It’s Greek to me

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Matthew Knight Arena

For the first time ever in Eugene, I was feeling dwarfed by a building. The corridors around Matt Knight Arena are just so big, and its inner bowl leans out at a precarious angle that lends the whole scene an unsettling kinetic energy. Stalk-straight outer pillars cradle the tilting inner walls with a massive, palpable inertia.

It reminds me of the bizarrely curved pillars, floors and ceiling of the Pantheon, which was built that way to trick the eye into seeing the temple as perfect from afar. Okay, maybe comparing Matt Court to a Greek architectural marvel is a bit of a stretch, but you have to take what you can get in a town of ugly mod buildings.

I was in the arena to see the UO women’s basketball game, or at least that’s what the lady who scanned my ID card at the door seemed to think. She showed me a map of the seating, which I completely ignored.

“Is there any art in here?” I asked.

“Well, there are these photographs,” she said, pointing to enormous billboards featuring basketball players that hang from the outer walls. “But there’s nothing like a sculpture or anything.”

I was hugely disappointed. Here was the temple, but where were the statues glorifying its gods?

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On the other side of the stadium, about a mile away, I found them… in the windows of the gift shop. You might scoff, but I was joyfully surprised by my discovery. I don’t know what I expected to find, but I certainly didn’t think I’d bump into mannequins that might as well have been passed down from the souvenir shops of ancient Greece.

Their skin was white as Mediterranean marble, but it was the statues’ expressions that really made the Greek connection. Here was the perfect example of ethos, the ancient Greek artist’s exploration of the mind. Whether they’re standing stoically or hanging in the middle of a running stride, the figures stare thoughtfully at their reflections in the glass, lost in their own worlds. It was enough to remind me of the Kritios boy.

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And then there’s this Atlas figure whose muscles tense as he loses himself in a deep analysis of his basketball. Can you see a little bit of Hermes and Dionysus?

It was more than I ever could have asked for from Matt Court, but I do wish I’d seen a little more pathos– expressions of emotional struggle or suffering- in some of the statues’ faces. As I exited the arena, I found a curious inscription on the wall that put an enticing crack in the carefully crafted, godly image of the UO athlete.

“WE ARE TALL FIRE, WE ARE DAISY DUCKS, WE ARE THE PIT CREW AND KAMIKAZE KIDS, WE ARE DERANGED IDIOTS, WE ARE SLIM, THE LONE RANGERS AND THE BULLDOGS, WE ARE FOUNDERS, WE ARE A TRIBE THAT BLEEDS GREEN AND YELLOW,” it read.

No wonder these figures have lots of deep thoughts to think- what an identity crisis!

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