A shot over the Green Monster produces cheers that can be heard across the Charles, while a botched ground ball sends a shower of angry boos on the culprit. Verbally, Red Sox fans stand out as some of the most honest in the majors.
Jeff Bye, however, prefers to express himself in a different way. A Longmeadow, Mass., native, Bye is a master of oil paints and has fused his love of the Red Sox with his passion for painting in a group of pieces which he calls the "Fenway Series."
"What makes a good subject is something that someone is passionate about, and I am definitely passionate about Fenway Park," Bye said. "When you have a passion like that, it comes through your artwork. When you really love something and know how to express it, that speaks to the viewer much more so than a commercial piece."
Always fascinated with the historical and structural elements of Fenway Park — "the Coliseum made me think of Fenway Park," he said — Bye used to sneak into Boston’s stadium and snap as many photos as he could, toying with sunlight and angles to provide multiple perspectives, before he would get kicked out. After discovering the ballpark offered tours, Bye jumped on a number of them as he searched for perfect depictions of Pesky Pole, the Green Monster and the stadium itself.
But his paintings are not your run-of-the-mill landscapes.
"Being a fan of the park, it was something special, and it's been developing through the years to work with the angles and shadows and expand on the abstract quality of the diamond and the structure," Bye explained. "I really wanted the series to be a fine art experience, and so many other drawings look cheesy. I wanted to avoid it looking commercial and stick to the fine art."
Bye learned the nuances of fine art at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which included a year in Rome, where he studied classical art and architecture. That’s where he recognized the striking similarities between the centuries-old Italian landmark and the 98-year-old Boston ballpark. He moved onto the New York Academy of Figurative Art, and while living in the Big Apple, he realized his desire to preserve the rapidly disappearing history around us.
"I want to capture these images before they tear down the structures," Bye said. "Beautiful mom and pop stores are now gone, replaced by CVS and things like that. The world is losing its flavor."
While our historical landscape is disappearing in favor of a modern uniform look, Bye holds no doubts that Fenway will stay standing, even after witnessing the closing of Yankee Stadium firsthand.
"I think you have such a strong fan base that Fenway will continue to be open," Bye said. "There's a bigger presence of keeping it open. It's just a different market compared to New York."
What isn’t different in New York is the extreme fervor for and knowledge of baseball. Still a diehard Red Sox fan, Bye has learned a great deal about the other side of baseball’s biggest rivalry. In fact, he not only tolerates but also enjoys the friendly debate over which team is the best in the MLB.
And, believe it or not, Yankees fans know a thing or two about baseball.
"You definitely see their side of the rivalry, as well," admitted Bye, who now lives in Brooklyn. "They are knowledgeable about the game. It depends on who you hang out with, but there is a respect for one another, and that's what makes baseball so special. That's what's so special about New York and Boston, and without them, it would be boring."
Understanding and respect aside, Bye still firmly believes that there is no better ballpark than Fenway, and that’s what served as his primary motivation to start the "Fenway Series." Although Fenway has remained mostly unchanged physically since 1912, Bye maintains that he can tell a difference, which only increases his passion for the park.
"Seeing how it's changed over the years — from a kid's perspective to a young adult to a mature person, it still has that drama, that lure," he said. "That closeness and history all plays a part of it and makes it unique.
"Even though the seats are cramped, I love going back and hanging with people who are smart, heckling fans. It's not just profanity. I like that diverse quality about the fans."
Bye’s passion for Fenway Park led him to start painting the ballpark, but he does commissioned work as well. His work has been shown in Boston and New York, though his "Fenway Series" has mostly stayed in Portland, Maine.
Bye has completed three paintings of the ballpark, and he plans to add to the series, likely focusing on new ways to depict the diamond.
It isn’t the conventional means of expression at Fenway Park. But Bye’s paintings have an added element that everyday verbal offerings don’t.
They’ll last forever.
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