Chicago artist Margie Lawrence’s subjects range from forgotten players like Chief Meyers to the iconic Joe DiMaggio or the barrier-breaking Jackie Robinson. Lawrence has even painted (and later met) legendary Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller. “I showed him a painting I had done of him and his family called ‘Baseball Gothic’ because they’re in overalls in front of a barn,” she told the Chicago Reader in a recent interview. “He’s like, ‘You didn’t do that,’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, I did, Mr. Feller. Even though I’m a girl, I like baseball.'”
Lawrence reached out when she saw the Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American exhibition—which explores how issues around identity, culture and community in America have played out through sport—was on view at the Maltz Museum. We talked about her work and her love of the game.
How did you become an artist?
It’s probably in my DNA. My parents were artistic too. My father was a jewelry designer and my mother was an art major. After I attended the Art Institute I became a commercial artist. It wasn’t until later that I really explored fine art.
What inspired you to take on baseball in your work?
I lived near Wrigley Field. You could hear the crowd cheering and the organ from my school when the windows were open. I became a big fan of the Cubs. I was always going to games. I would go to 30 or even 80 games in a season. I can’t go as often anymore because the ticket prices have gotten so high.
They’re even selling the space on top of the residential buildings near Wrigley Field to watch the game, right?
Yes, and developers are trying to snatch those buildings up. It’s crazy. Tickets for the White Sox are a little more reasonable, but I am a Cubs fan. I watch them on TV.
Who is your favorite baseball player of all time and why?
Well, I loved Ryne Sandberg but absolutely everyone in my family was a Sandy Koufax fan. We’re Jewish and he’s a tremendous Jewish athlete. I guess before that my parents might have admired Hank Greenberg, but by the time I was getting into the sport it was definitely Sandy Koufax.
What is the hardest part about pursuing a passion?
Being a woman in the field of baseball art sets me apart. I am good at it, but for many it’s a little unexpected.
Do you think it affords you a different perspective? What are you trying to capture on canvas about the sport?
The players’ humanity. These are our baseball heroes but they are also just people. They have faults and insecurities. I try to show their human side. I want their souls to shine through.
Where can we find your work and information about you?
I’ve had shows in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. I’ve also have pieces that are in the archives at the Baseball Hall of Fame. But for anyone in Cleveland or across the country, there’s always my website—margielawrence.com.
—Sam Fryberger, Director, Marketing & Communications