“It’s art,” Artist Savage James Rockin says, “But like, blue-collar art.”
His work, which involves using acid and power tools to create intricate designs on baseball bats, is gritty and beautiful. It’s the work of a nimble-fingered, skilled craftsman, but also, very physically demanding. That’s what he means by ‘blue-collar art’. This isn’t gently painting a canvas, it’s a tough job.
“If I don’t get severely tired or dirty or my hands ruined or something like that,” he says, “then I don’t think I’m really doing the work.”
In the next installment of Uproxx’s new series, Freethinkers, we delve into Rockin’s fascinating process to repurpose baseball bats into the canvases for his art. People don’t always understand what he does when he tries to explain it, he says, but when you actually see the bats, it’s easy to understand their appeal. They evoke a sense of emotion. A baseball bat reminds different people of different things. Whether it’s the warmth of community in a little league baseball game or the possibility of violence brimming as you hold the cold, metal handle, a bat carries a sense of history. And his process and intricate designs layer more onto the common object, infusing the familiar with new meaning.
Rockin’s art pieces involve an unconventional, wild process — incorporating raw materials most people wouldn’t think to use — but he wouldn’t have it any other way. His art is the authentic extension of himself, and that’s what matters most to him. Because whether he was being paid for a commissioned piece, showing in a gallery, or making work that only he and a few friends would ever see, he’d keep creating it. It’s his passion and willingness to embrace his vision (no matter how out of left field it is) that matters. At the end of the day, you just have to trust yourself and make the art you want to.
“No matter what,” he says, “that’s the best thing you can do.”
Check out the video below to see Rockin’s work and watch his process. And you can check out the first episode of Freethinkers here.