“I REALLY WANTED to cut out a piece of the pickleball court and bring it home, but I figured that would probably be looked down upon!” says Gainesville, Florida, artist Erin Curry. So she did the next best thing: She turned the courts into art. “To have a souvenir of these courts that are so beautiful in their messiness, I made paintings,” she says. “It’s a way for me to reflect on the pickleball community and bring it into my own little world in the studio.” Curry, 40, who started playing the game in the spring of 2021, opened an online shop in late January to sell her milk-paint works, so now everyone else can have a piece of the court, too.
“I NEVER EXPECTED to be making art about a sport—that was not on my pandemic bingo card. And yet it fits because it’s about finding ways to connect with one another. During the pandemic, pickleball was a thing I attached myself to. It’s very intimate, and at the same time you can’t take it too seriously because it’s called pickleball.”
“THE LINES on the court are an abstraction—they’re not about a particular place, necessarily, because we can play this game anywhere those lines exist. Whether it’s on a sidewalk or at the gym, we have this little moment where we come together and play a game with these rules. And there is this other layer to the game: the social one. We get to laugh and joke and trust each other to make fair calls. And you can unfold that whole experience within this grid.”
“THE COURTS ARE often quite muted, and I wanted to make these paintings about joy in a quiet way as opposed to a really emphatic way. The game itself is exciting, but the paintings and courts don’t need to be; they need to be clear and steady and stable. The ball—red under gold leaf—is like a little icon. It’s what the whole game is centered on, so I wanted to give it presence. As you move around, the paintings change based on your perspective. It’s the same in pickleball: Depending on where you are on the court, you’re like, ‘Is the ball in or out?’ I was thinking about the way the lines intersect and the ball shifts. That’s why I chose gold, to capture that interplay of perspective.”
“PICKLEBALL HAS this generosity about it: letting people play even if we don’t know them, moderating our play to let someone be included, putting our paddles all in a pile. That interplay is something I’d never experienced in a sport before. That’s why I was so attracted to it.”
After Erin Curry began playing pickleball last year, she was inspired to create paintings of what she saw on the court, even though “I never expected to be making art about a sport.”