Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
One artist is merging two very different worlds and coming up with delightfully strange results.
There’s not a lot of overlap between William Eggleston and Dusty Baker. Eggleston captured the most mundane aspects of life in the South with color film during the 1970s while Baker was making a name for himself as a young outfielder for the Atlanta Braves. Through Mark Giorgione’s art, their two worlds now collide.
In one piece from Giorgione’s Collage Baseball project, a young Baker posing for his 1974 Topps card appears alone inside a bleak portrait of downtown Atlanta seen through Eggleston’s lens. Combining the commercially simplistic with artistically banal, all of Giorgione’s pieces have their own, delightfully strange new energy.
Now 40, Giorgione started collecting baseball cards in elementary school before developing an interest in photography after taking a job in a Los Angeles photography gallery in his 20s. While revisiting some of his photography books recently, he kept feeling like he wanted more from the photos he was flipping through. “I wanted to be in the landscape instead of just looking at it,” Giorgione tells CityLab.
In order to create a piece, Giorgione cuts a player out of a card with an X-Acto knife, places them on a photo book page with rubber cement glue, takes a photo of it, and then posts it on Instagram. He’ll occasionally add more to the background, most often a stadium. “Sometimes pieces take an hour or so but sometimes they can take weeks,” says Giorgione. “I'm trying to get the right card for the right image or vice versa.”
Giorgione is not the first artist to be inspired by baseball cards. Mike Mandel designed a “set” of his famous art friends—Eggleston included—by photographing them in classic baseball card poses and typing out “player bios” on the back of each card. More recently, the duo behind Baseball Card Vandals has used social media to grow an audience for their elaborately defaced cards. Like these projects, Collage Baseball has its own surreal humor. John Rocker, most known for his bigoted, anti-New York rant in 1999, is placed in a devastating snapshot of the Bronx captured by Camilo José Vergara in the ‘70s. In another piece, Pete Rose, banned from Major League Baseball for life after betting on games as a manager, is placed into a scene from 1970s Las Vegas.
Other pieces are more an expression of childhood fantasy. Giorgione points towards a piece with Roger Clemens winding up in an industrial alley and another one with Nolan Ryan in front of a looming Astrodome, standing on a dirt mound in a suburban backyard. “It’s that memory of being a kid searching for the perfect baseball grounds in the neighborhood and then becoming the player you idolize while playing in your friends’ backyard,” he says.
A Dale Murphy fan growing up, one of Giorgione’s strongest collages shows the Braves slugger finishing a swing in the middle of a what appears to be a neighborhood destroyed by a natural disaster—a scene that reads like a metaphor for spending a childhood watching one of baseball’s best hitters anchor a perennially bad team.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the artist’s name.