Many in the baseball world were moved by Monday’s news of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn passing away at age fifty-four. For the past two days commentators and eulogists have compared him to an artist.
How many in the art world would compare themselves to a baseball player, or seek influence from one?
Last summer photographer Kate Joyce scanned the baseball books at the Chicago Public Library, seeking help getting inside the heads of ballplayers. She checked out Gwynn’s book, The Art of Hitting, and brought it to Durham for one of her many weeks of work on Bull City Summer.
Kate’s notes from Gwynn’s book are below, dated July 30, 2013. You can see that her previous entry dated July 27 concerns photographer Ray Metzker: The juxtaposition is fitting. Her Metzker note, “familiarity breeds nuance,” applies to her dedication, as well as to that of Gwynn, a fabled preparer.
Last night Kate had this to say about Gwynn’s influence:
I was trying to figure out what my batting practice photos were about, why I was drawn to that repetitive action, some might say boring or tedious action.
Gwynn talks a lot about seeing, what goes into seeing. I can relate to that. When he talks about walking into the batter’s box and focusing on the pitcher’s cap – not just the cap, but more precisely the logo on the cap – that specificity in how he found focus helped me think about the meaning of what I was focusing on, and how that point of focus was a means to finding balance.
Gwynn writes a lot about balance. For him, I wondered, does balance mean his weight in the batter’s box, or his balance between mental and physical, or all of the above? I found some parallels with my work – balance in a frame and in a piece of work, balance in my thinking.
He writes that if he doesn’t know himself he’s going to be confused in the batter’s box. I felt creatively lost a lot of the time when I was working in the ballpark. It’s part of the process, but it’s unnerving. Qwynn’s insights helped me understand the concentration the batters have to have. Also perhaps the maturity required? They are so young, but there is a certain maturity that is unique to ballplayers and perhaps that comes from knowing yourself. There isn’t room for being off balance, unnerved, or for dwelling on the missteps of the day before.
– Sam Stephenson. @SamStephenson12