An Artist Writes About Figure Skating (and other sports).

I grew up in suburban Illinois in a split-level, one-television home. Dad controlled the TV, and he liked to watch sports. We watched a lot of sports. We watched football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, with Dad swearing at the television whenever his teams were losing, and mom keeping dinner warming in the oven whenever they went into overtime.

On Saturday afternoons we would watch ABC’s Wide World of Sports hosted by Jim McKay. Here, I was in my element, biting my nails, on the edge of my seat, caught up in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The opening credit sequence alone would send me into a spasm. The Wide World of Sports featured a breadth of athletics, which expanded the usual fare, but the real highlight of my sports-watching youth came only once every four years, the Olympic Games. I watched everything, even the obscure events, like luge and biathlon, or events that took hours to unfold, like the marathon. And the winter Olympics brought one of my favorite treats, an event that captures my imagination even today, figure skating.

The first Olympic figure skater I remember watching was Peggy Fleming. My father, a natural athlete and excellent on his hockey skates, immediately sent me to the Park District for skating lessons and hosed down our back yard to create a skating rink. Sadly, my season ended with me sitting on the ice, and come spring, a giant circle of dead grass in the center of our lawn. Nevertheless, I remained a skating fan.

After logging hours of watching sports as a child (moments of exhilaration punctuated by dad’s angry outbursts), I became a visual artist whose projects examine the intersection of the pedestrian, the repetitive, and the imperfect with the transcendent, the beautiful, and the perfect. I remain entranced with sports, using athletes as subject matter and sports as metaphor to explore success/failure binaries, feminist discourse, and the incomplete and transitory qualities of the sublime.

I’m writing this blog to accompany my viewership of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. When I write about figure skating (or other sports) I am writing as an artist, not as an athlete or coach. I have no formal training in sports, although I was a serious student of dance. I want to use this blog to explore the reasons why sports inspire me, and the relationship between my artmaking and athletics.


LISA YOUNG (B.F.A. University of Illinois ’86; M.F.A. SMFA Boston/Tufts University ’91; Whitney Independent Study Program (Studio), ’94-95)

Lisa Young’s hybrid practice includes installation, book, video, and photography. Her work investigates how the accumulation and organization of everyday images can create its own poetics. She creates collections of everyday images (figure skating from prime time TV, fortune cookie fortunes, tickertape parades) and filters them through frameworks that both organize the data and transform it into something new. A video juxtaposing televised skating performances examines the fleeting nature of success. A web archive generates a linguistic exploration of common desires found in fortune cookie fortunes. Fans releasing toilet paper skyward during a tickertape parade create a series of transcendent snapshots.

Young’s exhibition venues include the Cue Art Foundation (curated by Cabinet Magazine), The Getty Research Institute, and White Columns, and her editions have been distributed through Printed Matter and Pace Prints. Young’s works are in collections of the MoMA, NY, the Rose Goldsen Archive at Cornell University, and Harvard University.

You can view pieces featuring figure skating – perfect/imperfect, Lyra Angelica, as well as other visual work, more writing, and special projects at lisa-young.com.