Island painters capture Fenway Park, Red Sox capture them
Photo courtesy of Anne Grandin
This week, all eyes will be on Fenway Park, where the Boston Red Sox take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Anne Scott McGhee and Anne Grandin are two painters with deep Island roots that have cast artistic eyes on the ballpark for many years, and their work lets us see Fenway in a different light. If art evokes emotion, it is perhaps no surprise that both painters have also been drawn into the emotional vortex of Red Sox Nation, with its suffering, its elation, superstitions, rituals, and camaraderie. And its artistic beauty.
An unsuspecting citizen
Anne Scott McGhee knew very little about baseball when she began painting Fenway Park, the scene of rare October drama in Boston. When she's not at her home in Chilmark or painting in Menemsha, she is often at her studio in Boston, a few blocks from Fenway, or outside the historic baseball shrine with her easel.
It was the architecture of the park that first caught her attention. As it has for so many fans, the place John Updike called a "lyric little bandbox of a ballpark," drew her in.
"One day I was driving by because I had to get gas," Ms. McGhee said. "I saw a view of the park, and I had my painting gear in my car. I took my easel out and started painting."
Then she painted another, and another, and another, and eventually created more than 40 paintings of Fenway Park. Ms. McGhee and her easel are fixtures on Ipswich Street and Van Ness Street near Gate B.
"I'm also attracted to things that seem to have a sense of memory, or evocative of something, there's a feeling about the place."
For some time, she still didn't care much about baseball but concentrated on capturing Fenway en plein air. One day, that spring when she took out her oils and brushes, thousands of people began streaming into view.
"There was a game," Ms. McGhee said. "I had never witnessed people coming to a game. It was funny because I thought all these people have costumes on, these players' shirts. I'd never seen that."
She got to know the people who work in the park, the vendors, even the ticket scalpers. Then on a warm summer night, she became a citizen of Red Sox Nation.
"I heard this roar come from inside the park," Ms. McGhee said. "I couldn't believe that sound. It sounded like the Colosseum or something. I thought this is incredible, the energy that was in this park."
She began to watch the games on television, get to know the players, and follow the standings. Like so many unsuspecting sufferers, she started to use the pronoun "we" when she spoke of the Red Sox. While two World Series championships happened before her easel, there was also the inevitable heartbreak.
"The horrible thing that goes with it, you get so depressed and emotionally involved," Ms. McGhee said.
When the Red Sox engineered an epic September collapse in 2011, losing 18 of their last 24 games, Ms. McGhee wasn't sure she wanted to go back to the ballpark with her oils and brushes. She wasn't the only one who flirted with renouncing citizenship in the Nation that year. But it was too late for that.
"That fall, early winter, I did go back over there," she said.
Don't we all.
Not impossible dream
Baseball came before painting for Anne Grandin of West Chop and Newton. Growing up in Philadelphia, her early allegiance, naturally, was to the Phillies. But that changed when she moved to Boston some 40 years ago, first studying at the Art Institute of Boston, and then earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from Boston University, both within a loud roar of Fenway Park. Now, she says simply, "I have always loved the Red Sox."
In August 2004, her love deepened, dramatically. "They were eight games behind, but I was a believer and just felt they were going to come back," she said this week as World Series fever spread through Red Sox Nation for the third time in the last 10 years. "I started to buy tickets to the games, and the Sox started to win. I remember the ALCS when Manny [Ramirez, of course] was up and it was late and we were behind. The moon was out and Manny hit the ball. The game ended after midnight and we won! From then on, it was really exciting...I got tickets to the World Series and brought my daughter.
"After we won the World Series, I had a dream that I had to do something to remember the Red Sox, and I started a series of paintings."
One of the seven paintings introduces Manny at bat under the full moon, as seen from the visitors dugout. Always a threat to change a game, Manny is pausing before stepping in, potential personified. The catcher looks almost resigned, the ump behind him bent by his duty.
Another painting captures the joy and pomp of the pregame ceremony before a World Series game. The teams are lined up along the foul lines, team and league officials are gathered in front of the Red Sox dugout, and the announcer is about to tell us which venerable old Sox player or hot new celebrity will throw out the first pitch.
The excitement and anticipation in both oil paintings are made richer by Ms. Grandin's signature use of organic colors and circular forms, through which she "tries to show the relationship of all life forms to another as nature's rhythms and movements are never still, always changing." Backed by this belief in interconnection, she sees an almost spiritual relationship between the Red Sox and the city of Boston, so she wasn't content to keep the paintings to herself or those who purchased them.
"I had prints made and sold most of the paintings," she said. "I decided to give 20 percent of all sales for one year to Ecclesia Ministries on Boston Common, which takes care of homeless people."
As for the World Series this year, Ms. Grandin is thinking about doing a new series of paintings.
Ms. Grandin has been coming to the Island since the 1960s, first with her parents and later with her husband, John, to stay at the family home his grandfather bought early in the last century. She has been on the board of the Martha's Vineyard Art Association and Featherstone Center for the Arts. She is currently on the advisory board at the latter. Working with art students at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, she helped create the mural on the north wall of the Stop & Shop in Vineyard Haven.
The paintings and prints of both Anne Scott McGhee and Anne Grandin are on display at PIKNIK Art and Apparel, 11 Winter Street / Nevin Square in Edgartown.