Triple Play: Portrait of Yogi Berra
Material: Oil on canvas
Ninety percent of the game is half mental. – Yogi Berra
I do not presume to mock Yogi Berra (or anyone or anything else) in this painting. That’s not my Berra to cross.
Lorenzo Pietro “Yogi” Berra was a Midwestern (St. Louis) second-generation Italian (Milanese) who was worshipped in New York City and quoted everywhere else. In his teens, he reached a fork in the road: Does he stay in town and kiss the King of Beer’s can for the next 45 years, or does he break from convention and go to New York City to play baseball? He took the fork* and went on to help the Yankees win 10 of his 21 World Series appearances, plus he won 3 league MVPs in 5 years, something you’ve never done.
I show Yogi squatting in Jellystone Park for the third leg of the Triple Clown, with style and color reminiscent of classical Indian art and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Wearing his “tools of ignorance” (his words, not mine) he models the saffron and yellow colors of a monk from the Himalayas, and as for the rest of his ensemble, there is no color more neutral than the Yankee road uniform. Yogi is balanced by the chakras down the center of the painting, with his reverse image in pale line dancing in the flip-flop mirror space behind him. Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of great compassion, is also depicted in a four-armed aspect. Think about that. Take all the time you need.
*No discussion of Yogi Berra is complete without mentioning his “Yogi-isms”, or his witty quotations. I’ve already mentioned two of them. They are often submitted as evidence of his ignorance, but I believe the contrary, that they are signs of his genius. They will far outlive his legendary talents on the baseball diamond. “Take the fork” is the line that follows “When you come to the fork in the road …”. In his own defense, he once stated, “I really didn’t say everything I said.”