Bruce Jackson (b. 1936), Bud and Cotton Cow Palace, 1978; photograph; Courtesy of the artist

Bruce Jackson (b. 1936), Bud and Cotton Cow Palace, 1978; photograph; Courtesy of the artist

Bruce Jackson Being There: Bud Johns

Monday, June 3, 2013

Throughout the run of Being There: Bruce Jackson Photographs 1962-2010, the artist is sharing some of the stories behind his photographs.Being There is on view until June 16, 2013. The catalog accompanying the exhibition is available at The Museum Store at the Burchfield Penney.


Diane and I met Bud Johns and his wife, Judith Clancy, when we first started taking part in the Institute of the American West conferences in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1975. Judith was an artist and a former dancer. Bud, a former newspaper reporter, was vice-president for corporate relations of Levi-Strauss and was, along with National Endowment for the Humanities, principal underwriter of that series of conferences. I was soon put on the Institute's board, so for five years we would all meet for four or five July days in Ketchum and Sun Valley, and sometimes in San Francisco in between, either to plan the next year's conference or just to hang out. It turned out Bud and I had been stationed at the same USMC base about the same time, so there were further stories to share.

The first of these photographs is in the Cow Palace in San Francisco during the Grand National rodeo championship in 1978. Bud is on the left. On the right is Bud's old friend, Cotton Rossser, who provided livestock of many of the major rodeo events in the U.S. It was late at night. The seats in the Cow Palace were empty, but the bronc and bull riders were still hard at it: those rodeos weren't just performance events for the fans; they were also real competitions. Among the riders that night was James Caan. I went out for a while to look for him, but couldn't find him in all the activity around the chutes, so I went back to Cotton's office and rejoined Cotton, Bud, Diane, and a woman with an enormous burden of diamonds who was trying to talk Cotton into doing some charity event at someone's estate. As I recall, he politely deflected the invitation, and we all had another drink and told more stories.

I took the second photograph in Bud's house on Sacramento Street in San Francisco in March 2011, 33 years later. He was talking to Diane, who was sitting just to my right. Over Bud's left shoulder is a painting of Judith as a girl by Moses Soyer. Bud owned that painting long before he met Judith. On their first date, she came back to his house, looked at the painting, and said, "That's my picture." "No," Bud said, "it's my picture." "Yes," Judith said, "but that's me in it." How could a relationship not blossom after that? Judith died in 1990.

-Bruce Jackson