Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball

We Did It! / 2013, Oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches
By Jon Francis

Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball is a visual and artistic metaphor of the American pastime that reminds us that baseball is rich in art and literature.

Last Saturday, I visited the Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball exhibition at the George Krevsky Gallery of American Art, located at 77 Geary Street near Union Square in San Francisco. Seeing this year's exhibit brought back fond memories of the 2012 San Francisco Giants World Series championship as depicted through a painting of Sergio Romo, shown moments after striking out Miguel Cabrera to clinch the decisive victory, while his battery mate Buster Posey races to the mound to join Romo in celebration.

This year's 16th annual exhibition of baseball art includes iconic images of Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays, all which reinforced for me on this April afternoon why baseball matters ~ why it has an important purpose in my life.

Also, there's Oakland A's reliever Rollie Fingers illustrated in his prime, a collage of the outfield wall at Brooklyn's old Ebbets Field featuring the advertisement "Hit Sign, Win Suit" ~ even a gelatin silver photograph of Fidel Castro swinging a baseball bat.

Each work of art from the more than 40 artists in this year's exhibition, created through the use of a variety of mixed media ~ graphite on paper, oil on paper, oil on canvas, gelatin silver photograph, acrylic and marker on canvas board, hand-cut paper collage, and pastel on paper ~ cements our lasting memories of the game we've loved since we were children.

And, there's also a featured literary component, "Baseball Canto," by the American Beat poet and San Francisco resident Lawrence Ferlinghetti:

Watching baseball, sitting in the sun,
eating popcorn, reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through
the Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders.
When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everyone stands up for the National Anthem
with some Irish tenor's voice piped over the loudspeakers,
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops
in their black suits and little black caps, pressed over their hearts
standing straight and still
like at some funeral of a blarney bartender, and all facing East
as if expecting  some Great White Hope
or the Founding Fathers, to appear on the horizon
like 1066 or 1776 or all that.

But Willie Mays appears instead,
in the bottom of the first,
and a roar goes up, as he clouts the first one into the sun
and takes off, like a footrunner from Thebes.
The ball is lost in the sun and maidens wail after him
but he keeps running, through the Anglo-Saxon epic.
And Tito Fuentes comes up, looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointed shoes.
And the rightfield bleachers go mad
with Chicanos & blacks & Brooklyn beer drinkers
"Sweet Tito! Sock it to heem, Sweet Tito!"
And Sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don't come back at all
and flees around the bases
like he's escaping from the United Fruit Company
as the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And Sweet Tito beats it out, like he's beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.
And Juan Marichal comes up,
and the Chicano bleachers go loco again,
as Juan belts the first ball, out of sight,
and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third,
and keeps going, and hits pay-dirt
to the roars of the grungy populace.
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again,
to save the situation.

But it don't stop nobody this time,
in their revolution round the loaded white bases,
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics,
in the Territorio Libre of Baseball.

A special treat of this year's show is A Baseball Salon: Memories of the Game, an evening of baseball poetry and literature readings, music and short film that will be hosted by the gallery on May 2.

"Baseball has a new purpose in our lives," writes Dr. Marshall Ledger, a magazine editor, in the gallery notes for Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball. "We have discovered the sport in the visual arts and in literature, where artists and writers use it as theme or metaphor to draw us into their special, and often unexpectedly rich, creative worlds."

(Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball continues through May 25. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In our garden: Reflections on Earth Day 2013

Earth Day, a celebration of what the earth gives us, was celebrated across the world on Monday.

It is often said that love begins in the home. And, so does our love for our planet earth. Yesterday, amid clear skies and a wealth of lovely sunshine that greeted the San Francisco Bay Area, I seized an opportunity to get outside for a little while and spent some time in our garden.

As I looked around, I thought to myself: "If I love the earth, all will bloom naturally."

We are blessed to have nine different rose bushes as well as irises, calla lilies, fuchsias, rhododendrons and camellias surrounding our house. Indeed, we have an abundance of beautiful blooms throughout the entire year, especially during the month of April.

And, so, in celebration of Earth Day yesterday, I grabbed my camera and started taking photographs, recording these precious moments in our garden for others to cherish. Consider it  as my random act of kindness. 

May every day be like Earth Day to us.


Mr. Lincoln rose

Pristine rose

Calla lily

All photographs by Michael Dickens, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A monument to change that's always changing

Hundreds of colorful Post-It notes?

Not quite.

Instead, what caught my attention as my wife and I happened upon the American artist Peter Wegner's never-ending "Monument to Change as It Changes" on a recent, northern California spring evening was this: it's an unusual yet thought-provoking monument of colorful patterns and images that's perpetually in flux.

One moment, the 2,048 tiles comprising "Monument to Change as It Changes" are mostly blue with shades of green. Another moment, it's turned red accented with yellow, and so on. There's a fluttering sound heard as each of the tiles flips and changes color.

The massive, three-ton wall monument, which made its debut in 2011, is a 32-foot-wide large grid of colorful flip tiles built into the facade of Zambrano Hall at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business campus.

The flip-digit technology that enables each tile to change colors ~ including blues, reds, yellow, greens, purples ~ is reminiscent to the way letters change on old-fashioned European train station departure and arrival boards. And, not surprisingly, this mesmerizing artwork was designed so that no color patterns repeat during an eight-hour cycle.

During my 10-minute visit, I stood transfixed by the ever-evolving color patterns and the cadence of sound as I tried to shoot photographs of this artistic moving monument.

Sometimes, it takes provocative beauty to make us pause and think about big thoughts.

Monument to Change as it Changes /
Always colorful and perpetually in flux

Photograph of "Monument to Change as it Changes" by Michael Dickens, copyright 2013. 
Video courtesy of Stanford Graduate School of Business, copyright 2011.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sharing a checklist that's always in season

In our garden / A spring white rose blooms after an April shower.

Sharing a spring checklist
 that's been making the rounds, 
but one I admire for its sincerity and purpose.
 And, it's one which is always in season,
rain or shine:

"Be kind.
Work hard.
Stay humble.
Smile often.
Stay loyal.
Keep honest.
Travel when possible.
Never stop learning.
Be thankful always.
And love."

Photograph of white rose by Michael Dickens, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A sacred space is graced with light

Sacred space /Graced With Light

Imagine a series of light pathways that connect heaven and earth, manifest as ribbons.

Graced With Light is a stunning, music-inspired installation created by American visual artist Anne Patterson that incorporates a French Gothic-style cathedral's vaulted ceiling arches.

In engaging audiences through this remarkable creation that synthesizes art and music, light and sound, space and self, Graced With Light, which had its debut last month in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, brings the beauty of art into a famed sacred space.

Grace Cathedral, whose ancestral parish, Grace Church, was founded in 1849 during the California Gold Rush, has always been a place to belong; a place to explore; a place to go deeper in one's faith. And, Graced With Light, part of a celebration of 100 Years of Music at Grace Cathedral, is designed to grow and change.

As I entered Grace Cathedral on an overcast Easter Sunday morning, I saw the Episcopal cathedral, located on Nob Hill, in a brand new light. What I witnessed was miles upon miles of colorful ribbon ~ 20 miles-worth of shimmering ribbon ~ hand-assembled by Patterson, this year's cathedral artist in residence, with help from the Grace Cathedral community.

Each viewing of Graced With Light will be different thanks to the way in which light reflects inside the cathedral from both the natural ceiling lights as well as from the many colorful stained glass windows.

The message Patterson has conveyed is a personal one ~ and one which left a lasting impression with me. Imagine ribbons carrying our prayers, our dreams and our wishes skyward. And, in return, see grace streaming down the ribbons to each of us.

Graced With Light will be on view at Grace Cathedral through this summer.

To learn more about Graced With Light: http://www.gracecathedral.org/air.