Other Writing Index

A Brush With Greatness

With the sport of synchronized diving headed for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the International Olympic Committee has recently announced that painting will debut as an Olympic sport at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Unfortunately, it has also been reported that the United States Olympic Committee plans to "redeploy funds to sports that traditionally produce the highest medal counts, while paring funds to less successful sports" (N. Y. Times, 04/13/00). It is estimated that the U. S. painting team will receive only $3,247.29 in development grants, which is $109.65 less than originally budgeted.

Bob Ross of Public Television's "The Joy of Painting", who has been posthumously named chairman of the United States Olympic Painting Committee, plans to do everything within his powers to preserve the integrity of the painting program.

Tickets will go on sale for the Olympic Painting venue, Room 106 at The Joseph Smith Elementary School in Salt Lake City, in August, 2000. In light of lingering allegations that district officials accepted money and sex from Joseph Smith P.T.A. moms in order to secure the school's bid for the painting competition, P.T.A. president Marge Petersen had only this to say about District Five manager Brett Tingey: "You want me to say I never had a drink with the man? I'm friendly with a couple of his wives. That's all. Christ Almighty!"

The Painting competition will consist of two mandatory elements, the compulsory Still Life With Fruit And Dead Partridges which will account for one third of the total score and the Free Paint which will account for the final two thirds of the score and will consist of one of three painting styles to be chosen on a random basis every four years by a person unrelated to anything. These three styles are: Seascapes, Animal Portraiture, and In the Style of the Artist Ross Bleckner.

In the week since the International Olympic Committee's announcement that "Seascapes" was to be the subject of the Free Paint in Salt Lake, athletes from all over the world have converged on the Seascape Training Facility or the SeaTrainFac, in Marblehead, Massachusetts where they can train year round in palette position, the many uses of the versatile burnt sienna, and staying within the lines.

There had been some controversy over whether Ross Bleckner would have been allowed to compete for a place on the Olympic Painting Team had "In the Style of the Artist Ross Bleckner" been chosen as the subject of the Free Paint. This complex issue will surely be revisited by the committee in 2006 or 2010, although Mr. Bleckner has issued a statement that he would only consider competing under the condition that the sport's financing was restored in full.

Judging of Olympic Painting will be based on a combination of elements. They are: technical merit, artistic expression and, in the Free Paint, wave height. Fifty percent of an athlete's score will reflect the combined political interests of the Eastern European Painting Cartel or the EEPCart, and fifty percent will be based on intangibles.

Drugs will be prohibited in Painting as they are in other Olympic sports with the exception of heroin, which is not considered a performance enhancing drug in the painting world. Crack cocaine will, however, be made available to judges and spectators with a prescription during the two day competition.

In keeping with Olympic tradition, television coverage of all painting events will commence immediately after the winners have been announced by local news anchors and will be presented on public access television in a montage format to music from The Land Before Time IV. Half-hour profiles of all athletes will air instead of live coverage, with intermittent updates of Americans in competition, particularly those in last or next to last place.

Already some favorites have emerged from the tens of U.S. Olympic hopefuls. Janet Whitehead of Jupiter, Florida, a former Junior National Champion known for her portraits of wallabies, has been training vigorously at SeaTrainFac under the expert tutelage of Ronald "Ron" Johannson, a shrimper from Camden, Maine, himself renown for his uncanny proficiency in forecasting Nor'Easters. Having most likely lost her 2002 grant, Janet will receive much needed financial support from a benefit performance of Man of La Mancha at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater. Stan and Shana Eisenberg, the twins from Scranton, Pennsylvania, will be spending this winter at Lake Placid with Coach Ekaterina Covandova-Smithee where they will practice cloud reflection and work with a wave machine before entering the demanding SeaTrainFac program. It should be noted that Stan was cleared of charges that he painted by numbers at the World Games in Bucharest. Finally, if anyone has Olympic gold in his future it is Zachy Whistler of Venice Beach, California. Zachy, who hails from a long line of competitive painters and is known the world over for his credo "Paint 'till you faint", recently came back from a nasty index finger sprain while painting a clown at the Western Regionals.

The U.S. Painting Team will be announced, following the November trials, at the Art Mart in Utica, New York.

Also in contention will be athletes from two or three other countries. Favored to win at least silver if not bronze or gold in the compulsory Still Life With Fruit And Dead Partridges competition is Rudolfo Castellenata Jr. from Spain, whose father, Rudolfo Sr., is a petty criminal infamous in the province of St. M--, north of Barcelona, for poaching quail, grouse and other wild fowl from the private estate of Señor Saverio di Banderas, a local grower of Bosc pears. Though only seventeen years old, Rudolfo Jr. has seen a lot of dead birds and is no stranger to fruit. Another front-runner is the diminutive, much revered Minnie Mikimoti of Japan. At four feet, six inches, Minnie is the shortest athlete in the three year history of competitive painting. Whether her small stature will be a factor at Salt Lake remains to be seen. Unfortunately, she does not meet the height requirement at SeaTrainFac. Also worthy of mention is Laddie "Saul" Mac Namara of Edinburgh, Scotland, an experienced renderer of craggy shorelines whose work is regarded as a paradoxical combination of unabashedly exuberant and obliquely subtle. There is some concern, however, that Mac Namara will not be permitted to compete because the Eastern European judges do not know what a paradox is.

Still currently under consideration by the International Olympic are synchronized freestyle skiing and Shakespearean acting on ice.