On a late-winter day in 1970, brothers Paul and Stephen Scheeler, 7 and 5, were trudging across the marble floors of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery when a bright new painting by Frank Stella caught their attention.
The image of the boys dwarfed by Stella’s 9½-by-13-foot painting “Lac Laronge III” in turn caught the eye of a Buffalo Evening News photographer who captured that moment of childhood fascination in a compelling photo that ran on March 7, 1970.
On Friday morning, 45 years older and several feet taller, the Scheeler brothers reunited in front of the same painting to recreate the photograph that captured a formative moment in their young lives.
The idea to re-enact that moment came from Paul Scheeler, a vice president of market relations communications for M&T Bank (a major sponsor of the Albright-Knox), who moved back to Buffalo from Chicago in March after spending several decades away.
“I was in the attic looking through the family scrap books, and I turned the page and there was the Buffalo News photo from 1970,” he said. “A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to visit the gallery. I was walking through and figured the odds of this still being on display were not guaranteed, and I came around the corner and it was.”
Memories of that day came flooding back to Paul Scheeler on Friday, as the sound of crews working to install the upcoming exhibition “Monet and the Impressionist Revolution” echoed through the gallery.
“I remember just wandering around in awe, looking at all the paintings and trying to figure out which ones appealed more to me,” he said. “I was more of a realist than an abstract art fan, so I was trying to figure out what Mr. Stella’s ‘Lac Laronge III’ was. Steve said it looked like a giant fish.”
Stephen Scheeler, who lives in Sydney and is the managing director of Facebook’s operations in Australia and New Zealand, said the experience of re-shooting the photograph brought him back to the days when his mother would take him and his brother on weekend excursions to cultural sites throughout the city. As children, the Scheeler brothers spent lots of time at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (now the Buffalo History Museum), the Buffalo Museum of Science and Kleinhans Music Hall for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s children’s concerts.
“Buffalo has a lot of culture that I think a lot of cities don’t offer, at least not in this quality,” he said. “I always remember the size of everything at the galleries. Everything was so big, overwhelming. Even the sculpture out where we drove in of the canoes – the scale and size of things just makes you sort of wonder, especially as a kid, at the sheer scale of things. It seemed like a magical place.”