New York's award-winning sculptor Sidney Simon is providing a useful service for several of his tennis-playing buddies: he is ridding their attics and closets of warped and discarded rackets. In his century-old fire-house-turned-studio at 95 Bedford Street in New York's Greenwich Village, Simon has shaped a collection entitled "Crazy Rackets," as a whimsical counterpoint to his serious work, large sculptures in wood, bronze or epoxy and iron miniatures.
"American artists take themselves too seriously," says Simon, whose work is on exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum, the American Embassy in Paris and at the Department of Defense. He teaches at the New School and the Art Students League. "Sometimes you have to let off steam," he says.
One day last summer Simon picked up a racket and saw it as more than an instrument with which to double-fault. He says of the dozen creations he has executed, "They're like gags. Some are good, some lousy and some personal."
One is called "The Poacher," a steel racket with a poached-egg tin strung in the center. Stan Smith's tennis elbow is commemorated in a racket whose handle has been sawed off and placed at a 40-degree angle to the head. Then there is Simon's "Original Folding Racket," which is held together by a latch and a hook—and perfectly unusable, like all the rest.
A mirror was inserted into the face of another racket to show the ideal partner for a truly egotistical player. Simon calls it "The Unique Singles Player," one who is oblivious to anyone else on the court. "Winter Tennis" is depicted by a racket laced with leather straps and a tennis sneaker, an obvious cousin to the snowshoe.
"I'll always use throwaway rackets," Simon declares, indicating a cardboard box filled with the old and neglected waiting to be transformed into sculpture. He is toying with the idea of portraying a seeded tennis player by weaving plant seeds into the strings. He also hopes to produce a flaccid racket representing a weak-wristed buff's moment of contact with a hard-hit ball.
Although Crazy Rackets began as a pastime, Simon is considering exhibiting them. He is reluctant to put a price tag on these works, but guesses they will go for about $500 each. Next time you are cleaning out the hall closet think about Sidney Simon and your racket will take on new character.