinion of the one of the protestors. Others said the government was ignoring their demands. For such a ‘Gold Medal Occasion’, the aftermath can leave a city looking like it survived a Tsunami.
But there is also the Joy, for the win for the city, what their citizens had been gossiping and speculating on, what they’d prayed and hoped for. And of course there are the actual athletes who trained four years, some during this pandemic. Their efforts cannot be dismissed or shoved aside.
Hell, part of the history of the Olympics is that it goes on, no matter what we humans are being faced with or doing to each other, at any given time. Kinda like “The show must go on!” but on a world wide scale.
To watch those moments and yell, “WOW! Look at that! No one’s ever done that before!” To bask in the glow of shared a success, a prize won, a finish line that together we cross.
Most humans don’t face the sort of training the athletes did to get there. But like training, challenges are important in life. Maybe not to try for a gold metal, as they have done, or move to another country as I’ve have, but maybe to get married? To have a child/ become a parent? Leave for college, Uni, technical school, open a business? Hell, even moving to the other side of town can give a refreshing view, open our eyes to what inspire us to change, to open up, open our heart, embrace and respect nature, learn love for the first time or the last, come out to play, or come out of the closet.
All these challenges take courage, discipline, dedication, bravery and perseverance. Hell, just plane old tenacity, what my grandma used say I had (not sure if an insult or compliment)
For a period of 3 weeks, we come together and let go of our differences, our petty arguments, our political, sexual, educational, monetary, and religious differences to cheer for our star, or our underdog. To feel the thrill of so many special moments, the athletes share together, with their teams, with their countries, with the audience crowds, helass, not this year in the stands but together in groups, at the local pubs or cafe, or alone in lockdown, on their TV or laptop.
Now that we, as a people on this planet have, in the past 1 & a half years of lockdown, we have seen and felt and faced true loss, loneliness, fear, job or business loss, or homelessness. Now that we have walked in the shoes of the underdog, it is the underdog we now must cheer for the most.
The original paintings and their images are copyrighted, © Art by chantz, all rights reserved.
For further publications included in this blog, see (Dutch language) Ajax magazine,
Laast avondmaal van Ajax in de Meer, dinsdag 6 augustus 1996 and De opening van de Toekomst, oktober 1996 .