The paintings accompanying the hockey scouting reports starting on page 52 of this issue were done by Alexander Walsh. Two years ago, when Art Director Richard Gangel came upon Walsh's work at a one-man exhibition in New York, he was captivated by Walsh's use of scale to influence perception. Walsh had done no sports painting, but when Gangel asked him to do a study of the sport of his choosing, he leaped at the chance.
"Sport was 180 degrees away from anything I'd done before, but it still allowed me to communicate my ideas," says Walsh. "I chose hockey because it has the most action and because I think it is more like life than any other team sport. It's spontaneously brutal, and life is really very, very brutal."
Walsh got plenty of firsthand views of hockey's brutality: he had never been to a pro game before, but he saw more than 20 while researching his subject. "I was frightened, to tell you the truth," he says. "The players were zipping by, starting fights right in front of me, and if you didn't watch it, you got a stick right down your throat. For my very first hockey game I went out to Long Island. Before the game I was standing on the rubber mat at the rink entrance, asking a guard where I should go, when Goalie Billy Smith came off the ice and said, 'Get the——out of the way!' I said, 'Yes, Sir.' That was my only conversation with a hockey player."
Walsh decided to leave the emblems off the uniforms of his miniature players to give them a more universal appeal. "I try to make my pictures as multileveled as possible," he says. "On the most superficial level you have a fairly bright, colorful picture of a small-scale hockey player in a stadium. Then you have the concept of after-image: after the game the stadium empties very quickly, and I was playing with the idea of walking out and seeing flashbacks from the game as your eyes go up the steps. On another level you have the idea of these great big hockey heroes, who are larger than life, being reduced in size and shoved under a stadium seat after a game. You'll notice that each hockey player has a little base, like the pieces in a lot of board games. A hockey player after a game is not fluid and active; he's a frozen image, like a chessman. I'm not trying to belittle them by reducing them in Scale; I am trying to put them in perspective."
October 12, 1980
Walsh, 33, was born in Boston and served in Vietnam before attending the Hammersmith College of Art in London. He was director of New York's Terry Dintenfass Gallery until July, when he traded in his 4½ rooms in Manhattan for a 200-year-old farmhouse and 12 acres in West Woodstock, Conn. There he will deal in 19th-century American landscape paintings and continue his own work, while learning to farm in the self-sufficient manner of his Yankee forebears. His family, wife Jill and their two kids, has already collected a menagerie of chickens, turkeys, sheep, a goat, a horse and a pig named Snorker.
"We didn't have time to tell anyone we were leaving New York," says Walsh. "People still come to the gallery expecting to find me. My former assistant just pulls out a bag of marbles she keeps in her desk and explains that I lost them."