A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I photographed Kathleen Bartels, the Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was a pleasant occasion and it all led me to think that I should renew my lapsed family membership to the gallery. This I did.

Yesterday Rebecca, Lauren, Rosemary and I visited the Vancouver Art Gallery. We only saw Truth Beauty - Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845-1945 because short and sweet visits to art galleries do not ruin a child's perception that a gallery can be fun. And fun it was. Rebecca was interested in many more of the photographs that I thought she would be.

Her favourite (one of mine ) was The Heart of the Storm, 1902 by American photographer Anne Brigman (right). Rebecca laughed and tried to stand on her head to look at Paul Lewis Anderson's Woman Boarding Double-Decker Bus, 1909 when I told her that Anderson's formula for a good photograph was its ability was to hold it upside down to see if the composition remained strong.

Lauren (5) was getting a bit ansy but I was able to show Rebecca Frederick H. Evans's F. Holland Day in Algerian Costume, 1901. F. Holland Day had just returned from a trip to Northern Africa. With friend and photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn they dressed up in Algerian clothes and rang Evan's doorbell. The housekeeper almost fainted but a unperturbed Evans invited the men in and took their portraits.

We finished our VAG visit with Rebecca's favourite chocolate brownie at the VAG's coffee shop. While there I waved at travel writer John Masters who makes the coffee shop his office when he is in Vancouver. I thought of all the ghosts that haunt the gallery for me. The Vancouver Art Gallery has litle content on the history or mantions any of the former gallery directors. I photographed all of them with the exception of Willard Holmes. I particularly enjoyed the affable J. Brooks Joyner and I remember the very silent and cold Luke Rombout whom I photographed in the late 70s at the 1145 West Georgia location of the VAG.

I don't rant in this blog but I do have a minor beef. The situation reminds me of the jealous pharaohs of Ancient Egypt who would rub out the cartouches of their predecessors and would thus have never ever existed. To find the correct spelling of Rombout I had to call former VAG director Abraham Rogatnick. To remember the first name (and the last, too) of former director Alf Bogusky (in the photograph with Michael Audain and curator Daina Augaitis) I had to call Malcolm Parry.

Only the Wikipedia entry for the VAG explained that the gallery building had been built by English architect Francis Rattenbury or that my picture of Arthur Erickson at the formal opening of the gallery had been taken in 1983. The VAG's excellent website will be even better when they add a history.

With Lauren a bit bored we walked to the Vancouver Public Library where we all had a pleasant time in the children's library. Rebecca insisted in bringing Howie Mandel (the narrator) Where Did I Come From? video which she watched with Rosemary and Lauren. I found it a bit on the shocking side particularly when the handsome (and married) couple stand up in the bathtub to reveal perfectly sharp (but as cartoons) and perfectly manicured (Brazilian wax jobs) pudenda. It was only later when Hilary (Rebecca and Lauren's mother) found out at the dinner table that Rebecca had allowed Lauren to watch that all hell broke loose. Rosemary's assertion that it had all gone over Lauren's head prevented our evening from being spoiled (Rebecca was not grounded) as we watched the other library video, the perfectly charming Handel's Last Chance where a little Irish beggar/thief boy saves and makes the Messiah a resounding success.

Ojos Que No Ven, Corazón Que No Siente


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