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Arts and Science Council, Charlotte Arena - Charlotte NC, 2005



One inch porcelain tile
27' x 102' - Trade Street
16' x 62' - Fifth Street

The Trade Street Wall recognizes the many layers of culture that comprise Charlotte's basketball history: college, textile mill, high school and YMCA. Joining Hanes Hosiery's Sara Parker Stroud from the 1950’s textile league are contemporary college athletes from Davidson College and Johnson C. Smith University, both local Charlotte area colleges. It may look like the Davidson player and the JC Smith player are in the same game, gazing upwards for the ball, but they are not. The images derive from two separate photographs. What interests me is their expressions. The ball is in the air. The result of the play might be points for the team, or it might not. In a wider context, the imagery of these two players communicates expectation, uncertainty, even hope. Another aspect this design is that the three main figures are seen as connected in proximity and yet diverse in the color and design of their uniforms, and by race and gender.

In designing an artwork ostensibly about basketball it's extremely important to me that the artwork communicates on multiple levels. It's this layered meaning that is evocative of more than just the game at hand. When we play a game we have license to act out all of the emotions connected with competition: joy, sadness, frustration, success or failure. If the design can resonate these more universal associations then the project an become a work of art. So, that expression of expectation and hope is key to the significance of this design, and it refers to the anticipation that we all have in our own lives that things will go our way.

The background imagery includes imagery from an early twentieth century African American college women (Livingstone College, Salisbury, NC, 1934), YMCA basketball (Cannon Y, Kannopolis, NC 1936), and early twentieth century public high school girls (Central High School, Charlotte, 1926. The team images reinforce the fact that the game is a team effort, and that there is a long legacy of men and women’s teams of racial diversity that are recognized.


For the Fifth Street Wall a contemporary women’s player is represented by UNC Charlotte player Sakellie Daniels. Her pose communicates an intensity of focus and determination. She is oised to pass the ball off to a teammate, or perhaps she’s acting out the mythic idea of her role I the game for the camera. In that sense, photography is also implicated as part of the message of sports in our culure.

This also relates to Sara Parker Stroud’s pose in the Trade Street Wall. Daniels’ straight ahead glaring expression is a strong counterpoint to the other main figure in the design, the out-of-focus free thrower at the left. The other main element is the imagery of the fans which depicts their gestural participation in the game.

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