Matt Small’s largest installation pays tribute to Jesse Owens, Eugene, Oregon 2018

The 20x21EUG Mural Project is an initiative of the City of Eugene Cultural Service’s Public Art Program to create 20 or more world-class outdoor murals in Eugene between now and the 2021 IAAF World Championships. This is the first time the World Championships will be held in the United States.

The concept of a large scale public art project such as 20x21EUG came from Isaac Marquez, Public Art Manager for the City of Eugene in 2016. Some of the artists who have visited so far include Chinese street artist Hua Tunan, the Godfather of Stencil Art, Blek le Rat Hyuro and Hush.

British artist Matt Small was invited to contribute to the 20x21EUG Mural Project, and created his largest public work to date during his visit to Eugene.  Matt Small uses found objects sourced from the urban environment as the canvas on which to base his portraits, thus re-invigorating discarded items, and people.

Matt Small created a 8-foot by 8-foot sculptural portrait of track and field legend James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens (September 12, 1913 – March 31, 1980), Jessie Owens was an American track and field athlete and made sporting history when he broke five world records and equalled a sixth in the space of 45 minutes in 1935 … which has been called “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport“.

The portrait sculpture is comprised of found objects, metal, and wood. It even includes some pieces of the recently dismantled, historic Hayward Field, the University of Oregon venue that earned Eugene it’s nickname of Track Town, USA

The portrait of Jesse Owens was created in a makeshift studio and wheeled through downtown Eugene.

The Jesse Owens sculpture was then installed on Urban Therapeutic at 749 Willamette Street.

To support the weight, Eugene artist Lee Imonen constructed a frame to mount the sculpture on the wall. The metal sculpture not only captures the light and shadows that comprise the face, but reflects the passage of time as the sun hits it throughout the day.



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