Aspen Olympic skier Wiley Maple shows his artistic side off the slopes
IF YOU GO...
What: Olympic fundraiser benefitting Wiley Maple
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Taylor Daine Goulet gallery, 402 S. Hunter St.
For more information, call the TDG art galley at (970) 710-7138.
The world knows Wiley Maple can ski.
But what few know about the Aspen native, who competed Thursday in the Olympic downhill race, is that he also can paint.
In fact, five of his pieces are currently hanging from the walls of an Aspen art gallery, which will host a fundraiser tonight to support Maple’s skiing career.
“The sense of completion and accomplishment is greater in art than most things I have experienced in life,” Maple wrote in an email Wednesday from South Korea. “Art has a lot to say on the world, and although I think it’s often overanalyzed, looking at pieces can move you and show you how someone else may see the world.”
Maple isn’t sure at what age he first picked up a paintbrush, though he vividly remembers painting with watercolor in elementary school and “hating how imprecise it was, having grown up drawing with pencil on some of my mom’s blank architecture sheets.”
For Marti Cyrus, Maple’s art teacher throughout middle and high school in Aspen, a few memories of his younger self stand out, though none are as clear as the image of a skier that Maple would sketch “endlessly.”
“He would just draw it a thousand times, and I would try to get him to draw something else — anything else — and he would just draw that skier over and over,” Cyrus said. “I’d say he did that for years. In high school, I think he got really good at it and he could almost do it graphically. It was sort of his thing.”
What also set Maple apart from his peers, Cyrus recalled, was his determination to improve.
“He had a real talent for drawing because of his ability to practice and his focus. He loved it,” Cyrus said. “Other kids were in (the art room) because they had to be, and he was there because he wanted to be.”
Though Maple shifted from pencil to paint in his junior year, the inspiration he draws from sports and competitions — portraying images of Andy Mill and Muhammad Ali — remains transparent.
“Wiley’s paintings are expressions of the intensity of competition to do his sport,” said Maple’s mom, Julie, who also draws. She remembers her son watching her work as a child and drawing alongside her.
Aside from his passion for painting, it has also served as a source of sanity for Maple while overcoming injuries in recent years.
“I have always been someone who has to be in constant motion, always working towards something. When you get hurt, especially as an athlete where your entire life is movement, it screeches to a sudden stop,” Maple said. “I noticed immediately how much my body deteriorated, but the first time I was also surprised to see my mind start to slip.
“The first time was an awakening, giving me perspective on how much a healthy body lends into a sound mind. The ‘fix’ for me was to keep moving, even though my body couldn’t.”
Maple’s road to recovery this season — and eventually, Pyeongchang — is a tale of underdog glory.
The 27-year-old Aspenite’s dream of earning a spot to compete at the Olympics became a reality on Jan. 24. However, because he is not an official member of the U.S. Ski Team this year, Maple must fund most of his own way to the Games.
Beyond a passion or means of therapy, Maple is looking again to his art for support, which he found recently at the Taylor Daine Goulet art gallery downtown.
“Our motto is to create a new paradigm in the art business by inspiring to make a difference,” gallery director Landen Saks said. “With over 20 local artists, we work to support those in our community.”
Every penny that a Maple painting generates at the gallery will go directly into his pocket, Saks said. The gallery also is creating prints of Maple’s pieces that will be available for sale within the next six weeks.
“We wanted to assist in any way that we could and help raise money to support his dream,” Saks said.
She added shortly after, “Not many people know that Wiley is an extremely talented artist, so we are here to spread the word.”
For Maple, starting a new piece is the most challenging part of the process and often transcends beyond the blank canvas before him.
“The beginning is always the hardest for me, before you can really see it taking shape, it always seems like you are so far away from getting anything done or seeing what you want to see on the canvas,” Maple said. “It’s an exercise in patience, something that my life and skiing need more of.
“Sometimes you don’t have to see the big picture yet, you just have to keep plugging away until eventually it makes sense, revealing what you were working towards the whole time.”