Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brushing up on history

Portrait artist adds 2008 title team to mural

Portrait artist John Martin, a Kansas University graduate who lives in Mission, touches up the mural inside KU’s men’s basketball office on Monday. Martin started the mural 29 years ago, and his latest addition commemorates KU’s national championship last season.

Portrait artist John Martin, a Kansas University graduate who lives in Mission, touches up the mural inside KU’s men’s basketball office on Monday. Martin started the mural 29 years ago, and his latest addition commemorates KU’s national championship last season.



Portrait artist John Martin, 72, of Overland Park, on Monday touches up a painting on that he has been working on for nearly 30 years depicting the history of Kansas basketball. The mural, nearly 18 feet across, is getting additional images to document KU's recent national championship.

Local artist extraordinaire John Martin — who had created some eye-pleasing covers for Kansas Alumni Magazine — fielded a phone call from KU basketball coach Ted Owens back in 1979.

“Are you interested in painting a mural for the office?” Owens asked the 1959 KU graduate.

Of course, was the reply of Martin, who created a 3-foot-by-71⁄2-foot landscape featuring Dr. James Naismith, Jo Jo White, Owens and members of the Jayhawks’ 1974 Final Four team.

On Monday — 29 years after the commissioning of the mural — Martin was back in KU’s basketball office completing his latest addition to the masterpiece.

The addition depicts KU coach Bill Self and his players celebrating with the national title trophy in San Antonio’s Alamodome — streamers dropping from the rafters — after KU’s overtime victory over Memphis in the 2008 NCAA championship game.

“As far as ranking it ... it’s one of my favorites. It’s 29-years-old,” Martin exclaimed. “You keep updating it and adding to it ... it has to rank as least a perennial favorite.

“I had no idea it’d have a life like this,” added Martin, a portrait artist from Mission whose work can be seen at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., as well the KU Alumni Center, buildings at the Universities of Texas, Michigan and LSU and board rooms of corporations all across America.

Martin stretched the mural — which now is 18 feet by 71⁄2 feet — during the Roy Williams era when the basketball offices were expanded, the walls able to sustain a much larger painting.

Martin added pictures of Danny Manning shooting over Oklahoma’s Stacey King in the 1988 NCAA title game, shots of coach Larry Brown and various celebratory memories from Williams’ four Final Fours.

When Self became the third KU coach to ask Martin to add onto the acrylic painting, Martin — who attended the 2008 Final Four — immediately had a vision in mind.

“Once I saw the streamers and fireworks going off after the national championship game ... that to me was really spectacular. I tried to capture that,” he said of KU’s April 7 celebration in the Alamodome.

He succeeded.

“It’s amazing to me how he can capture that moment and bring it to life in a painting,” Self said. “John’s addition is first-class, just like the other pieces on the mural. It is definitely the first thing you notice when you come into our basketball office. He’s a fabulous painter. It’s really cool.”

The mural for years has been a must see for those who visit the hoops office in Parrott Athletic Center.

“Everybody looks at it,” said Barry Hinson, KU’s first-year men’s basketball director of external relations. “Not only do they look at it, they appreciate it. They appreciate the fact it shows the significance of the tradition in basketball at KU.

“I love it,” Hinson added on a personal note. “I actually saw it for the first time with coach Self when we came to work coach Brown’s camp (in 1980s). Today, I was not only was able to see it get put up, but I got to meet the artist. It doesn’t get any more special than that.”

The 72-year-old Martin — who has painted commissioned portraits of former major-league baseball commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Ford Frick; Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt; golfers Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson; baseball Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and George Brett; NFL Hall of Famer Len Dawson; and NBA Hall of Famer Bob Cousy — hopes to receive a call in the not-so-distant future asking him to tinker with the mural again.

“Any Final Four or national championship, and we’ll add to it,” Martin said.


jhawk23 12 years, 9 months ago

I swear that "campusfind" advertisement with the woman dancing in the sunlight is going to give me a seizure! Make it stop! Please, make it stop!

Lisa Braun 12 years, 9 months ago

I think the painting is a highlight for any camper lucky enough to take "the tour" (I did in the Roy Williams Era). Not only do we enjoy the magnificence of the events depicted, we greatly appreciate the attention to detail. Well done, Mr. Martin.

lv_jhwk 12 years, 9 months ago

I wonder if KU has ever thought about making the mural available to be seen outside of the offices (i.e. posters and such). I've seen bits and pieces, but I could easily find space on a wall for a replica of any size.

jhawkfan1981 12 years, 9 months ago

2008....what ayear for ku!! rock chalk jay motha "f"in hawk!!!

Kenneth Hillman 12 years, 9 months ago

When you click on the pictures it says, "page not found". Would love to see it in person some day...

stanfordstarter 12 years, 9 months ago

is it just me or is it a little early for that mural?

osagefire209 12 years, 9 months ago

Don;t they have a replica of the BEWARE OF THE PHOG BANNER so I am sure they can make a poster out of the mural.

Jesse Newell 12 years, 9 months ago

kenhil — The pictures should be fixed. Sorry about that.

jaybate 12 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Martin,Thank you for contributing your considerable talent to KU basketball.I know you are a portrait painter and so not predisposed to do what I am about to ask, but I have to at least try asking you.Would you please insert yourself into the mural at some point. It would be a great addition and an honor to KU basketball to have the muralist recorded within the mural, also. it doesn't have to be as elaborate as Rockwell painting himself in a mirror, but it could be you painting yourself looking at a large iMac screen with one window open to a picture of you, another window open to a KU game scene, and you painting yourself while looking at the iMac screen! :-)I think you have a function somewhat similar to Max Falkenstein, though in a much less public way. You have through your work become a part of the pageant of KU basketball. Leaving you out of the mural, would be like leaving Mr. Falkenstein out of the KU sports museum/hall of fame.I know the game is about the players and the coaches, but once in a great while a media person--and you are a media person of a very quiet kind--fundamentally and in a lasting way influences how we remember KU basketball. Such persons are a conduit between the game and coaches we love, and we fans. The game would not be understood and recorded in quite the way that it is, that is, the legacy would not be the same, without these rare persons. I imagine the last thing you and Mr. Falkenstein want is to be considered a part of the event of KU basketball. You both probably view yourselves as professionals doing jobs. But you have in fact become a part of the legacy and to have a legacy is to recognize who did what of lasting significance within it. There is a strong tendency for artists and craftsmen and professionals of all kinds to let their work do their talking. No doubt your mural will speak loudly for as long as there is KU basketball. But I believe you have an obligation to the legacy to record yourself into the mural.

jaybate 12 years, 9 months ago

Also, I would hope that you confer with you and your family, and then with KU adminstrators and come to an understanding of how you wish the mural to be treated when you are done making your contributions to it. If you don't want it added on to, then it should not be, because an artist's wishes for his work in posterity ought to be respected.However, I for one would love for this mural of yours to become a transgenerational mural in which another artist carries it on after you pass the torch. I would like to view the mural as the graphic equivalent of the program itself. We are blessed with great coaches, but every so often their tenure ends and a new one takes over. This process in no way undermines the greatness of the coaches before them. KU basketball is a living, breathing myth. It is bigger than a single coach, or player, or broadcaster, or painter. The next painter could never undermine the importance of your contribution to KU basketball. In fact, you have set a high standard that each succeeding artist would seek to continue at a very high level. I know art is not sport, and painting is not basketball, but I just have an intuition that this would be a great thing for the KU basketball legacy.Of course, if you don't want anyone adding on to your work, everyone would understand, too, and clamor to prevent it...if you were to make your preference known.Post Script: I know it would be viewed as sacrilege by most in the program, and most fans, but a part of me would like to see a really magnificient mural on the ceiling of Allen Field House. It worked for the Sistine Chapel. :-)

actorman 12 years, 9 months ago

I think it's just you, stanford. Why WOULDN'T you want to update it after winning a national championship??? What would be the point of waiting?

actorman 12 years, 9 months ago

Jaybate, sometimes your eloquence is breathtaking (and no, I'm not being sarcastic). Beautifully written. At first I was resistant to the idea of Martin inserting himself in the mural, but you convinced me that it makes sense, especially if it's in a very unobtrusive way.And I like the idea of a mural on the ceiling. Why not? After all, Allen IS the Cistine Chapel of college basketball.

Max Ledom 12 years, 9 months ago

i wish he would have changed bill selfs tie. he has trouble with that. roy was better haha. but way to go hawks.P.S.(im not gay)

jaybate 12 years, 9 months ago

actorman,You are very kind.Thank you. I think you can trust a portrait painter to resist my idea, because they are very much about the other person, and only do it if he were encouraged. And if he did it, I suspect he would be very subtle. I was just trying to give him full poetic license, when I suggested the variation on Norman Rockwell.Regardless, thanks for responding.

jaybate 12 years, 9 months ago

Hawksboy88,Gay or straight, a man's tie is the primary way he communicates within the constraint set of a suit or sport coat. It needs to be right--for the suit and the man.Men as detail oriented as Self and Williams probably understand their ties (or their wives do), and they pick them rather meticulously.Roy's ties were bold, because Roy was bold. Roy is a guy who likes to dictate tempo. The boldness of his ties express that. But he is a guy who likes a program for doing it. So his ties always coordinate well with his suit and shirt. Its a system. He also wears his suits to exhibit a kind of style and a slight flamboyance that is counterpoint to his aw'shucks persona. Roy has some peacock in him in combination with plain ol' Roy.It is part of why he is extraordinary. He is neither peacock, nor red neck, but both.Bill Self is a guy who, frankly, is much more complex inside, despite the fraternity brother face and the fractured syntax. Bill is not wrestling with his father, as Roy was. Bill had a good dad. Bill is wrestling with himself and that is always the more complicated battle in the end. It is just icing on the analogy that his last name is Self. As a result, he likes a much more intricate, judo-style of basketball. His ties are more complex and the subtleties of his suit materials are often more complex. The interplay of his ties with his suit and shirt are more complex. He wears his suits to reflect this complexity, while trying always to pair it down in public, to make it all seem effortless in public. And yet Bill likes as much variety in his suits as he does in his offensive schemes.

jaybate 12 years, 9 months ago

But as Roy does, Bill emphasizes his manhood with his suits, too. Bill Self takes a slightly more midwestern, neo Hemingway approach to his suits and his manhood, because he IS midwestern. Basic manhood still matters to Bill Self. Did you get out manned is a question Roy would never ask? Roy's question was: did you get out-want-to'ed? But Bill Self's manhood is one trying to operate inside a very complex environment; that is his dramatic question--can you operate successfully in this high tech wild west of contemporary college basketball in a manly way?. He has a thick brow. He has a thick neck. He has a solid physique, regardless of whether he is eating too much or not. But he's got a boyish face that has not always been taken in a manly way. He is also such a finesse artist, that he has to watch out for substituting so much finesse that he is not taken as a man. His is a manhood that recognizes manhood is not entirely en vogue these days, not the only path to success. You gotta walk the talk of manhood in Self's world, because that is the only way to prove that manhood still matters in this changing world. Outside their suits, both men strongly prefer jock casual. And not surprisingly, both men fancy rebel-style, Dirty Harry sunglasses. You're just never likely to see Roy or Bill at a golf tourney wearing aesthete sunglasses until long after those sunglasses have been associated with something manly in mass media, which is usually never. Men, especially, wear sunglasses to express the fact that they are not entirely responsible; that they still have some prowler in them. Even basketball coaches have to let their hair down. But back to their suits--they wear their suits to the same end that many men wear them--to indicate they are all business, civilized to a point, and very sophisticated in what they do.Both men wear suits to make sure referees take them seriously. Self can use his boyish smile and boyish grimacing when packaged in a suit. Without the suit, it would all look too boyish. Roy's emotion and hickness need a suit to contain them and remind the referee that there is a real man standing there shouting, "what kinda goll danged call was THAT!?" Roy and Self are also men who become enraged on the sideline. A suit is a great way to contain that rage--to make it less intimidating to referees and players. Bob Knight's rages were much more menacing, once he stopped wearing plaid sportcoats. Coats and ties communicate a code. The code is that while I am an aggressive male, there is only so far that I will go. I have limits and when you see me screaming and yelling, you can rest assured that the tie around my throat, while a color of battle dating to Scottland's tribal warfare, is a sign that I can symbolically and literally control myself.

jaybate 12 years, 9 months ago

Basketball coaches are about the last men who openly dress as men in the media eye, that is, who express themselves, or at least who they think they are, through their suits and ties in media. As most men, they start out wearing suits awkwardly, a bit too stylishly. It takes most men awhile to discover that the power and elegance of a suit resides in the very conservativeness and timelessness of its cut and in the quality of the material and detail of the construction. That it takes most men longer and longer to discover this has a lot to do with those in the media dressing lousier and lousier, and the fact that more and more dad's don't work in fields that require the wearing of good suits. But, as most coaches pride themselves on being quick studies, and as they begin to grasp their own power in their work, both its limits and feasibilities, they soon grow into being very apt wearers of suits. And, as with anything, if you do it enough times, you get the hang of it. Politicians and broadcasters are just robots dressed by media consultants to mirror whatever media market's hot buttons they are trying to appeal to. They are not wearing suits as men wear suits--to express who they are within the confines of intense competition for excellence and money.They are wearing them as puppets are dressed by a puppeteer to play out someone else's script.Coaches are anal enough personalities that some probably do consult with appearance consultants, but over time the good ones have such strong personalities that they (or sometimes their wives) begin to take control of their own wardrobes as certainly as they take control of their basketball teams and programs.

jaybate 12 years, 9 months ago

Frankly, once you start wearing suits and dress shirts custom fitted to you, especially those custom made for you, they are one of the most wonderful garments in the world to wear. Everything else seems kind of cheap and tawdry in comparison. Wear a fine suit and your first response is: wow, I never knew clothing could be this comfortable. I wanna live in this baby for a week. In fact, today, the real problem for men, is that there are no longer that many functions that a good suit is appropriate for. The casual has triumphed for sometime now. Heck, a man can wear an excellent suit, shirt and tie to a party and often the only persons who have any recognition of it at all are that subgroup of women who absolutely get off on the power look. There are increasingly few men who can actually tell the difference between a custom suit cut traditionally and made out of the best fabric with the best stitching and tailoring vs. some piece of designer hackwork. I can't even tell anymore sometimes. I don't know for a fact whether Self wears off the wrack or custom made looking through the lens of a TV camera, but I would hope he wears custom made on a salary of $3M. He deserves good suits. He spends significant time in them. When you look at old pictures of him at ORU and Tulsa, they look obviously off the rack and poorly tailored. .At Illinois, the budget and the man began to afford more. At KU, he's been pretty well dressed in his suits, in my humble opinion. But look at him outside those suits, and outside his actual outfits he wears to coach in, and well, we should all be grateful that he wears suits to coach games in. And let me not be misunderstood about off the rack suits. If you get a good tailor, you can tailor certain of them to look quite adequate and comfortable. There is no shame in wearing off the rack properly tailored, Its mostly what I have worn, when I used to wear suits. if you dig in and look for a decent off the rack to begin with, its all you really need. Go find a good tailor and ask him what off the rack suits are good enough quality that the tailor thinks he could do something with them. If the tailor turns up his nose, forget the tailor. Find another. If you are really pinched for budget, go to thrift stores in affluent areas and shop one size too large in the best made suits you can possibly find; then take it to the tailor and have him tailor it to fit you, Pay him whatever he wants. $700 with a tailor on a great suit from a thrift store beats the heck out of almost any $3K designer crap you spend at even a high end department store. Just my opinion.of course.

jaybate 12 years, 9 months ago

The designer hackwork, these days, when not indulging in really stupid stylistics, is faking good suits pretty well these days, sort of the way certain car makers are faking good cars these days. But there remains a huge difference between a good looking suit and a good suit. The good suit will last you years. The good looking suit will look like fecal matter in 2. If you feel a suit in your hands, if you look at the stitching inside and out, if you put it on, you will know. . Alas, except in limited situations, a fine suit speaks with a subtlety and sophistication of language that most men are not practiced at understanding much less appreciating, increasingly even in board rooms. So: it is a form of clothing that only the last real men with incomes to match their manhoods can really afford to wear and express themselves in.I am told that Jack Henry's, once upon a time, probably in the 50s/early 60s was an urban outfitter that could provide a man sufficient sartorial gear to negotiate the urban jungle of mid 20th Century America. Now I would suspect, if it still exists, it is reduced to pedalling niche marketed designer chaff. A young man probably has a very hard time finding a clothing salesman at a place like that who actually knows anymore about suits than a car salesman knows about a Ford. This is sad. Young men need salesmen who know something, or fellow professionals colleagues who will share insight with them, if their fathers were not in a trade that educated them to suits.As with all things, fine suits cost a lot of money. But as with all things, all suits that cost a lot of money are not fine suits. In fact, today, you can almost be certain that if it is promoted in a leading men's fashion magazine, it is designer hackwork. Alas, most of the old tailors are dying off. So: unless one is in a few large cities, one has only three choices when it comes to suits: travel to get one custom made; wear well tailored off the rack, wear crap, or go casual. Not surprisingly, rational men opt for quality casual whenever possible these days.It is easier.

havoc4prez 12 years, 9 months ago

This guy lives about 6 houses away from me. One would never be able to tell.

Max Ledom 12 years, 9 months ago

hahahaha jaybate thank you kindly for that 2342452 page report on mens ties and suits. i appreciate it

jaybate 12 years, 9 months ago

Hawksboy88, I hope you are not insulted. I am all about stretching the form here. Things that conventionally draw long responses, I might write a quatrain about. Things like a tie remark like yours, I have a ball blowing out to feature length. They gave us the blogs, so I turned one into a photo gallery of the absurd. Note: they didn't like the joke. Frankly, no one did. So: they took mine away from me. :-) This is sometimes the price of exploring the form.If the paid columnists are waxing philosophical, I am apt to explore their writing styles.If the reporters are focusing readers' attentions on why a player like Releford isn't getting playing time, I like to explore why reporters are reporting on sensitive private conversations and ask how they came by the information?If people are being extremely anal, I may go free association.If people are doing Urban Dictionary Boyz from the Hood vulgar, then I may go Oxford on them.If people are talking about the cold cruel world of sports and money, I go deep into the legacy and tradition and spirit and emotion of KU sports.The only thing I am very consistent about is that I don't like lurkers bad mouthing KU and so I might spar with them, if the younger, more contemporary and more skillful Jayhawkers don't.Its a great medium. It is a credit to the LJW and World Corporation that they have put it out there for us. But its new and ripe for exploration and experimentation and that's why I'm here; that and the fact KU basketball is a living myth and the most important legacy in college basketball.Anyway, I very much enjoyed your remark.Rock Chalk!

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