Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2008 US Olympic Triathlon Team Poster

Last week I had the pleasure of viewing the official poster for the 2008 US Olympic Triathlon Team painted by University of Massachusetts Lowell law professor, District Court Judge, and accomplished triathlete Judge Michael Jones. I have had the pleasure of working out, running, and racing with him over the years, both back at UML and now with MVS.

This was Judge Jones' second poster for the Olympics, with the first one coming in 2004 (view the 2004 US Olympic Triathlon poster article here). A great deal of research, respect, and artistic vision went into this piece. I have included the official artistic statement below and have received permission from Judge Jones to include these fine images of his work.


This poster seeks to blend traditional Chinese painting principles with modern art. It has not been an easy process for a western trained artist to fully understand the orientations of Chinese cultural painting. The Chinese ask: "How can one be the father of painting without reading ten thousand books and traveling ten thousand miles?" I did my best to follow this approach by viewing Chinese art displayed in some of the world's leading museums, speaking to Chinese art historians, and reading literature on how to understand the philosophy, techniques and history of Chinese art.

There have been periods of western art where painting was a handmaid of religion, or where the personal ego of the artist was exemplified in expressionism, romanticism or surrealism, or where art became merely an imitation of its subject. Contrast this perspective with the Chinese notion that art is the "wedding of spirit and matter." In other words a painting about the sport of triathlon must capture the essential spirit of participating in a triathlon.

There are two basic modes of expression: words and images. Chinese painters from the past frequently felt compelled to inscribe poetry on their paintings. I elected to follow this approach by working an inspirational poem into this poster. The poem also serves as an important source for the symbolic lines, shapes, colors and calligraphy depicting the three sports of a triathlon.

The fleeting glimpse of a triathlete swimming, biking and running could never reveal all of the effort and training required from our Olympic competitors. Yet, the essential feeling and meaning of "being" a triathlete is hopefully captured by the poster's poetry and visual imagery. The color red is meant to excite. The color black is meant to calm. A triathlete competes in harmony with nature. The birds in flight signify good fortune for all the competitors in Beijing.

The 150 limited edition posters are printed on Epsom Textured Fine Art paper. The original oil painting on canvas from which the posters were reproduced measures 40" by 30". In keeping with the essential spirit of this official USA Olympic Triathlon Team poster authorized by the U.S.O.C. for the 2008 Olympic Games I have signed the poster two ways: my traditional western name and a name given to me by a Chinese artist that means "centered and balanced," "thoughtful" and "full of heart." I will try to continue to live by the body and spirit of these character words.

Triathlete and Judge Michael E. Jones 2008

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