Sunday, November 06, 2005

here today, gone tomorrow [or: a Sunday excursion to the Elvehjem, oops, Chazen Museum in Madison]

Story no. 1:

So you work hard your whole life (come on, stretch with me here). You succeed, you are a brilliant scientist (imagine that). Your spouse supports the arts.

Your community loves you. Buildings will be named after you. You die if not happy, then at least with the knowledge that you will be remembered.

Your spouse dies years later, if not happy, then at least with the vivid memory of you and your name, right there, on the museum she adored. Nice.

Years pass. Along comes a donor with deep pockets and fond memories of Madison school days. A mega pledge is made to the museum. And lo and behold, your name is off the white stone walls.

This is the story of UW’s art gallery -- once named after Conrad Elvehjem, now renamed (effective immediately, the press release screamed this year) the Chazen Museum, after Simona and Jerome Chazen – two people with twenty million to give. So much for local scientist makes good.

Thank you Simona and Jerome. I’m sorry Conrad and Constance.

Story no. 2:

You’re a kid. You discover your dad’s favorite toy (clean up your minds: it’s simply a camera). You shoot a picture of your family.

You get hooked. If blogs had been invented you’d probably set up your own flickr account. However, we are at the turn of the century and I mean the one that went from 1899 to 1900, so flickr was just in the gestational stages of existence. If that.

You take many pictures of family members and moving objects in your town. I mean, many many pictures.

Later in life you take on a real professional existence (can we call a painter a real professional? Sure we can. This is Ocean, we can do anything).

When you are old but not yet cranky, your childhood photos get discovered. You die. Some of your photos make it to MoMA in NY, and a whole bunch make it for a fleeting season to Madison.

Thank you, Jacques Henri Lartigue.

Question for reader: who fared better, Conrad/Constance, Simona/Jerome, or Jacques Henri?

Post Scriptum: If you are in Madison, check out the exquisite exhibit of Lartigue’s childhood photos (all from the Belle Epoque era) at the Elvehjem Chazen Museum. Lartigue calls himself a life-long amateur photographer. Amateur? Yeah, buddy, sure. Precocious brat!