No Business

Our interactions with art, especially process and concept, are often fleeting. In a world where what we see and experience is driven by want and immediacy, No Business Magazine encourages readers to slow down while exploring stories of artists and art-making.

Issue 1: Identity
Issue 2: Power Colors

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Exploring Identity Through
Repetition and Interaction

Words: Amy Jarding
Interviews with: Amelie Mancini
and Paul Dressen
The nice thing about baseball is, you don’t have to know about baseball to know about baseball. The sport has existed in the periphery of my reality, a constant in my life, but never a requirement. It remains an American pastime easily recognizable, and widely accessible for onlookers and enthusiasts alike; a sport that operates on it’s own time, a game that has grown and adapted through the birth of this nation. The tradition and rituals of the sport reach far into family histories and the passion that holds our focus.

We create our own history - a revisionism in the sense that a shared experience will still be entirely one’s own. This could also be said of our relationships with art - the artist presenting within a parameter of circumstance, leaving the viewer to digest and manipulate that understanding into their own cognitive context. Much like an artistic practice, the enduring nature of sports contributes to learning one’s true self, a realization of identity and exploration through repetition and interaction.

Art is a language within itself; a courier of identity as a vehicle in which we understand and express, question and agitate. It’s how the truths and stories are shared that gives insight to the identity of the individual. I had the opportunity to speak with two New York artists about how baseball has influenced their lives, and how the sport has worked its way into their artistic practice. Their works contain narrative not only of environment, but also dissection, inspired through familial and historical inquiries in practice; an examination of traditions, both adapted and repeated.

Amelie Mancini is an artist and designer based in Brooklyn, NY. Although she spent her childhood in Lyon, France, Mancini moved to NYC shortly after graduating from the Universite Sorbonne in Paris, and has lived in Brooklyn ever since. When I first saw Mancini’s work, I was drawn to her sense of humor. Her series of hand-printed Left Field Series baseball cards feature unexpected anecdotes, strange facial hair, silly names and playful facts for different players throughout the years. The linoleum carved and printed cards are so impressive that beginning Memorial Day weekend, they will be exhibited at the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of their permanent collection.

Mancini’s interaction with baseball didn’t really begin until after she moved to the US. As someone that has never really been involved in team sports, she explains that “growing up in France there was no baseball, with the exception of American movies where usually there's a scene about a little kid playing baseball and the dad does or doesn't show up at the game.” After being invited to a Mets game by some friends, Mancini found herself experiencing an atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm. Little did she know, that would just be the beginning of her relationship with the sport.

A few months after attending that game, Mancini was going through a serious breakup, and she she says she found herself alone at a bar, “sipping a beer, Johnny Cash was playing and when I looked up I saw that there was a baseball game on TV. At that moment it felt like America was giving me a hug and telling me it was all going to be okay. No matter what, there would always be beer, music and baseball. I love that about baseball. It's very comforting.” This moment served as one of several catalysts for Mancini, her interest in baseball slowly evolving into an appreciation that would manifest itself within her artistic practice.

Artist Paul Dressen resides in Corning, NY and works as a Preparator for the Rockwell Museum. Stemming from printmaking and painting, his work gives focus to seeking the individual’s role in society, “American culture, in particular, has been a constant influence and source of imagery for me as I attempt to navigate the lines between the individual, private and public.” For Dressen, the connection between sports and his art has been intrinsic to his personal identity. Exploring both the act and the aesthetic of sports, baseball in particular, Dressen’s childhood passion grew with him into his artwork. His love of sports is rooted in Americana and how it has impacted American culture in different ways. As a child, sports were ingrained in Paul’s upbringing, baseball being something that he had essentially been playing since he was old enough to walk. This connection stayed with him, going from playing baseball with his brother in a makeshift field his father would carve out in the backyard, all the way to playing several years of amateur town team ball in college.

Dressen’s father contributed more to his love of baseball than just mowing out a field in the backyard. His father impressed upon his kids an appreciation for sports and a healthy competitive nature. Dressen inherited his dad’s baseball card collection after losing his father when he was 10 years old. In the collection, he found a 1958 Ted Williams card, the most valuable piece in the collection, except for a blob of bright green paint that deemed the card worthless. Paul asked his uncle about the blob, and discovered that when his father and uncle were children, the boys had absentmindedly used the card to catch any paint drips while painting a model car, and had been horrified to later realize what they had done.

Even when it may not feel like it, the human condition is in a constant state of flux, identities being shaped in the way one views themself, the influence of their family relations, and the impact of their physical and emotional communities.


Mancini explained the thought process for her painting subjects: “I started with Babe Ruth because he seemed to be the biggest player of all (both literally and figuratively). Then I chose Roger Maris because I read that he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. Then Jackie Robinson because he broke another, arguably more difficult, kind of barrier - the color barrier. Then Ty Cobb because he was at the other end of the spectrum:a racist and by all accounts a ferocious asshole on and off the field. Then Harvey Haddix because he was a mensch and also a brilliant player. Then Sandy Koufax, who’d played for Brooklyn and Los Angeles and was Jewish, like my husband. Finally, Tom Seaver because I was, after all, a Mets fan.”
This quick moment in history has left a long lasting impression with Dressen and his approach to his graffitied baseball cards. “The initial idea behind the project was to reclaim that act and essentially destroy what had been left of him and replace it with my own deconstructed self. I was looking to save the irony of his responsible nature resulting in the destruction of his most prized possession and defend that action.” Dressen’s work establishes itself as a de-facto legacy to his father, his artwork driven by an exploration of a moment, creating and recreating parallel motions in an attempt to connect through his own interpretive understanding. 

Limiting himself to three different interactions with the cards, his approach to alteration includes “distorting the faces and disappearing the figures, transforming the players into exaggerated self-portraits, or making the cards into stupid joke illustrations.” By exploring the consequences of different mark making on the cards, he attempts to rid the process of preciousness and jibes at the imagery of sports icons held in a super-human view. The alteration of his childhood collection forges a connection between Dressen and his father, the Ted Williams card serving as a guide in which to digest and manipulate his approach to his work, while creating his own personal narratives in the process.

For Mancini, her baseball series really took flight after looking through her then boyfriend-now husband’s card collection. She wanted to create her own cards, and include facts on them similar to the way Topps cards did. After looking into the background of several different players, she realized “a lot of players had interesting stories of getting hurt off the field in really captivating ways. That's how the first series was created. For the following series I brainstormed ideas with him and we came up with a bunch of different themes in the same vein, like players with food names ("Edible All-Stars") or funny mustaches.” This exploration of histories offers players in a more humanistic view, articulating characters that present beyond just a one dimensional sports icon. Both Mancini and Dressen create works that bring you closer to the subject, their alterations of the players generating relatable personalities through obfuscation of preconceived notions of what makes a professional athlete.

Mancini’s baseball player paintings included a similar research style to her card series, perusing through books about the history of baseball, and stopping when she would find an image that stood out to her. After choosing a photo, she would research more about the player, and then begin her painting. Subjects for her baseball series covered a wide range of players, Mancini explains that they were chosen “partly out of free association, partly out of intuition, and partly out of reading and learning about the history of the game and its players.” Babe Ruth was the first painting she tackled, deeming him the biggest player of all, in both physical size and notoriety. Over the course of six months, Mancini completed seven baseball paintings, each piece intrinsically connected to the next. Mancini has the gift of looking at the sport with fresh eyes and a different perspective, her paintings show her painterly side rather than trying to embody the “sport” aspect of baseball.

Baseball has influenced life outside of her artwork, teaching underlying themes from the sport.

“I've learned about loyalty, about resilience, about practice and about teamwork and individual brilliance. I've learned the taste of victory, but more so of defeat. I've learned that no matter what happened the day before, you have to get back on your feet and back to work.” There is a recurring notion of endurance - pushing through both the familiar and the unknown in a way that dilutes hesitation and encourages one to take a chance.


“One of my favorite qualities of works on paper is the fragile nature of paper itself. Paper naturally holds evidence of an artwork’s construction. It leaves eraser marks, inked fingerprints, and abraded surfaces from drawing utensils. It can also leave evidence of handling after it has left the artist’shands in the creases, folds, stains, and bent or rounded corners it endures later.”

Much like an artistic practice, the enduring nature of sports contributes to learning one’s true self, a realization of identity and exploration through repetition and interaction.

Dressen likens artistic learning experiences to the resilience of failure in baseball: “the very best hitters fail 70% of the time they step up to the plate. Errors are a measured defensive statistic, and they are very common especially in the lower ranks of the game...I think baseball players have to learn to accept and embrace failure because it is always there, staring them in the face.”

Dressen sees defeat as a translatable force, teaching individuals about accepting and handling the failures you are met with throughout life. He has noticed the residual nature of failure in contemporary art; artists using downfalls to their benefit, failures evolving from a thing of disappointment to one of discovery and opportunity. By removing the negative connotations of failure, there is an encouragement and curiosity attached to work in a way that expands upon vulnerability and experimentation.

Even when it may not feel like it, the human condition is in a constant state of flux, identities being shaped in the way one views themself, the influence of their family relations, and the impact of their physical and emotional communities. These characteristics are far-reaching and require an understanding of traits, thought processes and personal struggles and developments.

Both Mancini and Dressen have maintained artistic practices that encourage inquiry, and an intimate articulation of their subject matter. They have the ability to find their moments of definition, and carry that far beyond, some foundations cradled in the brain, altering ever so slightly through the passing of time.

“I’ve always been into minor acts of subversion or vandalism, like drawing devil horns on a politician in a newspaper or scribbling stubble and an eye patch on a diplomat in a magazine or blacking out the teeth of a supermodel on subway advertisement. Mimicking that kind of thing is lot of what I try to do in my work, but the baseball cards are the most literal form of that. I do a lot of collage work and I draw and paint on top of my own prints and drawings as well as other mass-produced print media.”