Installation project: La Liga De Mentirosos
La Liga De Mentirosos: Mixed media. 8' x 8' x 24"
As part of the trip to Greece in 2017, I volunteered to teach art to refugees with an NGO on the island of Lesvos. There were two programs offered. One was a drawing class that taught how to deal with the human figure in three dimensional space. The other was a class on photography basics using the common cell phone.
Photo class Drawing class Student photo exhibit
In between lesson planning and teaching, the staff would engage in daily household upkeep projects. One project was to try and beautify a delinquent yard in the back of the office space so that it could be used for gatherings as the weather improved. While cleaning up the debris, I found a very old soccer ball behind a pile of wood. It immediately caught my eye as a "thing". There was a middle school on the other side of the high stone wall surrounding the backyard. Some kids must have been playing during recess and kicked the ball over the wall, out of reach, and it had laid there for years judging from the shape it was in. It was definitely a "thing" for the collection. I snatched the old ball up and mailed it back to the US.
The Greek community, like many in the world, is obsessed with soccer. One couldn't enter a restaurant, pub, or coffee house without having nonstop soccer games being televised. If there wasn't a game being played in real-time, nonstop highlights of games were streamed on a soccer sports channel.
Toward the conclusion of the of the Muller investigations that started May 2017 and ended March 22 2019, evidence gathered showed that President Trump had amassed a band of cheats and liars around him and they seemed to be playing a dangerous game of undermining democracy. Some were indicted and sentenced for their lying and breaking the law, while covering up evidence that the Trump campaign had facilitated Russian interference. The result was that 34 individuals were officially charged along with 3 companies. There were an additional 8 guilty pleas submitted in the courts, as well as the impeachment of Donald Trump in the house of Representatives.
By New Years 2019, I was planning a return to Lesvos to volunteer for a Swiss NGO teaching swimming and assisting with a basketball camp for refugees. I had a few months of looking at the old soccer ball in the studio remembering watching televised games in Greece. My creative thinking side began to visualize a soccer league as a signifier for Trump's dangerous game and his circle of loyal fanatics. I thought of ways in which a soccer league might function to transcend its signifier and be deconstructed to symbolize human culture. As the game was bisected into its separate parts, a couple of pieces rose above the rest. The ball remained at the center of the process; But a powerful icon of the soccer experience is the team scarf. Every soccer team has a "team scarf". A MAGA baseball hat was like a soccer team scarf. It had to be worn as an affirmation of team loyalty. Every team scarf has a unique design; but they all have allegiance to their league. The scarf is the essential soccer icon. I began to work out how it could function as part of the installation representing fanatic loyalty.
By settling on a general focus for the work, it became clear that actual scarves would have to be created and I would have to make them. I was within a month of flying to Greece and was cramped for time. A small loom was purchased online and mailed direct to the residence on Lesvos where I would be staying. It was a good plan because there was plenty of free time to work, yarn was inexpensive there, and I would need quiet time to learn the weaving process. When I got started, it was clear that weaving words into a scarf was a huge technical challenge. To ease the anxiety of not being a "weaver", I adopted an expression from the "Salon De Refuse" days that stated, "today's artist doesn't say come and see my perfection, they say come and see my sincerity". Four scarves had been completed when I left Greece.
Back home in the studio on June 6 2019, I began to work out a function with the scarves while completing and crating up the "No Collusion" work to free up space. Both the scarves and the old ball would be the work and it was quickly understood that more scarves would be needed. The loom had been left in Greece, so another was ordered and production resumed. I arrived at a title while setting up the loom for the fifth scarf. Reminiscing over my time in Greece, there was one sports channel that, after every commercial, would remind the viewing fans that they were watching "La Liga soccer network" which became the title of the work after adding Mentirosos, the Spanish word for "liars".
Resolution of the soccer ball came together around the close of 2019 when recalling the game day ritual of a "La Liga" soccer match. A match started with players entering the "pitch" single file, each player holding the hand of a youth league soccer player. As they proceeded through the stadium tunnel, they would pass by a wooden pedestal with the league logo on its side. The game ball would be resting on top it. Following the players entry came the referees. As the head referee past by the wooden pedestal, he would pick up the game ball and proceed to the center of the "pitch" in preparation to start the game play.
In using the ball and pedestal to symbolize the game, the idea being that they both represented a set of rules and standards that all teams pledged allegiance to in order to play in league games. Later adding the Trump logo to the pedestal, four T's resembling a swastika represented that this was the Trump league and in order to play, it would be by his rules. At that moment in the Trump administration, the media, pundits, and scholars started to openly accuse him of employing strategies used from the fascist play book . I also felt the ball's condition, deflated and rotting with some of the leather pentagons pealing off, fit perfectly into work as it progressed. I felt Donald Trump was trying to dredge up the past playing with voters sense of nostalgia to build a fan base. The game was a league of liars using an outdated ball that was incapable of being used in postmodern game play. Symbolically, I gave the ball a thin new coat of black and white paint. Like one would do with an old house being readied to sell.
During the end of the 2020 election and in the last two months, it has become clear that America is split. There are those who are trying to disregard the constitution in favor of a "because I said so" interpretation of leadership. They seem ready to accept the notion that the Constitution is not the rule of law but "more as set of flexible guidelines" open to personal interpretation. It has changed the initial intent of this work. It now includes the idea that there are those who long for a game from the past and are willing to use any means to reclaim that past at what ever the cost. Even at the risk of loosing relevance based upon the needs of a thriving American culture that is inclusive.