Tampa Museum of Art Spring Exhibits

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Having a Ball: Striking Portraits from America's Pastime by George Sosnak
On view March 1-July 22, 2018

One of the most beloved and best known folk art painters of baseball, George Sosnak (1924-1992) was a lifelong, passionate fan of the game. He parlayed his enthusiasm for the sport into two concurrent careers: first as a Minor League umpire, and eventually as an artist, meticulously painting baseballs decorated with the images and arcane statistics so dear to fans of the game.
Sosnak was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where from an early age he collected autographs from his hometown Pirates. When serving abroad in the Army late in World War II, he participated in military games as a player and umpire, but found that his talents were more suited to the latter. When he returned to the States, he enrolled in umpire school in Florida, where he was based for the remainder of his life. Eventually settling in Lakeland, Sosnak umpired in the Pioneer and Florida State Leagues (among others), and supplemented his income as a baker, construction worker, and a corrections officer.

When asked how he began painting, Sosnak-who had no artistic training-liked to tell the story that when he was an umpire in the 1950s, a young female fan asked him for a portrait of her favorite player on a ball. This interaction began an almost 40-year career, largely avocational, of producing colorful and increasingly intricate, themed baseballs. Some celebrated particular moments, some honored legendary players, and others marked championship teams.

Sosnak's final self-chosen challenge was to create a ball for each player in the Baseball Hall of Fame, recreating his Hall of Fame plaque as well as an overview of the player's career in glorious detail and color. Occasionally, he would decorate a two-dimensional format like correspondence or drawings with his appealing images. In the end, Sosnak is thought to have begun some 3,000 baseballs, and to have finished about 800. Having a Ball includes 53 George Sosnak artworks - 43 baseballs and 10 works on paper.

Having a Ball: George Sosnak's Striking Portraits from America's Pastime was organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia.

Inspired by Nature: Vases, Birds, & Flowers
On view March 9 - July 22, 2018

From antiquity through the present day, artists and craftsmen have found inspiration in the flora, fauna, and other forms of the natural world. For many artists, the vase in particular has lent itself to flourishes borrowed from nature, often together with - or in the form of - flowers and birds. While the forms and functions of the resulting artworks vary widely, from emulations to adaptations, and from aesthetic beauty to utilitarian purpose, all share a common inspiration worth exploring more closely. From the embrace of natural forms by artists associated with Art Nouveau - a movement only recently reconnected by scholars to the classical tradition - to more complex representations of vases, birds, and flowers by post-war and contemporary artists, Inspired by Nature will illustrate the beauty and vitality of the natural world alongside its many uncertainties.

Drawn primarily from the Museum's permanent collection, the exhibition will include more than two dozen artworks from a variety of media and time periods, in two dimensions and three. Of particular interest is Sensuous Triptych (2000) by Betty Woodman, a prominent American ceramicist whose recent passing prompted renewed attention to her work here in Tampa. Brightly painted and made of fired clay, with elements of painting, drawing, sculpture, and more, her work defies categorization. And just as its three pieces come together as one, the front sides and back sides communicating with one another, so too will the larger whole engage in dialogue with so many other vases, birds, and flowers displayed nearby.

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