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Olympic sculptures

October 25, 2013

Last month we introduced our readers to a brief history of the relationship between Fine Arts and the modern Olympics, an often overlooked aspect of the Games. Moments before submitting our article, we had a researcher contact us inquiring about the sculptures and in order to fulfill his research request, staff searched our photograph collection and found out more information on the sculpture program.

In 1980 the National Fine Arts Committee organized a broad spectrum of visual and performing arts activities which took place in Lake Placid during the Winter Olympics. One such exhibition was a series of permanent sculptures placed strategically throughout the community. Created by young, emerging artists, the Public Sculpture commissions addressed traditional notions of sculpture in a modernistic way. The works aimed to memorialize the events and experiences of the Olympics, without directly referencing physical context, place, or time. The result is a trail of sculptural monuments throughout the community which provide both locals and tourists lingering mementos of the 1980 Games over 30 years later.

To begin a journey on the Olympic Art Trail, we suggest one first head towards Old Military Road, near the Olympic Ski Jumps. In a vacant lot across from the cemetery stands the sculpture "30 Below" by Nancy Holt. This 30 foot, red brick, open-ended tower sets an imposing scene on the surrounding landscape. Holt attempts to deal with the idea of "monument" by focusing the entire universe on this particular spot in Lake Placid. More literally, the tower was erected at this particular location based on cosmological coordinates and compass points, while its arches are aligned with the North Star. As an interactive sculpture, viewers are encouraged to enter the tower. Once inside, the viewer's perspective changes from that of an expansive, open field, to that of a narrow confinement, almost as if looking through a lens or the wrong end of a telescope.

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The next stop on the Olympic Art tour is the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA). In the middle of the parking lot stands Linda Howard's "Maya." An attempt to probe the levels of consciousness and meditative states, this brushed aluminum steel sculpture stands alone and appears to be quite simple but becomes more complex as the viewer examines it. There is also a smaller sculpture on the LPCA grounds, and though often overshadowed, should not be overlooked. Created by Ken Stepman, this untitled sculpture represents a jungle-gym like structure and embodies the spirit of the Olympic Winter Games.

After that, travel down Main Street, toward Peacock Park, along the shores of Mirror Lake. In between the toboggan chute and the village beach house stands Joel Pearlman's black metal sculpture "High Peaks." Using welded steel, Pearlman explores the concept of a "monument" through contrast between artificial and natural. The towering structure reflects the trees which surround it; while the smaller, welded on sections curve outward to imitate branches. The more geometrical features of the piece depict the disparity between the natural and the man-made.

The final stop of the sculpture tour ends at the Olympic Center where Howard Buchman's "Vans for Ruth" still stands, mere feet away from the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. This perplexing structure built of scored granite, emblematic of ruins, is contrasted against spiked pieces of iron and suggests the tension between man's will and the inevitable destruction of time.

Much of the work produced for the National Fine Arts Committee was created by young artists that challenged the traditional themes of art. The sculptures are a great example of how art can make the viewer question their own theories of what it may look like to them. If you are intrigued about Olympic Art and are curious to see what works of art we have in our collection, please visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Ironman Sunday. For more information about the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, see our Facebook page at:



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