The faces of a dozen iconic Canadian athletes have been captured in vibrant colourblocked portraits and are currently being showcased in Fernie.
The exhibit — Olympic Spirit: Canada’s Sports Heroes — is the Fernie Museum’s latest, making its debut on Saturday, November 29.
On loan from Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in Calgary, Alberta artist Gordon Milne, who created the pieces, was in Fernie for the grand unveiling and delivered a presentation to attendees, providing insight and background to several of the artworks from the collection.
The long-term project began in the late 90s but Milne said he really began taking it seriously in the early aughts (2000’s).
Having come from no previous painting background, Milne said he felt free to paint however he wanted to. As a long-time sports fan, he decided to reach out to athletes he had admired growing up.
Each of the portraits, said Milne, is an attempt to capture the personality of the athlete he is depicting.
A favourite of Milne’s is of famed speed skater, Catriona Le May Doan.
He explained that when sketching the drawing of Le May Doan (main image, top), the multiple Olympic medalist’s home was in utter chaos as multiple family members were over and tending to Le May Doan’s newly born child.
“There was so much chaos going around her, but she was so quiet and determinedly focused,” explained Milne.
The portrait ultimately cast Le May Doan against a background of Milne’s signature colour-blocking, transmitted in anarchic, chaotic colours to represent the disorderly situation he sketched her in.
Another painting, of swimmer Alex Baumman, is symbolically painted in many shades of blue for the waters that he swims in.
“I’m blown away by the real sense of personality [in these portraits],” said Ron Ulrich, director/curator of the museum. He commented, “These are larger-than-life personalities on larger-than-life canvases.”
On the significance of this particular collection appearing in Fernie, Ulrich said, “We’ve worked very hard to bring the institution to this point and having it recognized by a major national museum and to allow us to bring this caliber of work to Fernie speaks as a testament to all the volunteers who have worked for five years to bring this to fruition.”
The exhibit will appear in the Fernie Museum until March 28.