The Supreme Court, The Corcoran & Arthur Erickson On Top Of Thomas JeffersonThursday, February 05, 2015
In 2000 LML Payments Sytems, an international cheque cashing software company based in Vancouver sent me to the US to photograph people in the organization for their 2001 Annual Report. I had to go to Washington DC, Phoenix and Dallas.I decided that to properly shoot this I would take my medium format camera (and a second one as backup) plus my almost compact studio lights, a powerful (then) flash unit (a Norman 200B) for on location shooting, plus the necessary light stands and heavy duty tripod. To carry all this I brought a collapsible two-wheeled cart.
Perhaps it was the stress of the logistics but before I left for the US I developed shingles around my waist. It was painful for me to even sit in my airplane seat. In Phoenix it was 117 Fahrenheit. Between Dallas and Washington DC I realized I had left my Norman 200B (battery operated) in a Dallas office. I needed it for Washington DC where I was to photograph four lawyers in front of the US Supreme Court. They were to be the daunting faces of the company should anybody want to infringe on their patents.The Norman was shipped to DC by courier and I got it in time. By then I was suffering excruciating pain.
At the Supreme Court I was pleasantly warned that I could take as many pictures as I wanted as long as I took them on the other side of the street. With a long lens I was able to compress the building and my Norman 200B worked just fine.
With the relief of having successfully finished my job I decided I wanted to see some of the local galleries. Two of them were the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Gallery.
I decided to go to the Corcoran first. I entered the gallery with all my equipment. I told the guards of my mission to go to the National Gallery and I asked them if I could store my equipment. Without even inspecting it they smiled at me and allowed me to wheel my stuff into a room.I remember all kinds of Singer Sargents but the painting to remember was Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 Niagara (7½-foot-wide) painting.
From the Corcoran with my equipment safely in storage I stopped at the American Institute of Architects. On an inner wall I was looking for the posted Gold Medal Award winners, for 1986 the winner was our very own Arthur Erickson. There was something curious here. Thomas Jefferson had been given his award posthumously in 1993. When I returned to Vancouver I ran into Erickson and told him that his name was over Jefferson’s. With a wink he told me, “I am on top of him and that’s the way it should be.”A few days ago I read in my NY Times that the Corcoran Gallery is closing and most of its collection is going to the National Gallery.
On Thursday, the National Gallery announced that almost 6,500 works had been taken into the overall collection so far. The museum’s holdings of 1,215 American paintings alone will grow by 226, including beloved works like Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 “Niagara,” a 7 ½-foot-wide blockbuster that Nancy Kay Anderson, the curator of American and British paintings at the National Gallery, refers to as “our ‘Niagara problem” because it is so important and so large that paintings at her museum will almost certainly have to move or go into storage to accommodate it. The process that has been underway behind closed doors at the National Gallery — one large museum essentially digesting another of considerable size — is, in its scope and particulars, unlike anything an American museum has undertaken before.
Chances are that I will never ever get shingles again. But my troubles had not ended. Once on the airplane ready to return to Vancouver a storm started. We stayed on the tarmac for five hours (we had to help ourselves to water as by some strange law the flight attendants could not serve us while on the ground). The airplane finally returned to the terminal and I slept the night on a long seat. Everybody was shouting and clamoring for attention. I decided that would not help. The woman behind the desk agreed and rapidly got me a seat in the first plane out. Unfortunately I did not make in time to Vancouver when the folks of the US magazine Better Homes and Gardens was going to shoot our garden for a spread. The spread did appear. But I felt a bit left out!