The Blue Period
Last night, the art event of the fall hit the Twitterverse with a vengeance. I speak of the revelation of uber-bust quarterback Todd Marinovich's quite impressive foray into painting. Marinovich's pieces vary from assumed portraits of football legends to abstracts, yet no matter the subject, his work evinces the depths of his soul as only visual art can. Let's take a look and see what can be gleaned from these works.
"Defeat" is the first piece on the site, which isn't surprising considering Marinovich's public image as a failure on the field. However, he seems to accept this public image as an opportunity to show his audience the pain within. The silhouetted, disconsolate figure stands out against a mess of strong, textured color. Marinovich suggests that an athlete becomes easily defined as a type -- without the important specifics that actually explain a man -- in defeat. But even as his public image becomes clear, that person feels deep pain within, the kind that can't be easily expressed with relatable subjects. In other words, losing creates anonymity and frustration.
Before his troubles with the Raiders, Marinovich starred at USC. So it makes sense that he would pay homage to Trojan legend Marcus Allen with a portrait. Except nothing about this image says "Allen" -- it's all about the overpowering garnet and gold of Marinovich's alma mater. A great player fades into anonymity (again) against the overpowering tradition and dominance of a storied program. Whether you read this as a positive chance for man to become part of something greater than himself or a negative example of individuality getting lost in the crowd depends on your own preferences and view of Marinovich's time at USC. Were they his glory days or the beginning of the end?
If "Defeat" shows agony, then "Magic" displays the joy that can only come with victory. The emotional brushstrokes of "Defeat" have now been absorbed into what is an easily identifiable Larry O'Brien Trophy, and Magic himself appears as a full man, his winning personality on display for everyone to admire. That the technique is so similar to the disarray of "Defeat" suggests that the feelings involved in winning and losing are often similar, or at least equally strong. Except, in victory, they're challenged into a relentlessly positive display of human possibility.
This is a painting of dogs playing poker.
"Baugh" is the most basic portrait in the gallery, and for good reason. Marinovich was a product of a disturbingly modern sports environment, one in which his father could attempt to turn him into an All-Pro from birth and at least initially be championed for his commitment to creating a better life for his son. When the dream died, it was as much an indictment of the system as Marv's personal defects. "Baugh" depicts a time when things were much simpler. At the same time, it would be wrong to mistake this simplicity for a yearning for same. Marinovich is restrained -- his portrait of Sammy Baugh only shows the difference between two eras, not the superiority of one over the other.
I was initially flabbergasted that Marinovich would choose to paint Nick Cave -- after all, he's a musician rarely associated with the travails of a blond quarterback from SoCal. But upon closer inspection, there's an obvious kinship. Cave has made a career of writing about the conflicts between his adult self and a youthful indoctrination into the ways of organized religion. In other words, he has a tortured relationship with his childhood teachers and mentors. It's only natural that Marinovich would feel a kinship with someone like that. When the lessons of father figures don't work out, confusion and anger follow.