just above the knees

Syrupy sentimentality dished out in soup ladles is not enough. Kitsch alone cannot explain the enduring allure or at least interest in Norman Rockwell’s work. According to Donald Kuspit in his article “Art Values or Money Values” , Rockwell works sell in the big leagues of high brow art. There has to be some sort of erotic charge to the art to make it that enduring otherwise he would be relegated to the backwoods of illustration history. There is a sexual component in his work usually masked by the innocence, the moral narrative, myth, there is something larger that occupies an uncanny valley of reality that plays with the relationship between artifice and truth and the transgressing of these boundaries. I am reminded of this quote found in a study by Freud of Michelangelo’s Moses. Though the good doctor from Vienna was no song and dance man, it does make sense when looking at Rockwell:

Picasso once said that every good work of art is a kind of joke. Diego Rivera, the revolutionary Mexican muralist, agreed. Every piece of worthwhile art, properly understood, is not only like a joke, it is shocking. It must connect its elements in a new way; the world comes to be seen in a new way. A punch line of a joke may get a laugh, or perhaps only a smile. A first view of a great work of art may make one smile, more likely not. But it will be shocking, often without the viewer knowing quite why. “So art may not be a joke,” Rivera said, “but it is always like one.” Read More:http://www.analysis.com/vs/vs85.html

…But was baseball a women’s game stolen by men. Is this where “did you get to first base with her”  began?

From the Telegraph: Jane Austen wrote about baseball 40 years before its official invention, according to a new book. But evidence of the game’s British origins was erased from history by the American sports magnate Albert Spalding, according to the book’s author Julian Norridge.

Austen mentioned baseball in the opening pages of Northanger Abbey, which she wrote in 1797-8.

Introducing her tom-boy heroine Catherine Morland, Austen wrote:

“It was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, base-ball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books.”…

---the word "baseball" goes back much further. "Jane Austen," he writes, "used it in 'Northanger Abbey' in 1798. Fifty years earlier, Lady Hervey described in a letter what the family of Frederick, Prince of Wales, were doing: they were 'diverting themselves with baseball, a play all who are or have been schoolboys are well acquainted with.' And in 1744 an alphabetical book of sports for English children -- the kind that starts 'A is for Archery' -- chose to represent the letter B with 'Baseball.' "...Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/02/opinion/l-jane-austen-of-course-wrote-of-baseball-049590.html

Such a fleeting reference indicated that Austen’s readers were familiar with the sport, argued Mr Norridge. He said: “There’s no doubt it was being played in Britain in the late 18th century, and equally no doubt that it travelled to America.”

A German book from 1796 also devoted seven pages to the rules of “Englischer Baseball”, he added. The first written evidence of the game also comes from the Home Counties, in the form of a diary written by a Guildford teenager called William Bray in 1755….

I bring it up since Rockwell used a lot of androgynous figures; David Bowie was compelled to get Rockwell to do an album cover for him, and we see in Rockwell only a vague delineation of sexes at times that could not have been accidental. As Rockwell surely knew, there is often an unlikely proximity, a closeness between truth and kitsch, confrontation, trauma and the fantasy of disavowal. As if there is a kind of mysterious truth found within the kitsch; a pure naked truth at the back end of a extensive train of thought and emotion that began with something false, was joked about

then became transgressive to escape suffocating, smothering social constraints at work.

---Then, we have a charming pair of female ballplayers from Wamego, Kansas, around 1918, ready to hit the diamond with new gloves and matching uniforms. In addition to such plucky amateurs, baseball has benefited from the contributions of women at every level from the barnstorming teams of the 1930s to the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which was active from 1943 to 1954. --- Read More:http://fansinaflashbulb.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/fans-in-a-ballpark/

…Mr Norridge said: “He got fed up with the first really well known baseball journalist, a British-born chap called Henry Chadwick, who kept saying the game was based on rounders. “Spalding set up a special commission to look into the origins of the sport that sat for three years. Then he ignored all that it found.”

 

---Read More: http://www.globalgallery.com/enlarge/60901/

Cooperstown became the de facto birthplace of baseball, and home to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Years later a librarian in New York discovered evidence that the story about General Graves was a fabrication and he had “never been to Cooperstown”.

Ironically, while Chadwick was right about its geographical origins, the author said he was wrong about its evolution. Read More:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3562873/Jane-Austen-wrote-about-baseball-40-years-before-it-was-invented.html

ADDENDUM:

Read More:http://afrocityblog.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/maybe-next-term-portrait-of-a-presidential-rookie/norman-rockwell-the-rookie-2/

The idea that this artist, one of the most careful observers of the content of human body language that ever lived was not conversant with sexual symbolism, would be like suggesting that Ernest Hemmingway did not know the alphabet. Inundating the viewer with sexual symbolism and the like is the backbone of contemporary media art, image and advertising, of which Rockwell is a founding father; it is one of the ABC’s of contemporary media communication. That there are naive people who deny that it exists really just makes it all the more powerful …

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