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Ladybug in the Field

by Jonathan Whitzman

Ladybug in field


I used paper collage to express the depth and the texture of a baseball field. I was working with my own very tactile childhood memories of grass and dirt and wind and I wanted to convey a sense of movement and of the earth. I also conceived of this piece as an object for display in my daughter’s room, so the idiosyncrasy of this medium felt appropriate; it is not something that could be easily replicated, manufactured or mass produced. Even if I were to follow the same procedure, the layering of the paper pieces would be unique, and in this way the medium is representative of its subject as each game of baseball is unique and unpredictable though each iteration follows the same guidelines and occurs within the same spatial dimension. The medium also parallels baseball in that I used primarily found objects, making a connection to the spontaneous quality of baseball that I believe can be found in its most basic level — i.e. the creation of a pastime from available space, materials, climate etc. I prepared this piece on a side of corrugated cardboard ripped from a box that contained a baby product; I tore paper from a leftover collection of art project supplies; I also used the corner of a ruler to score the black border area, picking up the furrows of the corrugated cardboard underneath, in an effort to create a messier scrapbook quality; also, the lines are a subtle allusion to the farm fields upon which amateur fields were once crafted.


I had originally planned to layer the text on top of the field, but I chose to push the text to the exterior boundaries and prioritize the image. On one hand, this decision was intended to reference the changing relationship between text and image that we have been tracing throughout the nineteenth century. In this way, my decision to centralize the image reflects my understanding of the image as an increasingly meaningful component of a text. On the other hand, the layout of my piece reflects my effort to create a feeling of nostalgia. The piece is dedicated to my daughter and I wanted to pass along my happy experiences sharing baseball with my father. Therefore, the white corners and black boundaries are meant to evoke the sense of a scrapbook photo, with the image of the field situated in the middle like a photograph. Instead of a mechanical process, the image is formed by hand, with each piece of torn paper glued to the canvas in its own turn; in this way, the individual placement of each piece represents yet another reference to nineteenth-century issues of production, echoing and honouring the typesetting process of individual letters.


I chose an ornate, cursive font for the text to contradict the authoritative character of the rules, and to acknowledge their creation at the hand of an individual. I wanted to remove the text from its original position as a proscriptive set of guidelines, and reposition it within my own creative and decorative context. In this way, I also wanted to convey an antiquarian quality in the text to connote the outdated significance of the text with regard to its original function. The relatively small font size and variation from conventional list format were also meant to undermine the significance of each individual regulation; the numbers which precede each rule were set in bold to create a visual contrast amongst the field of text and emphasize the purely formal character of the text, pushing it towards an imagistic or decorative function. In fact, I wanted the lines of text to suggest a resemblance to a crowd of people in the stands, watching the game, with each letter representing an individual, indistinguishable at a distance from the other individuals in the crowd, and meaningful not as components of discrete segments but of the entire corpus.


The text itself is the earliest recorded set of rules and regulations for the game of baseball. The rules represent a solid step towards the standardization and professionalization of what was then (and still is now, despite its professional manifestations) an amateur recreational pastime. Though they were modern in their creation, the rules appear antiquated to contemporary fans of the game since many of the early rules have been adapted or altogether eliminated as the game developed over time. In contrast to the rules, the field itself has maintained many of the original dimensions throughout the years.


The image thus represents a kind of commentary on the concept of permanence, as the prescriptive rules of behaviour and order have changed more dramatically than have the original spatial design. For this reason, and because the colours and shapes of the field have become iconic in association with many of the ideas I had in mind — childhood/youth, spring/summer, tactile/sensory memories — it was important that the dimensions of the baseball diamond be represented faithfully, and indeed, they are measured to scale. I used a standard set of measurements for the infield, and as a model for the outfield (because the outfields all vary) I used perhaps the most iconic baseball stadium: “Yankee Stadium”.