July 15, 2020

Homeplates Back Home at Scottsdale Stadium

Image of one of the pieces being installed at Scottsdale Stadium. Photo: Wendy Raisanen.

The city of Scottsdale recently made renovations to Scottsdale Stadium, where the San Francisco Giants play Spring Training. Those renovations included the refurbishment and relocation of the existing public art at the stadium by Craig Smith and Dan Collins titled Homeplates.

Smith and Collins’s work was installed during the last major renovations of Scottsdale Stadium in 1997. The project consisted of photographs of historic baseball objects, as well as friezes that represent symbols from baseball and a pitcher’s mound and home plate that were connected by a bronze strip denoting the distance from the mound to the plate.

Two of the photographs needed to be repaired, and the budget allowed us to purchase new photographs for the project. A few of the photographs were hung in their original location and some found new homes at the main entrance and exterior walls of the stadium. Follow this link for more info on Homeplates.

We’ve invited photographer, Craig Smith, to reminisce about creating the images for the project. Here is what he had to say:

“According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one of the definitions of ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to a set sequence. 

“During both my undergrad and graduate years of school while studying art, I always maintained an interest in anthropology and linguistics. During my last semester of school, I had taken a class called Myth, Ritual, and Symbol. The class cross-culturally surveyed a range of distinct belief systems practiced universally. It compelled me to begin reconsidering my day-to-day beliefs and rethinking what rituals might be considered intrinsically American ritual practices. The first American ritual which came to mind was baseball.  

“In breaking down some of the commonalities of ritual practices, the first one that jumped out at me was the absence of time. A time limit does not exist within a ritual practice. It has a set of rules which must be executed and repeated until complete. A baseball game is not over until there is a winner, regardless of time. In theory, a baseball game could be played forever. 

Image of one of the pieces installed at Scottsdale Stadium. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

“Not unlike rituals practiced on sacred grounds with boundaries consisting of numerous shapes and sizes, the baseball field has its consecrated area within the white lines of fair and foul territory. At the center of the diamond is the pitcher’s mound. These and other anthropological observations would inspire me to create my first body of photographic work: The Ritual of the Game.  

“I decided to use a selection of baseball artifacts, masks, gloves, and mitts as objects to represent our culture. They are shown on a white, shadowless background so that they appeared detached from their culture. I employed an anthropological perspective to the photographed objects. I wanted them to take on a strange and unfamiliar appearance, thereby allowing the viewer to perceive them as a collection of unknown sculptural objects, removed from their intended purpose.  

“In the winter of 1991, I was generously allowed to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and permitted access to their vast collection of baseball artifacts. The collection manager was only receptive to the idea of allowing the objects to be photographed once he understood that my intentions were aesthetic and not for documenting memorabilia. I created a makeshift studio in the collection area, and after I made my first Polaroid test image, an employee looked at it and said, ‘Oh, I get it. So, you’re looking at these things as art.’

The Ritual of the Game was to become my first exhibition at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, in conjunction with a large traveling exhibition of baseball-related artwork, Diamonds are Forever. Several larger pieces from this series have been permanently integrated into Scottsdale Stadium as public art.”

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