Feb. 10, 2009


By Gary Brown

This is just a sampling of some of the student-athletes who have submitted work to Champion magazine. To see samples from all the student-athletes whose work will appear in an art show at the 2009 Convention, visit NCAAChampionMagazine.org.

NCAA student-athletes can do much more than draw crowds, paint the black and make picture-perfect plays.







When Champion magazine canvassed the collegiate landscape for accomplished student-athlete artists, the response exceeded expectations. We received more than 100 quality nominations from a number of artistic media. The dozen student-athletes in the following pages (11 more are online) represent just a handful of what the NCAA population is all about: student-athletes who excel in something other than sports.

They are from Egypt, Hawaii, New York, Germany, California, West Africa, Canada, Illinois and Mexico. They play water polo, lacrosse, soccer, football, basketball and volleyball. They draw, paint, sculpt and click. But mostly, they possess the creative drive and energy typical of NCAA student-athletes, and they further diversify the pool that is college sports.

In an era in which a few critics question the curricula student-athletes choose to pursue, these student-athletes chose an artistic path not to escape challenge, but to challenge themselves. Some brought their talents with them to campus, while others cultivated them there. For many, their art is an expression of their athletics abilities.

Following are their works - and their stories (and their self-portraits, which are in many cases just as creative as the works themselves), which also will be on display at a special show during the NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C., January 13-17.
Kurt Gardiner

Greensboro College, senior, soccer







I have been working with my head as long as I can remember, building and drawing anything I could get my hands on. I was born into a military family and grew up with one brother. I have been painting and making ceramics for the last five years. I work with several different media; I paint with acrylic and watercolor. My acrylic paintings are abstract and have cubist elements. I use a lot of straight lines and color gradients as well as color blocks. I want the viewer to become lost inside the painting and try to find his or her way back out. My watercolors are tattoo-inspired and most tend to be traditional American and Japanese. I want people to see and understand that it's not only bikers and gangsters making tattoos but also that there are real artists doing it now and it should be treated as an art from. It is the goal of my work to show large-scale paintings with a never-ending color palette.

Allison LaChance

Rochester Institute of Technology, sophomore, rowing







Throughout my high school career, my gym teacher told us: "Do not let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do." These words inspire me to do my own personal best and to do everything I can to help others. I didn't find out that I needed an art portfolio for my major, interior design, until my senior year of high school. I had to create more than 20 pieces of art in less than 10 weeks to be accepted into RIT, where I have expanded my creativity and craftsmanship. My favorite medium is chalk pastels, which are a little messy, but hey, that is art. Yes, it was hard to juggle being a varsity athlete with school, but not impossible. In addition to expanding my artistic skills, my experiences at RIT have helped me to determine what I want to do with my interior design major when I finish college. I want a career where I can help those in third-world countries suffering from poverty and starvation. Some might wonder how an interior designer might help in those countries. I want to travel and build homes through the sponsorship of organizations that provide shelter and food for poverty-stricken populations. I have always put others' needs before my own, and I want to show less-fortunate people that there is a life for them where they no longer have to suffer.

Robin Hextrum

University of Southern California, senior, rowing







From a very young age, I was sketching and making small figures out of clay. As I grew older, I became more attracted to drawing and painting. I took tons of classes at my high school and at a community college during the summer. Once I got into USC, my artistic horizons expanded with courses ranging from drawing and painting to graphic design and 3-D animation. I find myself always circling back to painting. I love how paint is permanent, vivid, striking and challenging to master. I find painting, and art as a whole, to be a beautiful physical and academic discipline that can permeate all parts of life. My current work, for example, examines the overt sexualization of the female athlete. Through this, I am able to explore gender roles, sociology, sports politics, figure painting, collage art and human anatomy. I see art as a never-ending thread of my life, a way to share my ideas with people and a way to inspire others.

Adrienne Spivak

Occidental College, May 2008 graduate, soccer







I choose to depict the female athlete as an explicit challenge to traditional representations of women because portrayals of athletic women are noticeably absent from artistic imagery. I believe this is largely because participation in sport is itself a challenge to ideas of what constitutes acceptable practice for women. Athletes are, by necessity, self-assured, aggressive, physically strong, self-possessed, active agents in the making of their own bodies and identities. In short, female athletes embody many traits that most women depicted throughout art history do not. When I choose a subject, I do not bring a model into my studio and pose her. I go to the environment in which she trains (the gym, the boxing ring, the weight room) and watch her perform as she would in any other circumstance. My representation is determined by the activity specific to her sport and her individual movement. Throughout my time with her, I talk to her about her own experiences as an athlete. My relationship to my subject is one of camaraderie. I believe that by depicting these women I am telling a part of their story - a story that has largely been untold in painting. Even though there are significant differences between myself and my subjects, I closely identify with them. My process is ultimately self-reflective and my paintings are documents of my experience.

Karyn Ann Jordahl

Edgewood College, May 2008 graduate, volleyball







Photography is the one thing that I have loved since the third grade. Regardless of the subject matter, I can show people a different way of looking at things, or show them something they normally couldn't view. Photography is my creative release. Behind a camera, I find that my imagination is endless, compositions are easily seen and originality shines through. This is my inspiration. The motivation behind my art comes from the encouragement and support I have had from my family, friends and educators. I believe that photography can express a view of the world, explain beliefs, portray people, depict horrors and illustrate wonders. I am an empathic photographer - which I feel is represented in my work - and my ultimate goal is to capture as much emotion as possible within my images. I appreciate what life has to offer for art and what an artist has to offer the beholder.

Nubia Ivette Garcia

Montana State University-Bozeman, senior, basketball







Ever since I was a young girl in Mexico, athletics has been an outlet for me. Sports have always allowed me to express my true emotions and competitive nature. I realized photography allowed me to combine my passion for sports with a career in photography. I love to capture people's emotions, so I started to focus on portraits first, then sports. Although it was similar to my previous focuses, I found that sports photography was much more difficult because the perfect picture literally lasts only for a moment. With so much going in the scene, it is really hard to capture all of the action as well as the emotion of the moment. One of the things I love most about photography is that it can be used as a way to express the beauty of life. I feel as though beauty can be captured in people's everyday lives - an athlete in a photograph may not be as beautiful as a sunset, just like the unfinished photograph of construction is not as beautiful as a finished architectural project. But both photographs have stories behind them, and both stories involve the physical labor of creating what the photograph displays.

Anya Rosen

Carnegie Mellon University, sophomore, soccer







As a child, I had extremely poor eyesight, so naturally I didn't fit in with the other 4-year olds. My parents tell me that despite my exclusion, I was oblivious to the world around me and functioned happily within the boundaries of my own mind. I read books, wrote stories and drew pictures. The question isn't what inspired me to become creative, but who inspired me to become an artist. I wish I could give a straight answer to this: a person who was endlessly motivational, a moment that defined me, an experience that changed my outlook on the world forever. But the truth is, in my 18 years, I haven't yet experienced a climactic plot twist suitable for big-screen cinema. I'm an artist because of the education that I've received, because of the teachers who assigned extra homework for no reason, because my parents read to me when I was little, because they are sending me across the country to learn. The world has inspired me and I'm constantly looking for ways that it will continue to do so. I'm an artist because I've been given the opportunity and I took it.

Timothy C. Rusterholz

Virginia Commonwealth University, senior, cross country and track and field







My experience in the arts was limited before attending VCU. During my first year, I found a new motivation for my work and an understanding for contemporary art that continues to grow. My creativity is influenced by the tradition of figurative sculpture through the masterpieces of Bernini and Rodin. The contemporary persuasion of Folkert De Jong's chaotic foam figures, combined with the hyper-realistic plays of scale by Ron Mueck, also direct my inspiration for future works, expanding upon similar traditional references. I'm motivated to create a dialogue through my pieces while investigating how to make monumental figurative sculpture important in the modern world. At this developmental stage of my career, I am exploring the continuum of figurative sculpture and its relationship to cultural and social activity, while remaining honest to my own instincts. VCU has provided me with the resources to create work far from my prior expectations and continues to inspire me to advance in this field of study.

Julia Hopson

State University College at Fredonia, senior, track and field







While most parents were telling their children to stop doodling and do something productive, my mother was nurturing my creative side. She encouraged me to think outside the box and to not be satisfied doing what everyone else did. She told me that success should not be a measure of money, but of fulfillment. She, along with the rest of my family, has been the inspiration for everything I do. Among artists who have inspired me are Kara Walker, Alphonse Mucha and Toulouse Lautrec. I am also interested in contemporary Japanese art, Art Nouveau and graffiti art. I hope to be able to incorporate underground art (graffiti) into the fine arts. Much of my work depicts the process of self-discovery. I like to work with a variety of media, and I feel that exploring these material capabilities echoes the way we each discover ourselves. It is a never-ending process, but a very fulfilling journey. (See more of Julia Hopson's work at www.jaloe.deviantart.com.)

Sarah Lee

Chapman University, freshman, swimming and diving, water polo







All people have a gift, a way they perceive the world - whether auditory, kinesthetic or visual. I perceive the world as a vast array of visual elements - observing, exploring and expressing my perception of it through what I capture through my camera's viewfinder. Because of Jesus Christ and His many blessings, I am inspired to be creative by capturing the beauty of what surrounds me - especially through other people. I started getting into photography more seriously during my sophomore year of high school when I first got my digital SLR camera. Since then, photography has become my primary creative medium and it not only allows me to express what I observe but also serves as an invaluable learning tool. It helps me to be a creative problem solver and transfers to my visual intuitiveness of the videos and films I have created. (See more Sarah Lee photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/clashed/)

Dexter Larimore

The Ohio State University, junior, football








My mother is the one who first encouraged me to be creative. She taught students in art and pottery, and watching her made me want to try my own way of doing things, developing my own ideas. I am grateful that she provided such a role model for me, and I think that carried over into high school. I think I was an encouragement to a bunch of students who hadn't tried art. A lot of people thought art classes were kind of soft, but when they saw a football and wrestling guy like me in them, a lot of other people tried them out. I'm proud if I had an influence.

Kristina Baskett

University of Utah, senior, gymnastics








My first "real" experience with photography was when I was a senior at Mt. Rainier High School in Des Moines, Washington. I spent the last week of my senior year in the photography darkroom by myself, developing photos of all my friends and family. I was fascinated by photography and took another class as a freshman in college just for fun. It wasn't until I got my first SLR camera that I fell in love with taking photographs. I love being around people, and I have found that people are by far my favorite subject. There are no limitations to what you can do or create, and the possibilities are endless. I know I have an honest love for photography because I get the same feelings that I get from my sport of gymnastics, and it is exciting to know that I have another passion that I will be able to carry on after my gymnastics career. What I have learned in my sport is helping me discover my place in the photography world. I know I have a long way to go, but I hope photography takes me through as many life experiences and provides as much happiness as gymnastics has.

Derek Cheng

Johns Hopkins University, sophomore, cross country and track and field







My elementary school honored me with an award for my artistic skills when I graduated. In middle school, I started taking private lessons with Huixia Li. She taught me how to use drawing to help improve my sculpture and how to use sculpture to improve my drawing. For example, without learning how to draw, my sculptures would have been out of proportion; and without experience in sculpture, I would not have known how to use the angle of cross-hatching to represent depth in two-dimensional work. I am also very grateful for my art teachers at John Burroughs School, Donya Allison and Anne Martin, for expanding my depth in art. The art facilities there allowed them to expose me to much more art media, ranging from prints to wire sculptures. They also strengthened my fundamental understanding by having the class paint color wheels and write artist's statements that expressed our thoughts on our own work. But whether I drew for an assignment or sketched during the little free time I had, I gave the same attention to detail, enjoyed a similar sense of challenge and felt just as proud when I finished.