When Amy, Tom, and I went to Washington, D.C., in 1996 as volunteers and panelmakers for the AIDS Quilt exhibit, we also took the opportunity to see a lot of the capital’s sites and visit art museums. I think the first museum we went to on that trip was the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden which we all enjoyed very much. I have a lot of photos from there; here’s one of Amy standing next to Clyfford Still’s 1950-M No.1.
We also went together to the Corcoran Gallery of Art. I saw so many great paintings and sculptures that my head was reeling from it all, but I still couldn’t wait to go to the National Gallery of Art because I knew they had a lot of Mark Rothko’s works. If you are a frequenter of museums, however, you’ve probably had the sad experience I did. Permanent works are often in storage because of temporary installations, or maybe the collections are on loan. My Rothkos were nowhere to be seen.
Amy bought me a few postcards of the works that I should have been seeing, and those are still framed and hanging in my office today. She also secretly bought something in the gift shop to be shipped to her. When it came, she had it framed. And then on Christmas–voila! A gift for me that managed to pull together the love Steve R and I shared for Rothko, my friendship with Amy, and all the experiences of that trip to Washington and our AIDS/HIV awareness and activism. I look at it every single day in my living room.
As for all those other paintings I didn’t get to see on that trip, a few years ago Tom gave me this Rothko retrospective published in 1998 by Jeffrey S. Weiss, John Gage, the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. It’s HUGE and has over a hundred illustrations of Rothko’s paintings. Nothing can replace seeing art in person, but this volume’s large reproductions remind me why Mark Rothko’s paintings always offer me new perspectives and nourish my soul.