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Art and law, by Allan Gerson

By Jacqueline Trescott

For a long time Allan Gerson has been a go-to guy for legal advice. Now Gerson is positioning himself as the go-to guy for unusual and exquisite jewelry.

Yes jewelry, from the tall man with the booming voice. Yes, bold pieces made by reproducing his photographs onto silver and gold.


Allan Gerson. (Courtesy: Rafi Magnes)

His career highlights include trial attorney at the Department of Justice, deputy assistant Attorney General, senior counsel to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick and part of the team that won a $2.7 billion settlement with Libya for the families of victims of the bombing of the Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Gerson's had artistic hobbies since 1977 when he took a photography class at Glen Echo Park. The darkroom became his laboratory and escape. "The chemicals stink and you do it at night and then you crawl into bed with your wife," said Gerson. His wife is the prolific cookbook author Joan Nathan. He's survived the technical transition. "Now you sit down at the computer. This is the biggest change to go from dark room photography to digital."

His pictures study both the natural world and architectural motifs. In his grand office off Dupont Circle, he displays his own visions: the Sahara Desert, sights from the Musee D'Orsay in Paris and the King Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. The perspective is close-up; the dunes of the Sahara seem ready to swallow up the viewer. The wind and the sand are visible.

But Gerson, 65, found another outlet, sparked by a conversation he had in 1992 with a British artist who told him to try sculpture. "This was just a lark," said Gerson, who was born in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, the son of Holocaust survivors.


A tracery cuff bracelet inlaid with black diamonds, design based on Allan Gerson's photographs of the King Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. (Courtesy: Allan Gerson)


Since then he has been experimenting with transferring photographic images and placing them over hard metals. He's succeeded with earrings, bracelets, cuffs and pendants. To finish some, he added precious jewels, such as black diamonds. The result is a hammered silver cuff, completed by a jewelry smith, that has waves like the desert dunes with a strategically placed diamond.

This collection is appropriately called "Metamorphosis" and for the next couple of weeks, will be displayed by appointment in his office. He hopes to develop a full jewelry line next year.

He's mindful of the different skill sets required for each of his roles. "The first thing a lawyer has to do is pay attention to detail. By definition the artistic endeavor is innovation," said Gerson. "Just sometimes I have to be careful with a client who is wondering does he have the mindset of a lawyer or the mindset of the artist."

By Jacqueline Trescott  | October 29, 2010; 4:54 PM ET
Categories:  Design, Jacqueline Trescott  | Tags:  allan gerson, jewelry, photography, washington lawyer  
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