Local Artist Combines Football and Fine Art in Co-Curated Exhibition PIGSKIN


Image courtesy of PIGSKIN.

Contemporary art and football, you say? Two concepts that are rarely seen together can be viewed at PIGSKIN tonight, a group show exhibiting a fine and rare marriage between the sport’s culture and 32 of its contemporary artistic interpreters.

The show opens tonight, Friday, November 6 at Stay Gallery at 7:00PM.

Long Beach artist Jeff McMillan, the creative responsible for one of the POW! WOW! Long Beach murals and other local accolades, has teamed up with Los Angeles-based artist Jenna Gibson to bring PIGSKIN to full fruition, a group exhibition composed of works from 32 different contemporary artists who all have a thing for sports, specifically the NFL.

PIGSKIN is the debut exhibit of this curatorial duo and focuses on the recorded imagery of the culture that surrounds sports, as in “the culture that consumes America,” in regard to football. From the deep love and hatred between rival teams, cities and states to the logos, colors, mascots and the emotions and rush that each superfan expresses when watching a game, football arguably has “larger than life” characteristics that are immeasurable compared to other sports-oriented communities.

Each of the artists come from a different background, from fine art, illustration, animation and street art to the surf and skate industry, and were given free reign to create an original work of art that best showcased their NFL team of choice. A few of the artists’ work is shown in the gallery below, including Casey Weldon, Charles Bakofsk, Elliot Brown, Gary Maugrave, Harrison Freeman, Jeff Smith, Joe Vaux, Ken Garduno, Sean Norvet and Thomas Broersma. 

“This exhibition, no matter what the artistic outcome looks like, will be about football, and simultaneously, will be nothing about football,” the release stated.

We asked Jeff and Jenna a few questions about this cultural collision of a show to gather a bit of insight into where the idea came from, what they expected and how they think the final product turned out. Be sure to check out the opening, which opens tonight at Stay Gallery in Downey.

Jeff McMillan 49ersLong Beach Post: Where were you and what were you doing when the idea for PIGSKIN first entered your thoughts?

Jeff McMillan: Well, Jenna and myself are football fans, we’d talk about what happened over the season. One day we starting to throw around the idea of a show—maybe it was a good idea, [since] the world of art and sports rarely collide (besides the fan art and the immortalized famous plays that were made into art and collectibles).

We wanted to propose a show that invited 32 contemporary artists to (no pun intended here) “tackle” a team’s identity and really dip into that history—players, coaches, uniforms, logo, mascots, famous rivalries, etc.—that’s involved with every team. So that was the goal.

The risk we would run into, and actually we really looked forward to this one, was what to expect from the artists. There weren’t any limitations; we didn’t want to impose on any of the artists. The results are pretty amazing! We are very proud of this show and what we accomplished!

Sports and fine art is not a common combination, in my opinion. You bridge this gap often with your own work. Why is this important to you, to the show?

I grew up with sports in the house. I’d played sports, mainly baseball and basketball in leagues and at school; also with the neighborhood kids in parks and in the streets. Sports were always really important to me. As I aged, the stories and the history of mainly baseball, basketball and football fascinated me. And over time, these subjects slowly found a way into my work. Sports stories are larger than life. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I watched Hoosiers or The Natural.

Jenna and myself wanted to see a show that represented football from an artist’s and fan’s point of view. We wanted to see what would happen if we brought 32 contemporary artists together. That was the experiment. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s working.

Why was PIGSKIN a two-year process?

PIGSKIN took a while to mature; it went through several revisions, was put it on hold for five to six months and had a venue change. It was on hold until we secured a November opening date at Stay Gallery roughly a year ago. Looking back now, I think it really worked out for the best. I’m glad we waited to do this now. We didn’t want to rush it and just do it just to do a show; we needed all the pieces to fall into place and I think they did quite nicely.

This time of year is perfect for the opening. In the NFL now, every team is still in it. Every team still has playoff dreams. Well, most teams do. We didn’t want to do it during the pre-Super Bowl season or too early in the season. With Thanksgiving around the corner, football is the biggest thing on TV that weekend.

Lastly, it was a nice-size project. Working with 32 different artists, and making sure everyone is on track and keeping things organized took its time.

Jeff, what work did you create for the show and why?

I chose the 49ers as my team for the PIGSKIN Show. I grew up in the Bay Area, so I’ve been a 49ers fan ever since I can remember. I was stumped on what I wanted to do for the show. A painting of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young or Gold Rushing Pioneer seemed too obvious.

Then I remembered how much I enjoyed seeing Jim Harbaugh getting pissed off; the guy would literally have a tantrum on the sidelines. He was so intense with an explosive personality and his stable of Walmart Khakis and cleats were too good. People would rip on what he wore, but in the words of Bruce Dickinson portrayed by Christopher Walken, “I put on my Khakis one leg at a time, but when they’re on I win games.” He’s up there with Ditka as far as I’m concerned.

Jenna Gibson Bengals

Jenna, what work did you create for the show and why?

Jenna: I chose the Cincinnati Bengals because they are my team, and always have been. Along with loving the Tigers (who doesn’t—their helmets are the best!). All tiger stripes. The Bengals have been the joke of the NFL for 30 years, basically my entire life, so this is a special time for me and my team. We call them “The Cardiac Cats” because they’ve been giving us heart attacks for decades. Who Dey!!”

PIGSKIN opens on Friday, November 6 at 7:00PM and will run through December 5 at Stay Gallery. For more information about PIGSKIN, click here.  

Stay Gallery is located at 11140 Downey Avenue, Downey, CA 90241.


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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.