Known for strikes, former New York Yankees pitching prospect now throws paint for balls – GUMBALLS
When he started painting Gumballs, it was a foray into a new method for him of dropping paint out of a tin can and throwing it across the canvas. Emet explains that his creative process is not planned.
“Oh you paint like Jackson Pollack, people tell me. I say no. He was more detailed in his direction. I think he had a preconceived notion as to where he was going. I don’t. I don’t know where I am going with my piece.”
Emet was scouted and signed in 1955 by the New York Yankees. His stories of pitching to Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra are plentiful. Now 84, Emet recalls persistence being his key asset.
“I wasn’t even supposed to make my high school baseball team. And then I was the only pitcher from my area that was asked to attend the Yankees Spring Training Camp. Unfortunately injury prevented me from continuing. But had I not had that experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I learned that I make my own opportunities. And that was part of what led me to Los Angeles.
”Fast forward ahead to the early 70’s, Emet is working within the art business in New York, when he decides to pack up his small car, load in his paintings and drive across country to discover the west coast. Over the next two decades, Emet builds a bustling multimillion dollar art auction business, starting from the kitchen table of his West LA apartment. Understanding how art was sold, and the differences between a lithograph and a master print, the trip had made for a very successful career move.
“Hollywood was alive. Everyone was buying art. It was a great time to be in the business.”
By the early 90’s, he had clearly defined himself professionally in Los Angeles, in terms of his art business. However his personal affairs were another story. And as Emet explains, painting was the only thing that helped clear his mind, allowing him to express himself on the canvas.
“It was my meditation space. I was able to be free and not feel restricted. Freedom from the chaos, you could say. You see, Picasso is pre-conceived. Look at GUERNICA. He did it to commemorate the rape of Spain by the Nazis. My art is very much in the moment. What is my inspiration at that moment. It is what I see, or what I am about to do on the canvas. Older people don’t always get what I am doing. A lot of young people look at my stuff. They love it.”
Today, Emet spends most of his time at his home studio in west LA, works out daily at his local gym, and spends his creative hours, throwing paint off his one inch and two inch brushes from the local dollar store.
“I will pick out 10 or 12 quarts of paint, different colors. It just depends on how I am feeling. And I will paint a mixed background and then throw a color as I see fit.
You see it’s cheap. While you are going to the art shop and paying $30 dollars for one color, I am getting 3 or 4 for the same amount.”
GUMBALLS is still one of Emet’s favorite pieces. Asked what his inspiration was for the painting, Emet says he has always enjoyed experimenting with approach and paint.
“For GUMBALLS, I took a tin soup can, cut holes into it and proceeded to fill the can with paint and let it drip out as I shook it across the canvas, all the while listening to latin music. You get so involved in the process, it’s like time just doesn’t seem to exist when I paint.”
Recently, Emet went for his monthly physical – always checking in with the doctors as he had prostate cancer eight years prior. He had been having issues with breathing and pains in his chest while running on the treadmill. It was nothing that he had been concerned about. The oncologist came back with the news.
“Cancer cells were found on your right lung.” His diagnosis, Stage 4 Prostate Cancer.
Emet asked bravely, “How long do I have?”
The oncologist response, “Maybe two more years.”
For Emet, this wasn’t the first time he had been confronted with such grave news.
“It makes you start thinking. What do we leave this world, long after we are gone. My paintings will be here long after I am gone. We all have to face our mortality. Let’s face it. We are only here for a while. And then you are gone.”
This year, Emet turns 85. Artist and entrepreneur, this one time New York Yankees pitching prospect is still in the game. It’s the top of the eighth, bases loaded, and Emet has only just begun to show us his true colors on canvas.
Grayson West is a freelance journalist contributing to most things outdoor. Grayson enjoys writing about the more creative things in life, focuses on outdoor adventure and tries to balance his busy city life with moments at the beach. Grayson lives in LA with his wife and twin boys, and their beautiful golden, Nelson.
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