Saturday, March 15, 2014


Finding the individual within the mass of humanity, without losing the heritage of place or the points of social connection: that is among the most daunting tasks facing us. Celebrating what is both unique and common: that is the job of the artist, in whatever medium they may choose to work.

And that's what unites the efforts of the Baseball Reliquary with the artistic vision of Ben Sakoguchi. That symbiosis is solid and complete: when visitors to the Arcadia Public Library witness the "Purpose Pitch" installation (on display from March 4-April 29), they will be presented with a pure distillation of that meeting of the minds.

In "Brown Blue Brand," the individuals comprise the collective. Taking a boy's game to a higher, more complicated level, the six Hispanic Americans depicted here place faith in the not-yet-moribund idea of America as a "melting pot." They dare to "reach for the brass ring," to succeed at the highest level, to honor their cultural heritage by embodying it in a world where achievement strips away the specifics of ethnicity.

Ben makes sure that the color blue permeates but does not dominate the overall design in "Brown Blue Brand." While it is specific to Los Angeles and the Dodgers (note that all of the pitchers are shown in home uniforms), it stands in for the same "pride of place" that the nation began to embrace as a common goal during the time that Phil Ortega (the first Latin player to pitch for the Dodgers) struggled to make his dream come true. By the time that Jesse Orosco set the record for the most games appeared in as a pitcher, the Latin presence in modern American culture was not merely important, it had become pivotal to the nation's future.

There is unequal success here, just as is the case in life as a whole. But Ben treats each of these men with equanimity; each is depicted as being just as important as the other. As we would wish for all others, if we knew that our wishes could (and would) come true.

Not all heroes are equal in the popular imagination. It's up to the artist to remind us that all heroes are equally important in what they convey to us about ourselves. Sometimes a presentation that seems more prosaic is, in its own way, actually more profound.