Fairfield U. officer's baseball art is a hit
Published 5:54 pm, Monday, October 25, 2010
Duane Corey is often seen on the Fairfield University campus in uniform, on patrol as a member of the school's public safety staff. But another aspect of Corey's life is drawing recognition, just a few steps down the hall from his office.
Fairfield University's Lukacs Gallery recently hosted a display of artwork by the 48-year-old Corey, a Bridgeport native. The gallery is located in Loyola Hall on the ground floor, down a corridor from the public safety office where Corey works.
The exhibit closed Monday, but Corey's paintings will be displayed at shows in Derby and Bridgeport later this year and then will become part of the Bridgeport Public Libary's permanent collection.
The paintings tell the stories of Negro League baseball players in Bridgeport and across the United States. The theme of the paintings is "Shadow Ball in Jasper's Town," the title of one of the main images. Jasper McLevy was Bridgeport's mayor from 1933 to 1957 and Corey said he wanted to acknowledge not only Negro League history, but also the history of the Park City. Corey said it is not known whether McLevy ever supported or went to Negro League games, but the teams thrived in the city during his time as mayor.
For Corey, telling the story of the Negro League is essential. "I'm not an educator, I'm not a politician or anything like that, but everyone can do their part," Corey said of his goal to help teach younger generations. "It's a human-interest story and it is showing people striving for excellence. It is a great story to keep telling over and over again."
Corey said it took him three years to complete the research and the paintings.
Painting was originally a longtime hobby for Corey, but he said it has basically turned into a job -- one that he enjoys more than his other work. He started painting in seventh grade, taking classes on the weekend at the Trumbull Shopping Mall.
Encouragement from his sister helped motivate Corey to put more energy into his work.
"She said, `You need to really take your talent a little more seriously, you'd be surprised how many people like what you do,' " Corey recalled. "One of the wonderful things about art is that it gives you a platform."
So, the public safety officer decided to devote his time to teaching others about one of his interests, Negro League baseball, while also sharing his artistic talent.
Corey said the exhibit tells the story of Negro League baseball through images.
One part of the display is about the national Negro League scene and is called "Negro League Royalty."
"The first franchise was called the Kansas City Monarchs and the reasons they called them the Monarchs was because they wanted them to be royalty on and off the field," he said. "You are talking about people who were sharecroppers and servants, but that is how they felt about themselves."
"They had a vision, a dream about better things," he added.
Fairfield University Associate Professor of Studio Art Suzanne Chamlin said that the paintings have a "narrative" feel to them. "This work continues a rich tradition of artists working with cultural icons to inspire visual imagery from Warhol to Bearden to Ellen Gallagher," she said. "Corey's inventive use of cropping and spatial construction serve as realizations of the contemporary flat surface. He discovers true balance in both drawing and painting in these works."
Corey said the university and fellow public safety officers have been very encouraging.
"It's great, my staff has been supportive, my fellow officers, too. The Fairfield community has been overwhelming with their gratitude and how they have embraced the entire project," Corey said. "I am really humbled."