Catch the Olympic spirit in Vail |

Catch the Olympic spirit in Vail

Brenda HimelfarbVail CO, Colorado
Special to Daily"Olympian," by Gib Singleton. The incomplete ring the man is holding represents the athletes attempt at pefection. While the original sculpture is currently on display in Beijing for the Olympics, replicas are at Masters Gallery in Vail and C. Anthony Gallery in Beaver Creek.

When one thinks of the Olympics, one thinks sports. Images of swimming, gymnastics, basketball and volleyball, to name a few, abound during the two weeks of this years summer Olympics.It may come as a surprise to learn that from 1912 to 1948, art competitions were part of the Olympic games. A vision of Pierre de Frdy, Baron de Coubertin, the Olympic Movements founder, the contest awarded medals for works of art inspired by sport and was divided into five categories: Architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. However, in 1954 the competition was abandoned because the artists were contended to be professionals while the Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs. Since 1956, the Olympic Cultural Program has, instead, held an art exhibition, as the Olympic charter required organizers to include a cultural program to serve to promote harmonious relations, mutual understanding and friendship among the participants and others attending the Olympic Games.

And it is with this in mind that artist Gib Singleton created Olympian, a bronze that is currently on display at the Beijing Summer Olympics. He joins a cadre of world-renowned artists whose work has preciously been selected, including Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.Singleton, the only artist to have the distinction of being in the permanent collection of the Vatican Museum, Holocaust Martyrs & Heroes Remembrance Authority and the Cowboy Hall of Fame, was selected by the Olympic committee, and is the only sculptor who has a bronze piece in the exhibition.Gibs work is best described as emotional realism, said Paul Zueber, owner of Masters Gallery in Denver, where the piece will displayed some time in the fall. The incomplete ring of the bronze represents an athletes strive for perfection, Zueber said. Once the athlete makes the team, the ring is complete.Rayla Kundolf, manager of Masters Gallery in Vail, adds, This piece is relative to whats happening at the Olympics right now. Each athlete is striving for perfection. Thats what these games are all about.

As a young boy, Singleton often dreamed of religious subject matter, which spurred him to study theology to gain a greater understanding of the imagery that appeared so often in this dreams. After attending the Art Institute of Chicago, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Academia di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy. Soon Singleton was selected to become restoration specialist for the Vatican Museum, a position he lovingly refers to as a janitor for high art.After returning to the United States, Singleton settled in Westport, Connecticut, where he opened a studio. In 1966, when the Arno River in Florence flooded, Singleton, once more, was in Italy at the Academia di Belle Arti. Jacqueline Kennedy was helping to fund the restoration of many of the priceless works and personally selected students to work on them. Singleton was chosen to work on Santa Croce (church) and became what the Italians affectionately called a mud angel.To Singleton, art exists to communicate thought between artists and viewers. Art is a chain of development to complete the circle of creation, he said. In fact, the eyes of many of Singletons sculptures are purposely left undefined so that the viewer can complete the piece.Singleton believes that fine art must challenge the viewer to participate. And with the Olympian, he has literally challenged the athletes to complete the circle. To be perfect. Anytime you find spirit in something, its pretty good, man, Singleton said. Its a pretty good thing.And to catch that spirit, you can see replicas of the Olympian, which are available for purchase, in Masters Gallery in Vail and C. Anthony Gallery in Beaver Creek.Brenda Himelfarb is a freelance writer based in Eagle-Vail. E-mail comments about this article to

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