Tabitha Soren: Fantasy Life
Tabitha Soren recently opened an expansive exhibition, Fantasy Life, with multiple approaches to her subject at the Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles that runs through June 6th, 2015. That subject would be baseball, and it’s layered with the idea that our beloved American sport sparks the hopes and dreams of greatness in all Americans, from its earliest participants, all the way to the major leagues and then to the fans. Speaking from the viewpoint of someone who has sat through hundreds of little league games, this spotlight on possibility is a fascinating one.
The gallery acts as a warehouse of artifacts (a galaxy of extracted bone spurs on black velvet, and a plexiglass tower of gilded peanuts), collected ephemera (little league photos, correspondences, and head shots) and it hosts a range of imagery–tintypes of the physical side of baseball–the awkward poses and gestures all captured from the viewpoint of a fan, silver gelatin and large-scale color photographs that speak to the agony and ecstasy of the sport, not excluding wads of tobacco-filled bubblegum and fireworks and the sweat of exhaustion. It’s a comprehensive and deeply considered body of work. Fantasy Life was also recently featured in the California Sunday Magazine.
For over a decade, Tabitha followed a group of players as they made their way through the morass of professional sports, some achieving the highest levels and some moving on to the other dream of success: family and a quiet life.
Fantasy Life is a series that explores the fantasies that define America: Manifest destiny, the romantic idea of the restless wanderer, the hopeful idea that failure is just a step on the road to greatness, the notion that the pursuit of fame and fortune is also the pursuit of happiness, the belief that to secure one’s identity, one must seek to stand apart from the community.
Out of the thousands of players that are drafted into Major League Baseball each year, only a tiny percentage – about 6% – go on to play in “The Show” – the big-pay, high-stakes galaxy of thirty teams that we all know, love and hate. They may all start the journey together full of hope and vigor, but the varied fates of each year’s draft prospects lead them to wildly different ends. I have been building it for over a decade with the Oakland A’s 2002 draft picks as my subjects. These men came to the Major League farm system straight out of college and I have followed them through the vagaries, triumphs and doldrums of baseball life – an alternate reality of bus rides, hotel pools, injuries, friendships forged and broken, marriages forged and broken, constant motion and very hard work.
Some of my subjects became well known, respected players at the highest level of the game. Some left baseball to pursue less glamorous work, such as selling insurance and coal mining. Some have struggled with poverty – even homelessness. But the common thread among them all is that they had a shot, and they literally put their bodies on the line for the sake of the game; the chance to play with the best and the chance to touch greatness.
In the same way that American kids are all told they could grow up to be President one day, these boys have been told they are special and that they could be a professional baseball player one day. Their lives are a thematic and symbolic iteration of Americans’ drive and ambition – as well as our refusal to accept ordinariness. This is a professional sport where the very best player in the world actually only hits the ball successfully a third of the time, but no one pays attention to that. Baseball is really all about striking out and failure and resilience.
The exhibition includes 5 parts:
1. A mixture of Cprints and Gelatin Silver prints
2. A wall of memorabilia from the 23 players I followed for 11 years (everything from kindergarten age baseball cards to arthroscopic x-rays from knee surgeries)
3. A wall of comparison portraits showing that only 5 of the players made it to the major leagues
4. Tintypes of action shots from games (Tintypes and baseball came into the world around the same time.)
5. Two sculptural elements: a vitrine of 20 bone spurs sprinkled over black fabric and a waist- high pile of shelled peanuts, with 6% of the peanuts painted gold. The pictures include players from 14 baseball teams – not just the Oakland A’s since the members of the draft class were
traded to many other teams as their careers progressed or regressed.
Exhibition Installation Shots
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