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This series of paintings are based upon posters my brothers and I had on our bedroom wall while we were growing up. The acrylic on canvas paintings were all executed in 2014. The paintings show a celebrated sports icon and kids emulating the athlete. As children growing up, we were heavily influenced by sports. There was not 24/7 media coverage as it now, but still sports were a heavy influence. My father followed the local New York and Philadelphia teams. He would bring home 5 or 6 Sunday newspapers and we would immerse ourselves in them on late Sunday mornings. Sports were on the television and radio simultaneously sometimes. The Olympics were a much anticipated event. All Star games meant late bed on a school night.
We subscribed to Sports Illustrated and my dad would bring home the Sporting News. My mom would also enjoy baseball on television. ESPN was just starting out. Superstation national games would come out of Atlanta and Chicago. Living between Philadelphia and New York with repetition of the networks, on top of the local TV channels is a sports fans sweet dream.
Indelible moments were etched upon us and many other Americans. Aaron hitting home run 715 was a national event. The Miracle on Ice demanded our admiration. Joe Namath was a multimedia star, football, television, motorcycle movies and gossip pages. Nadia Comaneci floored the crowd at the Olympics with unforeseen perfection and Dorothy Hamill was a true American Sweetheart. Pele brought flavor to soccer in America, and had the original one word name. Evel Knievel was national event, a daredevil with two hours in primetime to make a 30 second motorcycle jump.
These were the sports figures that made lasting impressions on me. These memories are still with me now. Researching these athletes and looking at the original films with my children, who were seeing them for the first time, I realized that they still held up. These athletes were still stars, they are still phenomenal. They are still inspirational.
Can today’s athletes achieve and maintain Icon status? It is definitely much more difficult today. With all the media scrutiny and analysis it may not be as possible to be an Icon, to be as inspirational as this group was to me, but it should be.

Thomas Kelly
October 2014