By the end of World War II, the world had already seen the worst atrocities imaginable. It was easier than ever to lose faith in humanity. The painting, Montana Xibalba, created after World War II by Jess, is based off of a black and white picture that she found after moving to San Francisco. From that photo, she created this painting, which demonstrates shows just how rich and beautiful sports have been to humans, even in the worst of times.
First, it is important to notice the name of the painting and its correlation to the original photo, which was found in an old University of Montana yearbook. At the time she found the picture, it reminded her of an old Mayan myth where the sun and moon were born as a result of a game between two heroes and the Lords of Xibalba, the villains. Considering the world was in recovery from World War II, its own version of good vs. evil, it was only fitting at the time that Jess would choose this photo.
In so many ways, this painting displays the various elements of individuality, yet combined together to create diversity, within sports. The athletes in the painting represent just a few of the sports that society plays, as well as a distinct uniform that is familiar within that sport.
This sports painting acts as a prototype to demonstrate the various functions of most sports, and how each function correlates to one another with basic rules of physics. Despite only three types of sports being represented in the painting, each player is performing a different function that most every sport has, specifically kicking, catching, waiting, and running. If the uniforms are overlooked, one can predict what happens by looking at the positions of the players. If the player to the right kicks the ball, the player in the middle could catch. However, the player to the right is waiting, so that player might try to block the kick, preventing the center player from getting the ball. The player on the left side that is running out of the scope of the painting is running ahead in anticipation of having the ball kicked or thrown in a particular direction. But with the basic rules of sports comes predetermined agreed upon protocol within, and the referee can be seen strategically placed on the sidelines in the background, watching to make sure all rules are followed.
Interesting to note is the selection of sports, which likely has to do with soccer, basketball, and tennis being in the top ten most popular sports in the world. When thinking about the world, it is important to note the diversity of its people, which is well represented in the painting by the colors in the crowd. When thinking about when this painting was made, it is important to note that the Olympics and World Cup were cancelled due to World War II. Despite the painting showing everyone watching sports, each color represents a different segment, which symbolizes a divided world at the time. It is easy to empathize with the artist, as she may have been thinking that everyone wanted the Olympics and World Cup to come back. But because of war, everyone could only love and watch sports with their own people, not with the world together. Maybe by creating this painting, she also had hope that one day, the world will be able to watch the Olympics and World Cup again.
The duplication of an old black and white photograph into a carefully painted colorful portrait symbolizes a rebirth, which is what the world needed back then after two world wars. With the resuming of the Olympics and World Cup after World War II ended, it was with hope that sports would once again help the world be united once again.
The painting is a part of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
Photo courtesy of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth