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This is a portrait of Walter Payton entitled "Sweetness", a running back for the Chicago Bears from 1975-1987.  It is made of 1,152 old football cards, and measures 7 feet tall by 10 feet wide.  It follows my typical portrait style of constructing the subject’s image using a medium directly related to his life.  There are many Walter Payton cards in this portrait.  In fact, there is at least one for every year he played; starting with his 1976 Topps rookie card, and continuing up until his 1988 Topps record breaker.  Part of the fun is trying to locate them in the piece.  There is also some other hidden meaphors in the piece.  At one point, I have placed a card of Walter Payton directly next to a card of his brother Eddie Payton.  This shows the conflict they must have experienced when the Bears played the Vikings, in which they were family in real life, yet supposed rivals on the field.  I did that to echo my own personal struggle of being a Minnesota artist, yet honoring a player of a rival team by doing a portrait of him.  Also, in the bottom right hand corner, there is a card of a player named "Wayne Hawkins".  He was drafted by the Patriots in 1992 from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall MN.  This is the same college I attended for a degree in studio art.  I signed my name on his card to symbolize our connection of attending the same university.
Anyone who knows football, knows the name Walter Payton.  And they also know that his name is synonymous with a proper role model.  This is the main reason I chose him for this portrait…because of the man that he was both on and off of the field.  He knew he was in the public eye, admired by thousands of people, and had a tremendous amount of influence over each one.  He was respectful of both the other players and the fans, and had very professional conduct whether he won or lost.  After he retired from football, he even planned for his family’s financial well being by starting what became known as “Walter Payton’s Roadhouse”, which hosted a restaurant, brewery, banquet hall, and museum.  It was very successful and won many awards by the city of Chicago. 
After being diagnosed with terminal liver disease in 1999, he spent the remaining months of life writing an autobiography entitled “Never Die Easy”.  He also started the still active Walter & Connie Payton Foundation, which is a leader in creating awareness for organ donations.  The foundation also established the Walter Payton Cancer Fund in 2002.  Walter Payton was a great athlete, a true role model, and an exceptional human being. He was a legend both on and off of the field, and has left a legacy that will out-live the sport we remember him for.  He deserves every second of the immortality our culture has given him.