In 1985, while walking through Boston's North End, I took a photograph of a basketball hoop in a playground. It stood in front of a wall covered with graffiti, with it's rim bent down. I remember thinking at the time that it looked like an abstract painting. I made a print of the photograph, put it in a box and forgot about it.
It wasn't until 1992 that I realized that I had been seeing basketball hoops in my travels for years but not really noticing them. Suddenly, it seemed, they were everywhere I looked.
I liked the way they looked attached to garages, trees, telephone poles, barns, factory buildings, houses, flagpoles, pipes or on portable stands. People seemed to take great pride in creating them and making them unique. There were a lot of store bought official NBA models, but many more were home made. Some had painted backboards or funny shapes to match the house; others were attached to street signs or skinny pieces of wood. Still others were just rims attached to the side of a giant barn. Many were not even close to the regulation height of ten feet. Some were closer to twelve or thirteen feet, while others were only three or four. Most of them looked like they hadn't been used in years. They were rusted and forgotten, but not taken down. As a result, they had become part of the landscape.
I think that's what I like most about them, that they had become part of the landscape. A unique and inherently American part of the landscape. So much so, in fact, that most of the time they were all but invisible. But when you start looking for them, you begin to see them everywhere. They fit in with everything else one gets used to seeing around people's houses: pink plastic flamingos, bird feeders, religious shrines, water sprinklers, flower gardens and lawn ornaments.
In my mind, the basketball hoop joined these other things as a representative icon of our culture. These photographs are a look at something particularly American. A kind of folk art that has become a common sight all over our country. This subtle presence is a piece of Americana, visible everywhere if you take the time to look.
This exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Louise Morelli and Caroline Knapp
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