Like a War Eagle, Cameron Newton flew into the face of adversity en route to a dominant season for himself and his Auburn teammates, and he will be honored at the United States Sports Academy with a painting from a man who went to battle for his fellow artists.
Rick Rush of Tuscaloosa, Ala., the 2011 American Sports Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) Sport Artist of the Year, painter, will unveil an authorized painting of Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, highlighting an art show at the Academy’s Daphne campus at 5 p.m. Thursday, 6 January.
Rush will be honored along with ASAMA’s two other Sport Artists of the Year – Harry Weber, sculptor and John Rezner, ceramics – at the annual art show honoring the annually-decorated artists.
The illustration of the Auburn quarterback will soon be released as a poster. While Newton, the Academy’s 2010 Alabama Male Athlete of the Year, may have inspired many Auburn fans to bellow out the University’s famous “War Eagle” battle cry, painting Newton is not the biggest feather in Rush’s cap.
The man known as “America’s Sports Artist” will be forever remembered by his contemporaries as the man who went to court and successfully fought for their right to capture the images of those who make history, in sport and otherwise.
Rush won a significant court battle for his right to draw, paint, and sell the images of star athletes when Tiger Woods sued for royalties on a painting Rush made of the golfer when he won the 1997 Master’s golf tournament.
In 2009, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Rush’s favor, finding the paintings to be a form of artistic expression, and the protection of such works under the First Amendment to outweigh whatever interest the state may have in enforcing the right of publicity.
While college football’s most outstanding player for this season will be honored on canvas, professional baseball will also be celebrated through the work of two other honored artists.
Fairhope artist John Rezner, known for his Face Jugs, jugs shaped with an individual’s facial features, will be displaying such ceramic depictions of baseball legends at the show. Rezner has now been commissioned to make face jugs of 10 famous baseball players for the Academy’s “Mr. Baseball” campaign, a world-wide online vote to name a new baseball statue that is to be erected in front of the Academy next year. The Mr. Baseball statue will be created by another Fairhope artist, Bruce Larsen, whose well-known scrap metal statues of sports figures already decorate the outside lawn of the Academy’s campus.
Harry Weber is also one to artistically celebrate the national pastime. The 36 most noted works he has displayed at major venues within the last 10 years include 10 statues displayed at the St. Louis Cardinals’ newest version of the Busch Stadium. The statues are of legendary Cardinals players, including Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith.
A statue of Hall of Fame outfielder and noted base stealer Lou Brock will be unveiled at the field that bears his name at Lindenwood University in the future. Weber donated a maquette of that statue to ASAMA, and it will be displayed at the art show.
The Missouri artist and decorated Vietnam veteran also donated to the Academy a series of sketches depicting scenes from World War II, The Korean War, Desert Storm, the Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan in an exhibit entitled “A Warrior’s Sketchbook.” The sketches were sold, with the proceeds going to the Academy’s Wounded Warrior scholarship program, which provides scholarships for those injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also presented the Academy with a bronze statue of a soldier holding up an American flag, entitled “Wounded Warrior.”
While baseball is a common interest that binds Rezner and Weber, Kung Fu is a common bond between Rezner and Rush.
In 2006, Rezner presented a Face Jug of the Abbot of the Shaolin Temple, leader of millions of Shaolin Buddhists. He presented the jug to the Abbot when he was in Daphne receiving an honorary doctorate. The jug is now on display in China.
“I presented (the jug) as a symbol of our two cultures merging,” Rezner said.
The Abbot has been leading a world-wide revival of Kung Fu, the mother of all martial arts, and that will be a subject of a book soon to be published by the Academy. The book will feature illustrations of Shaolin Kung Fu that were donated to the Academy by Rush.
The Sport Artist of the Year Award is presented annually to an individual who captures the spirit and life of sport so that future generations can relive the drama of today’s competition. The recipient may use a variety of art media to depict the breadth and scope of both the agony and the ecstasy of sport.
Founded in 1984, ASAMA, a division of the United States Sports Academy, is dedicated to the preservation of sports art, history, and literature. The ASAMA collection is composed of more than 1,500 works of sport art across a variety of media, including paintings, sculptures, assemblages, prints, and photographs.
The museum is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.