Arts & Culture

Artist Finishes Work Dedicated to Basketball Hall of Famer Dan Issel at UK Art Museum


Video by Jenny Wells/UK Public Relations and Marketing.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 10, 2015)  March Madness is coming a few weeks early at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky when acclaimed Atlanta-based artist Craig Drennen sets up a temporary studio in the museum’s permanent collection galleries from Feb. 11-14 in order to complete a painting dedicated to UK and professional basketball superstar and Hall of Famer Dan Issel.


Issel played from 1966-1970 for UK’s legendary coach Adolph Rupp and went on to a standout career with the Kentucky Colonels in the American Basketball Association and the Denver Nuggets in the National Basketball Association.

Drennen will work on a canvas during museum hours (noon–5 p.m.), slowly rendering a realistic image of a floating basketball while a video of him spinning a ball on his finger plays on a nearby monitor. He will be located inside a taped-off area equal to the 3-second violation lane under the basket on an actual court.

For the past several years, Drennen has been making artworks that take their inspiration from "Timon of Athens," the single play by William Shakespeare never performed during the writer’s lifetime. Drennen has been working his way through the list of the play’s characters, making paintings dedicated to each.

"'Poet' actually has the first line in the play where he greets other characters, which is why the Poet pieces all have the word 'Hello' in them. I like the idea of collapsing the past into the present by treating an old play as newly relevant. That doesn’t seem strange at all to me, since the practice of painting itself always has one foot in the 15th century and one foot in the current moment. The basketball image in these works connects to the aesthetic of the trophy case, which is designed to preserve moments of great accomplishment much the way that museums are supposed to do," said the artist.

“(In the) Paint” is the first time that the artist makes his painterly process visible to the public, and the event has both professional and personal significance. Drennen lived in Lexington in 1991 just after receiving his master's degree from Ohio University. During that time, he taught at Transylvania University (where he also managed the Morlan Gallery), Eastern Kentucky University and UK. His fascination with basketball goes back to childhood when he was the starting forward and county tournament MVP for his 8th-grade team, the Glenville Panthers.

In addition to the viewing of his process, Drennen will also give a talk on his work. The artist will discuss his paintings and issues of skill acquisition, failure, abstraction and realism beginning noon Saturday, Feb. 14, at the museum.

Later this month, the completed painting will be auctioned off at the Art in Bloom GALA to benefit the Art Museum at UK the evening of Feb. 28. 

Based in Atlanta, Drennen's work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at Samson Projects (Boston, Massachusetts); Florida Mining (Jacksonville, Florida); Ellen de Bruijne Projects (Amsterdam, Netherlands); P.P.O.W. (New York, New York); Cottage Home (Los Angeles, California); and Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia and Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (Atlanta). His work has been reviewed in Artforum, Art in America, The New York Times and the Boston Globe. Drennen, who received his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from Glenville State College, currently teaches at Georgia State University.

The mission of the Art Museum at UK, part of the UK College of Fine Arts, is to promote the understanding and appreciation of art to enhance the quality of life for people of Kentucky through collecting, exhibiting, preserving and interpreting outstanding works of visual art from all cultures. Home to a collection of more than 4,500 objects including American and European paintings, drawings, photographs, prints and sculpture, the Art Museum at UK presents both special exhibitions and shows of work from its permanent collection. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716;