With all of the drama, love, exhilaration, passion, and overall beauty of the World Cup currently going on, it evokes in one’s mind certain comparisons. Soccer is an art – a purely instinctive and inherent expression of the human body in all of its glory and flair. They don’t call it the beautiful game for nothing, and the best players throughout the history of the sport have often been called artists with the ball at their feet. And much like an artist, a soccer player has their instrument of choice – a ball, through which they can channel their talents. If you were to take away the ball from a soccer player, just as if you were to take away the paintbrush from an artist – they would be left without their means to showcase their talent and demonstrate their beauty to the world.
Every four years, the greatest artists from across the globe converge in one country for a month-long showcase and display of their finest works. The World Cup could arguably be called the greatest gathering of living artists ever assembled at one exhibition. Just like in the art world, however, it is easy to leave great players behind.
On every great team, there is a star that shines out above the rest. A pinnacle of light, a world-renowned player that the fans and supporters rally behind and consider their talisman. Neymar was this for Brazil, and the extreme degree to which he was revered and held in prestige was evident when the team suffered their devastating 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi-finals, as the team looked nothing but demoralized from the very start after loosing their star player to a back injury.
But this was simply the wrong reaction. There are numerous players on the Brazil team that would shine and overshadow every player on many other teams – yet because they share the same nationality as Neymar, they are destined to forever be in his shadow.
This has been the case with many artists and writers over the years as well. One obvious example that comes to mind is Ernest Hemingway, and the way in which he initially felt insecure due the success of his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. Thankfully, he did not dwell on it long, and was able to step out of his friend’s shadow and become recognized as one of the world’s greatest literary minds of all time. However, the world is not always as accepting of those who are associated with already large and dominating names and figures – as was, and usually is, the case for Brazil. And this is a shame, as over the course of society’s evolution, many great artistic minds have been surpassed by history, simply because they did not, in the eyes of the public, measure up to the bar set by their companions or acquaintances. Minds that elsewhere would have had the freedom to shine and be recognized and celebrated for their work have been lost in the annals of history, swept under the carpet on which their friendly competitor has stood, for no other reason than the fact that a companion of theirs happened to strike fame first.
One of the greatest instances and most unjust examples of this happening is in the case of an incredible woman and artist named Rebecca Salsbury. Hers is a relatively unfamiliar name, but only because of the company she kept – she was best friends with Georgia O’Keeffe. While a painter and artist herself, with talent and creations that rivaled, if not surpassed, many of Georgia O’Keeffe’s, Rebecca Salsbury was in a position similar to every player on the Brazilian national team whose shirt did not read Neymar on the back. Constantly overshadowed by her special friend, Salsbury was never given – by the country, the world, or society as a whole – the chance to shine from behind the shadows. While much of her art is on display in New Mexico, where she spent a number of years living in the dessert with O’Keeffe, creating artistic masterpieces and being inspired by the barren beauty that is the American Southwest, Salsbury has never received the level of recognition that she and her artwork – as well as her life – have deserved. Thankfully though, a documentary detailing her extraordinary life and complex relationship with O’Keeffe is in the works, and hopefully, the name Rebecca Salsbury will soon no longer be eclipsed by the name O’Keeffe.
One of the producers of the documentary has Parkinson’s disease, and has been battling it for over two decades, refusing to let her inability to walk and talk impede her from making this documentary. She really and truly highlights the triumph of the human spirit that Salsbury worked so hard encapsulate, and hopefully her documentary – her work of sharing Salsbury’s work with the world – will be shared with the world too.