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Statue Olympic-bound

Heather Pickett Globe Staff

In its variety of forms and mediums, art can be absurd, diverse and even unusual.

But whether it's sketched or painted on paper, caught on film or molded in clay, art is a gateway to expressing profound thoughts and feelings with a much greater story to tell than one might think.

And often the secrets to the story and the meaning behind a work of art lay hidden beneath the surface - a concept one former resident has captured in one of his latest pieces of work.

At first glance, the large bronze statue of Slapshotolus appears to simply capture the motion of a nude hockey player, drawing back for a slapshot. But beneath the furnished bronze surface lies a much deeper story.

"I've always been fascinated by the history of art in general, with that of ancient cultures in particular. And this statue was inspired by the ancient Greek sculptures but with a modern twist to it," said Haakonson, who said the name is a play on the ancient work, Discobolus, the Grecian statue portraying a nude discus thrower. "The ideals and philosophy in what those ancient statues personified are still at play today.

"I'm very pleased to have something I've done be considered for even a space at an Olympic venue."

In Haakonson's artist statement on the piece, he calls it the "personification of the philospophical ideal of living one's life true and honest unto one's self with a noble character and pure spirit.

"The sculpture is a visual symbol of living a life unshielded and unarmoured," the statement said. "It is a symbolic expression of the idea that one who lives a noble life does not require more protection, does not need to cover because there is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of."

Haakonson, who enjoys the artistic freedom of being able to shift between sculpture and painting, also calls Slapshotolus a connection between the ancient games and the modern Winter Games.

He opted to keep the statue nude to acknowledge the tradition of what nude in art symbolizes - purity, innocence and truth - but brought hockey into the picture as "the winter sport" in Canada.

"The image is a bit absurd," he said, "The hockey player is wearing only skates, gloves and a helmet. But the direct feedback has all been very positive. Very few people have actually seen it so far but those who have had positive things to say."

The fact that few have seen Slapshotolus is soon going to change as it will be front and centre at Pride House in Whistler.

Pride House will offer a venue to gay and lesbian athletes, coaches, family and friends during the Olympic Games, designed with the core values of celebrating authenticity, diversity and inclusiveness.

"The literal image in a piece of art isn't always the most important," said Haakonson. "The meaning behind it is what's the most important."

For Haakonson art has been a way of life since he was young, growing up west of Lacombe.

"It's something I've always done. My parents were very encouraging and they supported me right from the beginning," he said. "The experiences I had growing up in Lacombe gave me the skills and ability to have a career as an artist. Growing up as a gay youth and going through the challenges then has helped me overcome the challenges you face as an artist.

"Art is something I believe to be very important and necessary in the world."

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