Obsessed? Yeah, it definitely bordered on that. That was back in 2002/2003 when it was all I could think about. The sport mesmerized me. Retro yet oddly futuristic. Fast and simple. Traditional yet subsisting in a vacuum. In its simplest state, one on one. Beautiful. It wasn’t always like that though. I remember seeing advertisements for Jai-Alai on t.v. and in newspapers, when I was younger, on visits to my grandmother in Florida. I was always intrigued but it somehow faded to the back of my memory.
And then it came back in full force. I remember dragging an ex down to Florida to visit different frontons (stadiums) to take it all in. Depressing scenes. In 1975, its hay day, the Miami fronton would pack 15,000 people in to enjoy and wager on the games. Forward to 2004 and maybe 25 people, at the most, was what I would count at the games.
The paintings themselves are based off of photos that I had taken during visits to Dania Jai-Alai and Miami Jai-Alai. Painted on baltic birch, to emulate the hardwood floors of the fronton, these works are made by putting down multiple layers of acrylic paint over top of a raised image. The pieces were then sanded to allow various layers to come through and finally sealed with a high gloss varnish.
Even though Jai-Alai has faded since its glory days, the players still come to the states to show their skills and make a living. 99% of the players come from the Basque region of France and Spain which I was lucky enough to go to and watch the game played in its homeland as well as talk to one of the players. Oddly enough, as it was in 1975, the players over in Europe still aim to play in Florida. That’s where the money and fame is, with 25 people in the stands (to say they watch is debatable).