The naked truth

RICK MACDONNELL, SnowSeekers Inc.

With just one walk through Whistler Village, a person can marvel at and take photos of a dozen sculptures and statues.
There are the obvious favourites, like the massive Olympic rings just outside of Medals Plaza and the Inukshuk in the heart of the Village, but there are also ice sculptures, wood carvings, and granite statues to be found in nearly every nook and cranny.
In spite of this wealth of artistic creativity, one piece in particular has stood (its very muscular) head and shoulders above all others in terms of attention and significance: Slapshotolus, a sculpture by Edmonton artist Edmund Haakonson.
 Located at the Pride House in the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre, the sculpture has garnered nearly universal acclaim for its unification of both life and sport, gay and straight, serious and humourous.
The piece shows how these disparate elements can all existent in not just a single work, but a single being, and typifies authentic human experience.
"Slapshotolus is a physical representation of the philosophical ideal of living one’s life with truth and honesty to one's self," Haakonson said.
"The sculpture is a visual symbol of living without armor, the idea that one who lives a noble life does not require more protection, does not need to seek cover because there is nothing to hide from or be ashamed of."
Works of art, be it paintings, sculptures, novels, etc., are often created with this same intention towards eloquence and expressiveness, but it takes rare talent – genius, really – to achieve the desired effect. With Slapshotolus, Haakonson has done that and then some.
The power, grace, courage, and purity of Olympic sport is on full display here. It's not just a stunning example of homosexual expression, it's more so an Olympic expression.

"The sculpture is classical Greek imagery with a modern makeover. The individualized body (as opposed to the stylized conventions of ancient Greek art) recognizes our culture's focus on individual achievement, whereas in the ancient world the emphasis was on the collective.
"I've kept the body nude to acknowledge that connection with ancient Greek art. The nude form symbolizes purity, innocence, and truth. I chose the hockey player because, well, it's Canada. Come on."
Haakonson has felt overwhelmed with the positive feedback he's received for his sculpture, which took roughly seven months and an estimated 500 man hours to create. Given the statue's possibly controversial ... bravado .... Haakonson could not be happier with its reception.
"There's something absurd about a hockey player wearing only skates, gloves, and a helmet. Even though ancient nude art makes sense to us, and playing hockey makes sense, the combination of the two is funny.
"But I've been so happy to see that people haven't fixated on that, that they are able to marry the serious and the humourous to appreciate the work as a whole."
Before arriving in Whistler, I imagined that my most profound and enduring memories would be much the same as everyone else's. Instead, it's been some of the more unusual, unexpected experiences that have come to define my time at the 2010 Winter Games.
Meeting Haakonson and receiving a personal viewing of Slapshotolus is another in a long line of unique snapshots that have formed into an amazing, life-changing collage. It's not a four-foot statue made of bronze, but it's just as beautiful.

Stay tuned to www.snowseekers.ca/olympicnews for daily blogs, videos and more throughout the Olympics.

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