New York, NY (PRWEB) May 14, 2009
When an artist brings a story together visually it can be a great reminder of the past as well as a lesson for the future. The old saying, ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ comes to mind when gazing upon artist Olan Montgomery’s homage to the people and historical moments of the Kentucky Derby.
The painting, “MERIwether” named so after the founder of the Kentucky Derby, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., and the artist’s altruistic view of a world without a class system, is a 55x55x1.5 inch mixed media painting depicting an unlikely group of individuals celebrating the wins of this years Kentucky Derby winner ‘underdog’ Jockey Calvin Borel on his horse Mine that Bird along with 2008 winner Kent Desormeaux on Big Brown at Churchill Downs. The art was created because of a desire by artist Olan to shed positive light on a history he feels is “slowly fading away.”
According to the artist his true inspiration came from a small act by Calvin Borel at this year’s derby despite the fact the artist had begun the project in November last year after the death of his father, Gary Montgomery.
“Historically men have fought their way to freedom finding new hope for their children. When Calvin kissed those roses then held them to up the sky in honor of his parents I realized how important the creation of this art was to me personally. My father, a Kentucky man himself, worked hard all his life so his children could have it better… The African American Jockeys of the first Kentucky Derby were emancipated slaves trying to better their own lives in a sport they had worked in even before their freedom, and even that right was taken away from them when new racist laws entered the picture around 1890 keeping them from riding,” explains Olan.
“Calvin Borel, Oliver Lewis, William Walker, Issac Murphy, James Winkfield, Willie Simms, Alonzo Clayton and James Perkins are a testaments to all our father’s hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow, maybe that is the true American Dream and definitely the inspiration enough for the painting,” says Olan speaking about the freed riders of the Kentucky Derby’s early years.
The artist is pretty on target about some of these little known facts concerning the Kentucky Derby, an event that has come to reflect that ‘dream’ even more so today with a history rich in stories of men like the African American jockeys he describes and Calvin Borel.
In fact according to Smithsonian.com in an article entitled “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” by Lisa K. Winkler, after the Civil War, many freed riders already rooted in the sport of horse racing, “soon took center stage at the newly organized Kentucky Derby.”
Throughout time the “American Dream” of being a self-made man is something more easily said than done depending on your timing. In 1875 when the Kentucky Derby ran it’s first race, it did not matter the what color a man’s skin was when he was riding that horse to victory, however by the late 1890′s segregation had taken hold of horse racing and with the “separate but equal” doctrine a new racism was born. Olan’s painting touches on this reality with the faces of these men immortalized in the work of art.
“I want to honor every aspect of how this race came to be and I think it’s about time we had a piece of art that reflected this most wonderful history. I think about understanding, appreciating and having change now since Obama became President and I can only hope that my art will honor the truths buried in our history. I am changed from what I’ve read about the history of the Kentucky Derby, and for the better. I no longer see it as just a horse race, it’s a place where the hopes and dreams of men can be found and inspired,” said Olan.
In true Pop Art fashion, some of the celebrities pulled from their actual appearances at the Kentucky Derby from throughout time standing together include Frank Sinatra, Donald Trump, Sigourney Weaver, Joe Namath, Prince Rainer of Monaco, Bob Hope, Claudette Colbert, Admiral “Bull” Hasley, President and Mrs. Nixon, Bob Hope, Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Tily, Kid Rock, Tony Bennett, Jessica Simpson, Angelica Houston, Anna Nicole Smith, Dennis Hooper, Queen Elizabeth II, J. Edgar Hoover and even American horse owner and Trainer Bob Baffert with his wife and son among others.
“There is something so wonderful and different about the message of the painting. When you realize the that these celebrities are standing next to people that might not have been allowed to look at or even stand in “Millionaire’s Row.” You start to think maybe there shouldn’t even be one,” states Betty Velez as she views the artist’s work.
“Last year I traveled to Kentucky several times because my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer & I had not visited there since my childhood. I am an artist and I think in terms of visuals with everything including the ‘blue grass.” Now that I’ve created this painting I can see the Victorian look of Helena Modjeska, known to be the first ‘celebrity’ to attend the derby or ‘Soup’ who was 15, you need to look a the painting to find him,” states Olan.
“My father was an underdog like the men who fought for their freedom and Calvin who had odds of 50 to 1 — no one standing in your corner can be a lonely place for a man,” Olan takes a breath and stands up touching the art, “painting this piece was an honor to my father, those men and every under dog who has ever ran his own race in life despite the odds — all of them masterpieces in their own right deserving of immortality through art,” states Olan.
About the Artist:
The artist’s work is a visual stimulation to remind people to simply look at one another and see through the layers of a complex personality. According to Olan, “In our world today fame and pop stardom are sometimes reduced to ’5 seconds of fame,’ In some respects we can blame or thank the mass media for contributing to a jaded social value of ‘been there, done that.’ Regardless, my work is an effort to capture an essence within that fleeting context and place it into a perpetual freeze-frame.”
Olan is also known for his tribute to local bank tellers at Chase Manhattan in New York written about by the New York Times in an article entitled “Tellers in Tangerine” published in 2003 where the artist created art about a segment of society asking the viewer to simply “look more closely at the individual standing beside you.” Olan has created art of many noted celebrities and been written about and published by magazines like NY Arts, The Village Voice and Heeb by writers such as pop culture guru Michael Musto.
Olan further states about his art, “My work has a simple message: see the individual through color and light. By doing so, one’s individuality can be more fully understood.”
For additional information on artist Olan Montgomery please visit his website at http://www.lipstickchic.com or his agent’s website http://www.VogelPOP.com), contact STACY VOGEL at at 908.439.9537 for inquiries about the painting or to arrange a personal interviews with the artist, Olan Montgomery.
VOGEL POP L.L.C.
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