Back in early April I showed a painting , Geometry of the Heart, on this blog. It was an overhead scene of a baseball diamond being crowded in by a mass of red-roofed houses, one in which I found a lot of personal meaning. It represented the way the game embeds itself in the minds of those who love it, how it creates a connection to tradition and memories of youth. Perhaps more than anything in my life, baseball makes me feel connected to my country and its history.
Putting this feeling on canvas was long overdue and I was so pleased with how both the finished painting as well as the feeling I experienced as I painted that I felt that I would do a small group for the my upcoming Principle Gallery show in June. The result was trio of three small paintings, all on paper, that show three ball fields. The first is shown here on the left and is approximately 6″ by 12″ and titled Foundation. I see the diamond serving as a base or foundation for the buildings beyond the outfield fence which seem to be sprouting from it. Maybe the thought here is that the diamond serves as a classroom for the life lessons needed to survive in the world beyond the fence. I’ve written before how baseball is a game that is very humbling, that the best hitters in the game fail 7 out of 10 times at bat and that the greatest pitchers ever have had many losses. It rewards individual effort but only in a limited way in that winning is based on a total team effort, dependent on each member of the team performing their job with their best effort.
The next is titled simply Diamond, and is 6″ by 8″. This is the most reminiscent of Geometry of the Heat and has a simplicity that brings to mind the innocence of the first days of playing the game, that first foray onto a real field. For me, it brings back memories of the Little League field in Waverly, NY and the thrill of being on that diamond. It was a beautiful park with bleachers along both foul lines, a well manicured infield and a wooden outfield fence emblazoned with local merchants ads. To hear your name announced on the PA was a big thrill, a rite of passage from throwing the ball safely in your own yard to performing before strangers. Daunting, yes, but it all seemed familiar because the game was the same, the diamond the same.
The third piece in this group is called Night Game and is 7″ by 9″. The thing I get fro this piece is that feeling when the daylight is fading and kids are still playing the game, not wanting to stop even as the ball becomes more and more difficult to see, until finally they must stop. The empty field is still ringing with possibility and potential plays. It seems as though there are always ghosts on ballfields, phantoms from the past throwing the ball and running the bases. This piece brings to mind a memory from my Little League days when I was put into pitch one game. I had lousy mechanics and was never meant to pitch but I was game. One of the first batters I faced hit a rocket that easily cleared the left center field fence. The whoops of the other team seemed to fade into the background as I watched the ball sail in the sky.
The ump came out to give me a new ball as the other kid victoriously rounded the bases and the cheers from the other bench became loud again in my ears. I smiled and said, “Wow, he really crushed that one, huh?”
“He sure did.” He gave me the ball and I went back to it for a short while until I was mercifully pulled. You give it a try and learn what you are and what you’re not. Lessons learned.