When I was asked to do a painting of Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills for the World Olympic Museum, I immediately knew depicting the power of the moment after his victory, showing the depths of his emotions, was what I had to do.
In capturing the emotion of the moment, I knew it would involve a journey, a destination and a memory. Billy has always said it is the journey not the destination that empowers us, and it’s the daily decisions we make in life not just our talent that choreographs our destiny. I then had to ask the question: What is memory? How can I depict it in a painting?.......Smoke!
In this piece you see smoke and fire creating an atmosphere in front of Billy. They represent the Olympic torch as well as represent two of the elements used in traditional Lakota sacred ceremonies.
Billy, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, is shown half in and half out of a circle or drum. This characterizes him taking the virtues and values of his culture, tradition and spirituality and transferring them into a current day positive pursuit.
Mount Olympus can be seen in the background along with Grecian columns representing the journey of the Olympic Games. This also represents the memory of Billy’s journey from the Black Hills of South Dakota ( which to the Lakota is the heart of everything that is) to the top of Mt. Olympus.
The Olympic rings have been deconstructed and connected to a dream catcher. Billy was taught the dream catcher catches the bad dreams and filters the good dreams through.
I have outlined Billy in blue. In his Lakota culture, blue illustrates truth and virtue. The small figures you see on the right are indigenous people exalting in his victory.
If you look at this painting in its entirety, it includes at least one color from all flags of all nations. The most sacred saying of the Lakota is mitakuye oyasin (we are all related). To Billy, the Olympic Games are synomous with global unity through the dignity, character and beauty of global diversity, the future humankind.
Lastly, you will see near the dream catcher the reference to Billy: 10K 64