The Winter Olympics has come to Knoxville – in the form of bronze sculptures.
The McClung Museum has pulled three pieces of artwork from storage in celebration of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The three sculptures all feature some form of winter sport.
Combining his passion for art and sports, Robert Tait McKenzie, a former professor of physical education and a student of sports medicine, created the athletic sculptures.
"He was not an artist by profession," said Debbie Woodiel, assistant director and museum educator at McClung Museum. "But his favorite avocation was art."
McKenzie's sculptures captured the human body in action. After observing athletes partaking in their sport of choice, McKenzie would then portray each through the classical method of sculpting. Fittingly, McKenzie's method of sculpting resembles Greek and Roman artwork.
The three bronze pieces currently displayed for the exhibit feature various forms of competitive ice skating sports.
"All of his athletic sculptures are always very active," Woodiel said. "They're not some athlete standing there, there's always somebody doing something."
McKenzie's sculptures accurately capture the essence and excitement of the athletes.
"They're shown in various poses that an observer would see in an actual competition," Woodiel said.
The sculptures currently displayed represent only a small fraction of McKenzie's body of work. Donated to UT by the family of Joseph B. Wolffe, a physician from Pennsylvania, the complete collection features more than 100 bronze statues, medals, sketches and plaques.
Sharing McKenzie's dual passion for sports and art, Wolffe slowly acquired most of McKenzie's athletic artwork. This work has been in UT's possession since 1973.
A few of McKenzie's sculpted medals have been used as awards for sports competitions. A medal for the Skating Club of New York, featuring a figure skater, is one of the pieces displayed in the exhibit. The other two pieces both depict speed skating. One of the speed skating pieces, named "Brothers of the Wind," is a scaled down bronze of a larger sculpture currently on display at the Olympic Oval in Calgary, the Canadian host city of the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Due to limited temporary gallery space, the exhibit will only be on view for a short amount of time.
"These kind of small, gem-like mini-exhibits that we do are a chance for everyone on campus to see something new out of our collection," said Catherine Shteynberg, assistant curator and web and new media coordinator at McClung. "And of course it's the Winter Olympics and they'll be ending soon, so it's kind of fun to get in the spirit by coming to see some art that has been inspired by winter sports.
"As interesting as football and basketball are, it's kind of fun to see athletes performing different sports and depictions of that as well."
The Art of the Winter Olympics exhibit will be on display through Feb. 24.