The Real Babe
I met Zan in a funny way: we went trick-or-treating a few years ago. Somewhere along the way, she told me that she’s originally from Canada. At the time, I was in full subject search mode for my series about what it means to be American, Apple Pie, so with her disclosure her fate was sealed: I had to have her as part of my collection!
Zan is a dedicated athlete and was interested in having her likeness combined with that of a sports icon, but none of the heros she proposed had the status I was looking for. So, much like with this subject, I kept the theme of Zan’s interest but found an icon who was recognizable enough to stand with the others in the series. I asked her how she would feel about being a new kind of Babe Ruth…!
I knew I wanted the Zan as Babe painting to take the form of a baseball card…
...but that meant coming up with a team name.
Eventually, I settled on the ‘Mericans, after how some Americans pronounce the word “American” (especially when they say things like “the American way”). I was also looking to subtly point out that Canadians are American too despite the USA’s ability to usurp two whole continents with its name.
Since Zan and I did the interview and photo session before establishing which icon was best suited to her, I didn’t get any photos of Zan striking a characteristic Babe Ruth pose. Instead of asking her to sit for me again and again, I had my sweetheart model with his arms—repeatedly!
I worked with my reference images always present.
Originally, I worked to reproduce the background from the famous three-bat Babe Ruth picture, bleachers and all.
However, as I worked, I discovered that not only did the dark background clash with the overall composition…
...but I needed the background to be made of more malleable stuff.
I wanted to embed the logos of sports equipment companies throughout the painting in order to highlight the increasingly commercial nature of professional athleticism in the United States.