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Artist Statement - Athletes

As an artist I draw a parallel between arts and athletics - the resilience, endurance, passion and practice or skill required to master a difficult discipline with all the pitfalls.

The works focus on the athlete's facial expressions as manifestations of intense emotions, e.g. tension or relief, joy or despair.

The works reveal aspects of the human body during the athletic activity, e.g. muscular strain and tensions, and capture the athletes in moments of balance or concentration/focus -  exploring the narrow and uncertain line between success and failure.

My portrait paintings of disabled athletes celebrate their accomplishments and pay tribute to their fighting spirit/resilience and the power of sport to inspire recovery/support rehabilitation (physically, psychologically & socially) and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who have suffered from injury or illness, or were born with a disability.

Capturing the athletes in moments of high tension, focus or emotive states, my works explore the athletes’ physical challenges and strains, their tenacity, concentration, determination, but also their dignity and unconquerable spirit. Omitting details, such as names or numbers on athletes’ banners/labels or specific context in the background, draws the viewer’s focus to the human figure and the athletes’ facial expressions alone.

Against the background of the Nazis’ discrimination against people with disabilities (calling for their sterilization, labelling them 'life unworthy of life', 'useless eaters' or highlighting their ‘burden on society’), which eventually escalated into the murder of them as part of their eugenics and euthanasia programme, today's sportive opportunities for disabled athletes, their spirit of competition, sporting excellence and inspiring determination, are a remarkable change and a celebration of hope, perseverance and lives worth living.

Seventy years ago, in 1948, the first athletics day for disabled athletes ('Stoke Mandeville Games’) took place in London (coinciding with the Summer Olympics), organized by a refugee from Nazi Germany, Dr Ludwig Guttman. He treated spinal cord injuries of Word War II veterans and sport was a central element of the rehabilitation system that he introduced to restore hope and a sense of purpose to lead active lives again. Later, people with disabilities caused by industrial accidents, many of them miners from the north of England, also joined. Today's Paralympics or (since 2014) Invictus Games for example, evolved from these early competitions.

© Uta Feinstein 2012-2023 - All Rights Reserved

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