Friday, March 28, 2014


In our various musings about the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals, we discuss three primary traits that tend to cluster in varying forms within the individuals who are inducted. These traits, or characteristics, are linked to a powerful but mostly unspoken set of historical forces that the voting membership of the Reliquary have grasped as they sift through the serial "nudges" that the Reliquary brain trust (Terry Cannon and Albert "Buddy" Kilchesty) provide when they select the Shrine's potential inductees.

There are many other descriptive terms that can be applied to those who've been inducted; we could speak of "pioneers," for example, as an attribute that casts a long shadow over the individuals in the Shrine. But such a term is more strictly historical than psycho-cultural, and it doesn't have the force or the depth that's necessary to capture what this particular Reliquary project is mining.

Those traits, or characteristics, or forces, are: adversity, extremity and otherness. We will sometimes find that they combine in individuals; on very rare occasions, all three are present. Somehow these traits, as will o'the wisp as they might at first seem, manage to dominate and mold the selection process and have done so now for fifteen years.

The two traits that combine most often, as you might expect, are adversity and otherness. Those who are out-caste in some manner or form will often find their path blocked by institutional or individual prejudice. It isn't surprising that the vast majority of Shrine inductees possess one or both of these traits.

And it's not surprising that the inductees who are primarily defined by their otherness are the ones that Ben Sakoguchi is most interested in depicting. Certainly our first example from Display Case #3 in the Reliquary's exhibition of fifty-four paintings from Ben's Unauthorized History of Baseball series, Bill (Spaceman) Lee, demonstrates otherness in his defiance of institutional PC (though Bill's secondary trait is, interestingly enough, extremity--the outrageousness he channels in how he expresses such defiance).

Our next two inductees, both of whom have superbly intricate "orange crate art" paintings, are examples of adversity caused by otherness. The induction of Ila Borders (first female player in otherwise men's-only organized baseball) and Pam Postema (first female umpire in organized baseball) represents a recognition of the perils of otherness, and a sympathetic appreciation of those who strive to overcome the adversity of institutional bias.

These inductions also embody the principle of hope in that they project a belief in the possibility that women will someday find their way onto the actual playing fields of major league baseball, a prospect that still seems remote.

For Ben, it provides an opportunity to create several of his most elaborate and lurid works. We are still puzzled over Postema's "alter-ego" in Miss Call Brand, but we suspect that Bob Uecker would have enjoyed the prospect of the particular apparel choice if, for example, it had been showcased in Major League--proving that there's a quite a distance between the words salacious and sagacious.

For Ben, it provides him with a chance to work with hot pink (something that seems irresistible to him) and to work with a range of color textures (note the highly magnified detail on those oranges--we're surprised that he was able to refrain from plastering his "Full O'Juice" slogan on this one...but see our word distinction above to see how Ben is expert at going right to the limits of "good taste").

For Ila Borders Brand, Ben just takes the plein air conceits that can be found in the original orange crate art and takes it to a breathtaking level of detail. (Note, again, the color and detail on those oranges.)

Now it could be that Ben just likes to show off for the ladies. But we think that the subject of otherness is one that fires up his creative juices (no pun intended).