JERRY GOROSKI

JERRY GOROSKI is the consultant appraisar to whom I refer inquiries about Scriver bronzes. He is formally trained and certified to do assessments and knew Bob Scriver as well as working for the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls. His gallery is called "Open Range Art."

http://openrangeart.com/update/appraisals-consulting/

406-868.1272

jerryopenrange@yahoo.com

Thursday, December 29, 2005

INTERNATIONAL ARTIST.COM Dec/Jan 2006

This is a readalong review. It will make more sense if you have a copy of the mag at hand.

If “Southwest Art” and “Art of the West” are for the buyer and gallery owner, “International Artist.Com” is pitched at the artist his or her self. But since the articles discuss technical matters, they are an excellent way to learn more as a consumer as well. The other contrast is that this is an explicitly planet-wide mag, while SW Art is defining itself as “today’s West” and “Art of the West” speaks for itself. But since “International Artist” mostly deals with realistic landscape, still life and figures, most of it is relevant.

A quick exception might be (oh, not necessarily) Bruno Surdo’s “Re-Emergence of Venus” which is a fabulous near-fresco of the familiar “Venus on the Half-Shell” or more formally Botticelli’s “Emergence of Venus” -- she is supposed to rise from the sea, you know, except here it’s the sewer. All the mythological characters are translated into familiar wacky denizens of Chicago. A person could look at this for hours and still see new things. The org behind this mag gave it a $2,000 Grand Prize. Give the guy some MORE, somebody! I’m beginning to pay attention to people who have studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, as Surdo did, though former students say it’s not as good now.

Entrances: p. 15, Dean Mitchell’s “Down in the Quarter.” Let’s hope the place survived the New Orleans catastrophe. P.101 a near-monotone exotic stairway going up through an arch. Anna Sims of Dorset, England.

Eating establishments:
p. 32 Actually this is just a photo of the Old Castle of the Smithsonian Institution, all ready for the annual Paul Beck Awards Banquet, but it is quite fabulous. p. 44 “Cafe in Amsterdam” by Richard Boyer. It’s on the river. P. 109 “My Friends” by Alexander Sergeeff is a funky place where friends do talk. In South Africa, Charles van der Merwe does pastels as follows: p. 134 A deli where a girl stubbornly reads her book outside. Also, “The Morning News” where people hurry past a table where a man lingers over his newspaper. P. 135 An elegant woman indoors alone. A woman in a long skirt drinking a cup of coffee in an empty room (actually a model taking a break.) p. 139 a woman waits at an unset table.

Nice overview article on Andrew Wyeth with old familiar pictures and some new ones. “Otherworld 2002” is an almost sci-fi view of the deluxe interior of a private plane with round portholes, through which we see Wyeth’s more familiar buildings on the ground. A very white picture.

I love the filigree level of detail in Jane Freeman’s flower portraits. They’re watercolors, very pink-and-orange, and the “Spanish Gold” onions look as glamorous as the Stargazer lilies.

p. 100 Norbert Baird of Arizona paints old abandoned machinery with beautiful results: cogs and wheels that look like flowers.

p. 106 Alexander Sergeeff paints what he calls “Inhabited Sculpture” which just means high-grade furniture in elegant surrounds.

According to Southwest Art, Harley Brown has joined CAA -- I guess I thought he already belonged. Anyway, he’s got a nice article here about how to paint, using a couple of Indians -- in Peru. He’s informal, blunt, and you’ll probably never get better advice if you’re an artist.

Except that Australian Graeme Smith’s article “5 Ways to Earn More Money” is also brisk: 1. work more hours, 2. produce more, 3. Get paid more, 4. Get others to work for you and 5. Sell your intellectual property as opposed to your time. He suggests teaching or writing. What about hooking up with a Giclee print maker? Big money but I’d be cautious.

The ads include ingenious ways to get your gear to the field or your rear on an airplane for a painting holiday. One has visions of camaraderie and a whole new approach to subject matter but unless one is the teacher, it must cost like the devil. Anyway, this follows the plein air idea of evading the studio and going outside.

"SOUTHWEST ART" January, 2006, issue

This is a read-along. To really get the benefit you need to have a copy of the mag by your computer.


January issues of mags tend to be slender. I’ve never known whether that was the result of having to compose the issue during December or slender ad revenue in January, but it clearly has something to do with the turn of the year.

This January’s Southwest Art has a smashing cover: a red-orange tipi with big gold stars (evidently floating just above the canvas surface since they cast shadows), behind it an incandescent strip of prairie and a purple ridge and sky. The artist is R. Tom Gilleon -- see his work at www.mtntrails.net or www.borsini-burr.com. He has two characteristic subjects: big, bright, fill-the-canvas tipis and grid paintings of 9-at-one-swat Indian portraits from photos. Gilleon is a Montana (ahem) artist who has a deep background in illustration for NASA, Disney, and etc. It shows. This is no self-taught kid off a ranch, though he lives on one now. On the other hand, his experience with the West is “secondary,” that it, based on the experience of others. When an artist has a cover, the interior characteristically includes ads for the same person. pp. 5, 87, 95, and 129 (just inside the back cover).

The most remarkable article (and one of a kind I would like to see more of, though I really buy the mag to keep my “eye” trained) is the one interviewing gallery owners about what’s happening. There are surprises: for instance, I’d heard grumbling about auctions and what it does to the galleries (siphons off business, distorts pricing), but it never occurred to me that the “plein air” movement applied to exhibitions outdoors as well. Of course, in Montana the weather (wind, cold, heat) kind of discourages such events anyway, but I would have thought that damage to paintings would have been a consideration even in the SW and California. Maybe the idea is to see them in actual outdoors light, as they were painted.

One dealer thought there were “thousands” of outdoor “plein air” events! They seem to include “art walks” where streets link galleries and studios so one can tour many at one time. But the ones I know (mostly Portland, OR) were at night and rather mingled with bar hopping. Seems like an event that would attract younger buyers. Some thought plein air as a painting movement and popular genre was past its peak.

Interestingly, most said their best-selling genre was, is and always will be landscape. Easy to understand out west where there’s even such a thing as “landscape rights,” that is, value that trumps industrial invasion. Only one person thought “cowboys and Indians” were rising as subject matter. One person thought it was “light” that counts -- bright cheerful subject matter. (Gilleon has it made!)

The other big influence on galleries is pretty tricky: e commerce. The owners estimated about ten percent of their business is sales from digital photos! But when it comes to artists who are selling from their own websites the legal protocol (to say nothing of developing conventions) is still loose and sometimes troublesome. The galleries, of course, want their websites linked and preferably a referral made for sales. They like the artist to establish a “personality” and selling points at the artists’ expense. In fact, I would say the main thing these gallery owners share is the idea that the artists exist merely to feed their work into the galleries. No talk about developing careers or serving the art world. Instead, it’s calling the artist up to leave off painting and come to the gallery on a moment’s notice to greet a prospective customer. Mark Smith in San Antonio said, “We can’t accept an artist, be committed, and promote them if they can’t be 100 percent committed to us.” I thought it was the other way around!

Another example of the commodification of people, particularly those who are creative. Their work is “product.” (Same thing happening with writing.) Shocking but not surprising. In fact, I think I’ll write a novel in which an artist is destroyed by these hangers-on and wheeler-dealers, because they all have lawyers on retainer and would attack anything fact-based. Corporate-minded wolves made possible by the huge number of people who really yearn to be artists and will put up with almost anything in order to survive. Nothing new or American about it.

That rant ends here.

I liked the five big brown horses running at the viewer on page 1. They’re in the fog, manes flying, and moving fast since the title is “Coming Back.” (You could ride my old brown horse in any direction for hours and be back in twenty minutes.)

Cafe portraits: P. 4, a child by Tom Balderas -- sunshine, a striped shirt. Most likely at home. P. 32, a professional chef seen from outside. Susan Romaine. (Do these count?)

Entrances: P. 32. Two here: one a back way into a tin-top shed and the other a shadowed town alley. Both Susan Romaine -- very clean, high contrast. P. 96 Another Susan Romaine: small town store fronts cast iron alongside art deco. p. 120 store fronts “Lunch Cafe” by Red Rohall.

A favorite: p. 43, Maxine Graham Price “Golden Afternoon,” just the sort of brilliant landscape shading into abstract I love. It’s just a tiny reproduction in an ad, but I’ld like to try to copy it in paint just to absorb it more.

Who are you quoting?
p. 121. Three red cats looking like Donna Howell-Sickles escapees.

Doing his own thing:
p. 52 Rick Bartow has been defining his own terms for many years. He’s at the intersection of being a Viet vet and being a hunter in Oregon -- many antlers, strong dislocated men, a shaman overtone.

Terpening and clones: p.11 David Mann “Path of the Stolen Ponies;” p. 18 Terpning “Sunset for the Comanche,” p. 65 “Captured from General Crook’s Command,” “Plunder from Sonora” and “Camp at Cougar’s Den;” p. 100 a teeny version of “Camp at Cougar’s Den,” p. 128 by Jim C. Norton “Washing on Salt Creek” This won the Ray Swanson Memorial Award for “communicating a moment in time and capturing the emotion of that moment.” Huh? I thought that’s what all art did. This is a nice piece of narration -- Indians on horseback entering a stream where a woman and child have been doing the wash.

Most startling: p. 83, a human heart carved in wood and inlaid with silver (or so it appears) but with a blackened top. Wickedness? A heart attack? Beautiful and intriguing. A good runner-up is a humorous religious sculpture by Maryella Fetzer, “Jonah Spit from the Belly of the Whale.” He’s movin’ fast and has big feet. He’s gonna be awful sore in the morning. P. 115?

Nice portrait:
p. 119 “Sky of Hearts” by Paul Cunningham.

Grid painting:
Aside from Gilleon, abstract landscapes by James Lavadour: “Deep Moon.” P. 126 Cactus by Chris Hamman, I guess. Shortage of info.

Missing in action: What?? No Pino?

NO PHONY SE ASIA KNOCKOFFS OF BRONZES IN THE ADS!! YAY! HOORAY!

AUCTION HIGHS:
Cowboy Artists of America (who seem to go by CA now, instead of CAA -- is this a drop in patriotism??) $2.3 million total. No mention of top individual prices.
Altermann $3.6 million. Joseph Henry Sharp’s “Chant to the Rain Gods” went for $219,500. The painting doesn’t even look like a Sharp to me, but I prefer his landscapes. G. Harvey’s “Twilight in the City” went for $214,000 and Clark Hulings’ “Flower Market at Aix en Provence” went for $192,000. Note there are no cowboys or Indians in these two high-dollar paintings.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Dale Burk and Northern Plains Art

Dale Burk and his brother Stoney (who is my lawyer) are examples of the intelligent, educated, resilient outdoorsmen who were reared on the East Slope of the Rockies. Stoney was a jet fighter pilot for 17 years, is a staunch defender of the Right to Bear Arms, and does a lot of pro bono work for environmental groups. In the beginning he helped Dale get started, which accounts for the name of Dale's press: Stoneydale. Stoney is on the edge of retirement and wants to learn to paint.

Dale's press (actually, I should say that it is emphatically his wife Patricia's press as well) is focused on hunting and fishing, with a bit of history and maybe some cooking. Before he had a press he was a writer and reporter, receiving a Nieman Fellowship for Professional Journalists for 1975-76 at Harvard.

In 1969 Dale published "New Interpretations," a book of essays about 22 Montana artists, which I will list because people are now looking for information about many of these people. (If this describes yourself, you might check AskArt.com, which maintains a humonguous database.) An asterisk marks those who are deceased:

*Ace Powell (1912- 1978)
*Leroy Greene (1893 - 1978)
*Albert Racine
*Branson Stevenson
Elmer Sprunger (1919 - )
*Irvin “Shorty” Shope (1900 - 1975)
*Bob Scriver (1914 - 1999)
Fred Fellows (1934 - )
*Elizabeth Lochrie (1890 - 1981)
*J. K. Ralston (1896 - 1987)
*Hugh Hockaday (1892 - 1968)
Les Welliver (1920 - )
Bob Morgan (1929 - )
Gary Schildt (1938 - )
*Merle Olson (1910 - )
Bob Emerson
Stan Lynde (1931 -
Les Peters (1916 - )
*John Clarke (1881 - 1970)
Jim Haughey
*Leo Beaulaurier (1911 - 1984)
Rex Rieke

Some of these may also be deceased, but I just don't know it. When I joined Bob Scriver in 1961, these were the Montana artists who were at their peak and selling well. They ranged in style and socioeconomics all over the place. Al Racine was a Blackfeet contemporary with Bob, Branson Stevenson and Leroy Greene were patricians, John Clarke was also a Blackfeet but one who already belonged to history, Elizabeth Lochrie was a student of Winold Reiss, Hugh Hockaday now has a museum named for him, Bob Morgan has become a kind of guiding saint in Helena, as Ace Powell was in those days in Hungry Horse, Fred Fellows is still working but has gone back to the warm weather in the southwest, and Stan Lynde is as handsome and gracious as ever, still turning out fine work -- and so on.

If I had to name the major Western artists -- or even just the Montana artists today, I wouldn't know where to go for a definitive list. There are hordes of artists, many doing exceptional work, almost too many to cram into the motel that hosts the annual C.M. Russell Western Art Auction in March. (You might start checking their website -- the jurors have done their work for this year: chosen the paintings and assigned the prizes.) In fact, this auction has had a lot to do with inspiring so many artists, and so did Burk's book profiling these early standout people.

Dale Burk's second book is more analytical. "A Brush with the West" begins with a discussion of how the Northern Rockies has a mystical presence and romantic history. Then he reviews some of the early artists -- not just Charley Russell, who dominates all conversations, but also Catlin, Bodmer, Rungius, Schreyvogel and so on. He tells how people developed realistic art in a time when the Easterners were still 'wrastling with stuff that didn't look like anything. Then the galvanic shock of losing the Russell Mint Collection to an out-of-state buyer suddenly woke Montana to the fact that the larger world had been thinking about Western art after all. The rest of the book discusses the shaping forces that have brought us to the present art scene.

Watch Stoneydale Press for reissues of these books. Otherwise, one must keep checking such online used book sources as Powells.com, Abebooks.com, and Alibris.com.

"New Interpretations" by Dale A. Burk, 1969. Library of Congress Cat.Card No. 82-99859

"A Brush with the West"
by Dale A. Burk, 1980. ISBN 0-87842-133-5

(I apologize for writing my name on the front of "New Interpretations." I was afraid it would sprout legs and walk off. These are working books and I pack them around with me.)




www.stoneydalepress.com
Stevensville, MT 59870

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"The Bronco Buster"



This Remington bronze is so emblematic of Western bronzes in general that it is worth pondering for a moment. This photo is from a 1996 Mongerson/Wunderlich Gallery catalogue. The gallery was in Chicago and was linked to a different Mongerson and Wunderlich partnership, which was the marriage of the two parties. Previously, Rudi Wunderlich had been a co-owner of the Kennedy Galleries in New York City, one of the most important galleries handling Western art. For instance, they were Harry Jackson's gallery. As far as I can tell, the Mongerson/Wunderlich Gallery is currently in limbo.

This is what Rudi says about this bronze: "Many of the period sculptures had their bronzes cast at Bertelli's Roman Bronze Works. Remington's first bronze and signature piece, Bronco Buster, was cast first with the sand casting method by Henry-Bonnard Foundry. We know of 64 casts produced by this method. Then Remington went with Bertelli to Roman Bronze Works of which approximately 90 casts were produced before Remington's death."

This photo is of cast #144. If the same mold was used straight through, it would have lost a certain amount of detail. (More if the mold were made of traditional materials, less if the mold were made with modern materials, which it likely was not.) Remington is known to have enjoyed going to the foundry to work on the wax, sometimes making rather drastic changes -- moving arms, converting leather chaps to fur chaps and so on. In a sense, he was creating "one of a kind" bronzes. Otherwise, for modern sculptors there were an unusually large number of castings.

What confuses the issue is that this piece is so popular (one often sees a casting behind the President of the USA in the Oval Office) that many knock-offs have been made. The best would have been castings made from molds made from an original. The worst would be the ones made by SE Asia craftsmen working from photos. The cheapest ones are only a few hundred dollars, though their owners often believe they have "real" Remington castings.

But here's a problem no one anticipated: breaking a horse this way is now considered "cruel" by many people who have seen or read "The Horse Whisperer," so suddenly this bronze is "politically incorrect." Now what? Where is a bronze of a "horse whisperer?" Who would buy it?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Art of the West, notes on Nov/Dec 2005

Yellow slickers: P. 21 Kelly Donovan’s “Easy Goin” -- horses crossing a river.p. 65. Packer on a white horse by Gary Lynn Roberts. All his primary riders look the same.

Eating places: Couldn’t see any. Maybe you can.

Doorways: p. 40 Schmid’s “Red Door II,” only 8”x7” but quite sophisticated composition of a European stone building with a fellow in a beret standiing outside reading the newspaper.
p. 58: Front door of the San Jose Church by Walt Gonske. Strong simple adobe lines against a dark blue sky.

Pino ad on page 19. I don’t know how to “do” links, but if you go to this URL: http://www.2blowhards.com/archives/002311.html There’s an interesting discussion about Pino. He’s another of the paperback cover artists and illustrators (like Terpning and many others) who has moved over to easel painting.

Money reports:
Maynard Dixon Country 2005 gala made more than $250,000.
Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show and Sale cleared $562,370. 179 of the 330 pieces sold.
Buff Bill Art Show and Sale totalled $905,920.


Interesting:
Roy Andersen, one of the CAA artists who withdrew, has a triptych featured on p. 84. 52” tall and a total of 152” wide, in three pieces, narrating an invented Crow story against a lurid red sky. I’ll pass. (In generaI I find most paintings of Indians pretty bogus or amateur.)

I liked the Peter Brooke bronze portrait of “Michael, Standing” on p. 85. Another I liked was on page 87: Krystii Melaine’s “After Rain,” a man leading a dapple-gray team across the flooded creek. Very simple and real. On p. 93 is a strong bronze bust of a Huron with the patina very well handled. It’s by Barbara Kiwak.

But the real reason for some to buy and hoard this issue is the well-illustrated story of John Clymer’s Lewis & Clark series. (A dozen paintings.) John was another professional illustrator, well-known for his Sat. Eve. Post covers and for reconstructions of other times and places for National Geographic. He was a narrative artist who was careful to do research with the help of Doris, his wife. They often stopped to visit Bob Scriver in Browning, swapping art lessons for anatomy lessons, and even gave us a wedding gift, a very large illustration of a James Willard Schultz story about bison running through camp, tearing up and knocking down everything. (Later I used to claim it was an illustration of our own marriage.)

Clymer’s colors tended towards the pastel, almost a watercolor palette, which is appropriate for the open prairie and seaside vignettes. They are carefully composed, usually along diagonals and curves that guide the eye to the people, which have a similar “Clymer” look though they are costumed authentically and have distinguishable faces, at least in the case of those who left portraits or -- like York -- suggest something specific. It is the people that count, though the scenery is beautiful, and it would be interesting to compare painting-by-painting with Charles Fritz’ series. I don’t have a copy of Fritz’ book, but my memory is that he is following geography more than anecdote.

John was one of the CAA members who didn’t go on horseback but he was a Westerner -- just not from the prairie. He was also well-connected and respected around Connecticut and one of the early members of the Society of Animal Artists and other professional groups. He was a mild and honorable man who never did harm, held a grudge, or worked an angle as nearly as I could tell. If he had, I think Doris would have straightened him out.

When I was a little child, I tore Clymer’s painting of stampeding horses out of a magazine. It was a double-page ad for a gasoline company, as I recall, and I had no idea who John was at that time. Bob said he took a terrible ribbing about the picture because there was absolutely no dust raised by those trampling hooves! I didn’t care about realism. To me they were like Varga girls, beautiful pastel living flesh.

The Eiteljorg Ad in SouthWest Art

In my review of the Southwest Art magazine for December, 2005, I neglected to mention that there is a "grid" painting on page 121. The subject is ochre and sienna plus darker colors (black and white in the center rectangle) and appears to be architectural in subject matter: in fact, a bridge.

The painting is by James Lavendour, a Walla Walla tribal member. It is featured in an ad by "the new" Eiteljorg Museum with the motto "Into the Fray." It announces the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art 2005. I take this to mean attention to creation rather than focus on conservation of artifacts.

Raymon Gonyea, who is the curator of Indian arts at the Eiteljorg, was in Browning at the Museum of the Plains Indian in the Sixties. He was standing on sinking sands then, but he was a good friend and we learned from him.

I'll try to write more about the Eiteljorg later, though I've never been there. It's one of the newer museums of its kind.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cowboy Artists of America in December, 2005

Kristin Bucher, editor of “Southwest Art,” in her editorial for December, 2005, did a nice balancing act when talking about the most recent changes in CAA. Briefly, she told us that some important members have been lost: Ray Swanson (deceased young), Roy Anderson, Robert Pummill and Jim Reynolds (the original “yellow slicker” artist -- his are often wet with rain).

On the other hand, the group -- which no one on the outside expected to persist, since keeping “cowboy artists” within a boundary is roughly like herding cats -- has met its fortieth anniversary. They did a smart thing: returned to the former Oak Creek Tavern in Sedona, AZ, where the organization originated in the high spirits resulting from participating in a trail drive. I wonder who actually attended.

Kristin notes that the group includes a couple of dozen members, but I think the original membership was quite a bit smaller and the number of members who have traveled through is MUCH larger. For a while there were female members. For a while there were “associates,” sort of aspiring CAA members. I’d like to see a list of ALL the members of every sort. The four who left this time had been long-time members.

An organization cannot last forty years without changing with the times, but CAA leapt from a scene where “cowboy artists” were just a kind of folk phenomenon, to a market today that approaches a million dollars per painting. (For some reason, though sculpture is more expensive to produce, it’s the paintings that get the high prices.) The original premise of CAA was that all the artists were especially good because they were actual practicing cowboys who could at least ride and were REQUIRED to show up once in a while to ride and re-”bond” with the other members. In those days, it was assumed that authenticity was one of the major dimensions of good cowboy art. One of the continuing tensions in the group was that some were better at drawing or whatever than others were, but they were good buddies, had been there at the beginning, and WERE cowboys.

Now people want to join because the quality of the art as art is high so that art buyers who can’t really tell what’s good will have some assurance. The reason the art has become so good is because of the migration of trained illustrators out of the NE into SW studios. Today’s CAA members might or might not have a little cowboy in their background. (Of course, that migration happened a few decades ago and many of those folks have aged and gone on ahead.) What’s more painful is that the camaraderie -- one for all and all for one -- seems to be breaking down as skill and high sale prices become the more important criteria. The gentlemen’s code of the NE artists has also been left behind.

The departure of the noted artists is probably not as serious as the hardening of attitudes and business practices (which have always been contentious) brought on by association with the print industry. The people who put out prints are frankly corporate and their lawyers are steely. Artists who are bound to them by contracts and big incomes soon realize they are captives.

This has lead to a souring of relationships with secondary businesses like index websites, for instance, “AskArt.com” which also had a major gunslinger-type shootout last summer with CAA. I have no idea whether this is related to the leaving of the four artists. AskArt deleted all CAA members in the aftermath of CAA lawyers’ accusations over photos of the art, which seemed to be only the mask for the real issue: AskArt publishes auction results and some artists were not doing well at auction. (At least one artist who stepped out of CAA is now posted on AskArt again. The website is a major source of information for curators, buyers, writers, and so on.)

So Western art auctions, which have contributed to the major jumps in price, have also made some artists vulnerable. There are a lot of them, the prices are taken as indicators of quality whether or not they actually are, and the artists cannot control them. They tell me that when Bob Scriver’s bronzes didn’t sell well at auction, his fourth wife actually wept. (Of course, she drank and that makes people sentimental.)

Cowboy Artists of America are used to being admired. Those who weren’t, quietly stepped out. And one of the by-products of this admiration is that people collect artists as much as their art. So buyers expect to be guests in the artist’s home, expect “their” artists to attend their social events, and so on. This is a corporate model, maybe, except no golf. But it is very high pressure, esp. for people who are naturally more attuned to long days at the easel in their studio. There is often great emphasis on how congenial a particular artist might be. In my experience, these individuals are likely to be people who praise your spouse on top of the table and kick your dog under the table.

One of these people swept in here to the Blackfeet reservation a few years ago with a lot of giclee prints under his arm (instead of beads and silk ribbons), demanded a lot of accommodation in terms of rounding up scenes and models he could photograph, and left at the end of a week or so. He and his print company has made millions, the local people have giclee prints on their walls without really knowing what they are, and this artist has moved on to the next reservation -- all while claiming enormous rapport and sympathy with Blackfeet, about which he knows little or nothing. This observer was not impressed.

I wonder whether CAA could persist if Joe Beeler, one of the founders, were to be lost from the group. His personality seems to exceed all the others even as he tries to be inclusive. He is a carrier of the original CAA vision and often a diplomat in their midst.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Southwest Art, December, 2005

“Special still-life issue”

Checklist:

Yellow slickers: p. 65. Not exactly, but a couple of James Bama guys in waxed canvas dusters.

Eating places: P. 74: Hilarie Lambert’s Parisian and tres elegante dining room. P. 78: Lindsay Goodwin’s equally elegant celebration of light, paneling and wine glasses.

Depicting writing:
On pg. 58 there’s a purple rabbit typing and a lady in a patio chair with a notebook.

Doorways: p. 42 The front of a ‘dobe strung with Christmas lights. p. 67 a very fantastic and un-Western door to a house with Gothic windows and fairy in a tree out front. p. 119 Actual doors to order! Works of art, though.

Simplest:
p. 107: One of the top best toys this year is a plain cardboard box. This is a painting of four plain boxes, mostly toward the top of the painting, all boxes open, welcoming.
Most complex:

Most haunting: p. 73. Oreland Joe steps away from his usual classic and restrained stone carvings to both paint and cast the same strange shape of a face topped with frondy feathers and looped with turquoise beads.

Money marks:

ARTS FOR THE PARKS, Jackson, WY:
$25,000 & gold medal to Morten Solberg for “Morning Flight,
Olympic National Park." Painting is shown on p. 128. A heron flying over a
tide.
WESTERN VISIONS MINIATURES AND MORE, also Jackson, WY:
$1,055,000 total sales.
BUFFALO BILL ART SHOW & SALE, Cody, WY:
More than $900,000 total sales. Highest yet for them.
Krystii Melaine’s “Moving Cattle” and James Bama’s “Black Elk’s
Great-Great-Grandson” each sold for $30,000.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA, PLEIN AIR PAINTING FESTIVAL
$111,000 total sales.

MOST OUTRAGEOUS -- even CRIMINAL:

The classified ads feature two (relatively) big color ads with the identical photo of a Remington bronze. THESE COMPANIES ARE BOGUS!! They are selling illegal replicas and castings, some of them bearing very little resemblance to the originals and some of them evidently close copies done from photos or maybe molds pulled from legitimate castings. We’ve been hearing about these bronzes, cast in SE Asia like those cheap clothes you love. They claim to be “wholesale to the public.” Believe me, there is no such thing as really fine art bronzes that are “wholesale to the public.”

Aside from their dubious source, these castings are ruining the market for authentic American Western castings because only highly experienced people can tell the knock-offs from the real thing. Some worried people simply make a rule: never buy bronzes. Amateurs are likely to end up with something that has no provenance, which is the real key to art value. (Provenance is being able to document the source of the art and the various owners until the present.) People with no real eye for art are liable to buy stuff that doesn’t even resemble what it purports to actually be. (Take a look at what is supposed to be Rodin’s “Thinker.”)

Southwest Art magazine should be embarrassed for allowing such people to run ads. It is simply false-advertising and piracy. Probably the person who runs the ad section has little contact with the editors, who presumably know better, but this is pretty serious and whoever has the authority ought to draw a line.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Rex & Iola Breneman Bequest

Rex and Iola Breneman were customers of Bob Scriver for many years, building up a repertoire of bronzes, large and small, including some modeled specifically for them and sold with the copyright, and castings of the spectacular rodeo bronzes done at the end of the Sixties. Recently the Brenemans donated one hundred Scriver br0nzes, worth more than $350,000, to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame Center of Western Heritage and Cultures: Native Americans, Ranching and Rodeo. (The website is www.northdakotacowboy.com where you will see Teddy Roosevelt looking “bully” in hair chaps.)

Located in Medora, near Roosevelt’s ranch, the North Dakota Hall of Fame is sort of a northern counterpoint to the Oklahoma Version where another set of Scriver rodeo bronzes is located, specifically the heroic-sized portrait of Bill Linderman that got him started on rodeo subjects in the first place. The bronzes are now displayed in the traveling exhibit gallery. Dickinson State University, which Scriver attended, cooperated by storing and displaying pieces. They will circulate through the schools in the winter when the museum is closed.

Rex, a WWII and Korean War Air Corps bombardier, was a little guy -- like a cowboy -- and ran a service station in Coram on the West side of the Rockies. His wife, Iola, sometimes helped Bob corral some of his ever-expanding lists of accomplishments and new creations. Like many customers of Western artists, the Brenemans felt they were part of Bob’s family.

Iola’s nephew, Jacob Bell, also has a website featuring the collections of the Breneman’s, principally works by Scriver and his lifelong friend, Ace Powell. (http://www.bobscriver.com/) There are photos of some of the Scriver bronzes on that website as well as family snapshots and lists of sculptures with their sizes and other data. It’s unclear whether more Breneman castings of Scriver bronzes will be available in the future.

Rex himself has had a series of strokes which have narrowed his life considerably. Luckily, Iola is still her usual competent self and is coping pretty well.

Medora, North Dakota, has a wildly romantic history that is well worth researching (Medora was a real woman, the wife of a Marquis, and her elegant home remains) though it isn’t appropriate to discuss on this blog.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Arnie Olsen resigns from Montana Historical Society

http://www.helenair.com/articles/2005/11/03/montana/a01110305_03.txt

Historical Society director resigns
By CHARLES S. JOHNSON - IR State Bureau - 11/03/05
HELENA — Arnold Olsen resigned Wednesday as director of the Montana Historical Society, a job he had held since July 1999.

Olsen, 55, said he is resigning to pursue other interests related to his doctorate in wildlife biology. He said he will leave the director’s job, which pays about $97,000 a year, in a week or so.

The society’s board of trustees said it will begin an immediate search for his successor.
He previously worked for 17 to 18 years for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks where he served as administrator of the Wildlife and Parks divisions.

Olsen resigned during the closed portion of a teleconference “special meeting” of the Historical Society’s board of trustees in the Capitol earlier in the day.

The board’s agenda announced in advance that a portion of the meeting was to be closed because “personal privacy outweighs public’s right to know,” a determination later made at the meeting. Although the agenda was posted on the Historical Society’s Web site, it was not sent to at least some news organizations prior to the meeting.

Like most society directors, Olsen had his supporters and his detractors on the board and among the agency’s various constituencies. The board oversees operations of Historical Society, which runs the state historical museum, the state archives, a history magazine, the state historical preservation office and oversees certain historical buildings.

In a telephone interview Wednesday night, Olsen said his resignation was voluntary. He said he never intended to stay as director as long as he did. Olsen said he has never remained in any one job longer than eight years.

“I have a lot of diverse interests,” Olsen said. He said he wants to remain in Helena and would like to return to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the rest of his career before retiring in four or five years.

Asked if he received a financial settlement from the board to resign, Olsen said, “All of that is private.”
The press release announcing his resignation told how Olsen spearheaded efforts for the society before the 2005 Legislature’s to secure $7.5 million in state bonding for seed money for a new Montana History Center.

The society is considering the purchase of the land and buildings where the Capital Hill Mall is now located in Helena, a few blocks north of the Capitol and converting it to a new museum and headquarters, a project estimated to cost $40 million. The society is now completing architectural and engineering studies to determine if the mall is suitable for a history center.

Olsen said the timing of his retirement was in the best interest of the completion of the project.
“Looking at the timing of my retirement, I would not be able to see this important construction project through to completion and would not want to leave at a critical juncture,” he said in the press release.

He said he got the project to the point where it needed to be with the seed money from the Legislature and the support from Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

A number of private donors are stepping up now that they’ve seen the state’s commitment to the project, Olsen said.
“The future of the society is bright, and I feel good about the contributions I have been able to make toward its success,” Olsen said. “I wish the society and the board of trustees well as they move forward with their important work.”

Among his notable other accomplishments was the acquisition of the Robert M. Scriver collection to keep it in the state of Montana, the press release said.

Olsen was the ninth professional director to head the Historical Society since 1951, when historian K. Ross Toole headed the society for seven years. Before then, the society didn’t have professional administrators. The average tenure of its professional directors has been about five years.

The Montana Historical Society was created in 1865, a year after Montana became a territory, and became a state agency in 1891.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sculpture Review, Fall, 2005

(Theme: Simplicity of Form)

There are only five articles in this magazine, which is about usual, but each of them is inspired and each of them relates to form in unexpected ways, so that the “synergy” is immense.

“Aztec Empire” presents alarming and yet somehow familiar monolithic figures, often with obsessively elaborate surface patterns -- almost brocaded. In addition are Halloween portraits of gobbling gods with their livers hanging out from under their ribs. One man, who appears to be covered with Post-It notes, turns out to have attached skin bits of a flayed slave, affixed to indicate the greening patches of spring. Skulls, teeth, and staring eyes are not what we would think of as “simple” maybe, but they certainly convey the simple fact of human flesh: vulnerable, horrible, suffering and ecstatic.

“Brancusi and Noguchi” balances abstraction against representation. Thumbed, blunt, minimal detail still somehow manages to contain personality and even recognizable persons. Brancusi takes minimalism so close to non-existence that tiny mineral flaws in the alabaster medium become significant and descriptive. They are like ghosts, souls, and yet -- because alabaster can be so like human flesh -- emotional. Noguchi makes two busts in bronze, nearly abstracted to featurelessness, but still somehow recognizable as George Gershwin and Buckminster Fuller (chrome plated).

“The Expression of Cleo Hartwig” shows portraits of women cut from stone, rather stylized, suggestive of some Native American work in the Southwest or, as she mentioned, Inuit (Eskimo) art.

“Luisa Granero” also does nudes, some of them in “caliza stone” which appears to be a kind of limestone and some in clay These are far more gestural and human looking women, round and strong in a classical way. Most are solitary figures, absorbed in their pursuits, but I especially liked the two small figures leaning together in “El Beso,” “The Kiss.”

“Simplicity of Form” by Nina Costanza, presents a series of figures -- all recognizable and all very different from each other. “Anemone” by Lorrie Goulet is coral-pink alabaster, curled on itself. “Maya” by Jose DeCreeft is black Belgian granite for a strong black face. “Small Goddess” by Betty Branch is a bronze just over a foot tall, a seated Venus with no arms or head, she is all butt and thighs in the manner of someone with a lot of estrogen and heft. The rest of the figures are all female, if you will accept a mother fox. The terrific turkey illustrating the table of contents didn’t make it into the story. I hope we meet it somewhere else.

In view of the great number of nudes, I was pleased to see an advertisement for anatomy figures, not just ecorche (skinned) but also with magnetic removable parts and deep muscle anatomy. Also, armature templates which I would think would be a wonderful advantage. Nothing is worse than laboring over a figure only to discover that a wire pokes through in the wrong place. $169 and up -- cheap at the price.

But if you haven’t got that much money on hand, the very next page over offers a $38 spiral-bound book of proportions: how long is a nose, what about an upper lip? Between which points ought one to measure anyway? These measurements are even more crucial for the faint hints on something like Brancusi heads.

I get as fascinated by the ads as I am by the stories -- which, of course, the advertisers hope will happen! The dino bronze across from the index just knocks me out! “Torosaurus Latis,” 21 feet long, 11 feet tall, mouth gaping, fabulous horns and shield ruff, beautiful blue-green patina -- oh, my! It you put it in your garden, you wouldn’t HAVE a garden because everyone would trample it in their efforts to touch this monster. Luckily, it’s going to the Peabody Museum at Yale. In its simplest form, of course, it was bones with the merest indications that it might look like this.

Giancarlo Biagi writes wonderful editorials, as one would expect from someone capable of editing in this tender but inexhaustible way. And I’ve begun to wonder how many years Ghandi has been walking quietly along on behalf of New Arts Foundry. He’s come to be a familiar friend.

My usual quibble is that I’ve had to take a hi-liter to the captions so that I can refer back and forth between figure and title without losing my place.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A Video Portrait of Charlie Russell

“A Portrait of Charles M. Russell, Preserver of the Old West” is a VHS video that lasts about an hour. You can buy it at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, but the maker is “High Hopes Productions,” PO Box 20369, Seattle, WA 98102, (206) 322-9010. I bought it because it has Bob Scriver in it, but it’s really about Charlie.

The movie was made in 1993, which means that some of the wheeler/dealers I knew from the Sixties are in it -- like Dick Flood who practically invented the sharp art deal. He shows his age and didn’t live a lot longer. Some who should have been in this movie are already gone, like Ace Powell, who knew Russell pretty well and had so many of the stories and dreams in his repertoire. Bob Morgan is probably the most informative, as he points out painting technique while the camera shows you just what he means. Alberta Bair is undoubtedly the biggest character among all the old time Montanans -- bar none.

Bob Scriver is almost eighty and looks older than his dad did at almost ninety. He’s putting on a cowboy act, usin’ slang, cussin’, leavin’ off his “g’s.” I used to get mad at him for pretending to be uneducated, but he said he did it for two reasons: one was that it was what people expected from a “cowboy artist” and the other was that in the “stick game” of art dealing, it pays to let people underestimate you This is exactly what Charlie was doing, too.

There are none of the SW “cowboy artists” of the Cowboy Artists of America outfit in this movie, not even Fred Fellows. Two out-of-state experts hold forth: Ginger Renner and Peter Hassrick. Each has a lot to say and it is different to watch them say it than it would be to read the same words on a page.

The people one really wants to watch closely are Charlie’s and Mamie’s son, Jack, (who is wearing a Scriver buffalo skull bolo) and a couple of other old-timers who were children haunting the streets of Great Falls when Charlie finished his day’s work and rode his horse down to the Mint Saloon.

The film begins and ends with the land, what Bob calls “the country,” but is packed with Charlie’s paintings, both early and late. They are interleaved with old photos and, by the end, movies, including the funeral parade. A 1926 scene of Charlie signing to Nancy must have been made shortly before his death. Interestingly, they say that Nancy knew more sign-talk words than Charlie. Joe DeYong, who was deaf, must have had something to do with that.

Charlie’s sign-talk is a mix of American Sign Language for deaf people and Indian inter-tribal signing. Bob Morgan speaks eloquently of how much Russell enjoyed Indians because they were courteous, gentle and generous. He knew them in peace time and portrayed them in quiet family scenes: hair-dressing or water carrying.

One of the old fellows in the movie speaks of Russell’s horse being on wires behind the horse-drawn hearse, but in fact, Charlie Beil was leading Russell’s horse. In the photos it’s not easy to see the goiter than caused Russell’s heart to fail except that now and then his collar seems a bit awry.

Cowboy songs enliven the video. At the end the sky embraces both song and artist.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Southwest Art Magazine, October, 2005

Hey! A whole story about café art -- not art to hang in cafes, but art painted in and of cafes, though it appears that some artists take photos to paint from. Six different artists to compare! I love it!

First, all are people sitting at tables. No still-lifes of place settings, no lingeriing couples in doorways, no waitresses slumped with exhaustion, no strange angles. One is a woman at a counter and you can see the cooks in the background. One appears to be a man relaxed enough to put his bare foot on the table -- there is a bar in the background. Three are in Europe. Maybe.

Pam Powell’s painting is near superrealistic and was posed. In fact, several variants were posed, but this one is a “James Dean” type in a black leather jacket with a bunch of gladiolas in front of him on the table for two. He’s in the window, looking out across a plaza where the shadows are long, and maybe the low sun is getting in his face. Naw. He’s worried. Who’s he waiting for? The floor-to-ceiling window says (wrongside out) “Center for the Arts.” Is he an artist or a model? (Clearly, he modeled for this!) Powell admires Hopper, but this is more story than Hopper usually gives us.

Victor Arnold’s cafe is in Europe -- brick arch on the doorway, bentwood cafe chairs, Euro-looking hats. The sketching is almost cubist in it’s angularity, color is paintbox primaries: apple green, apple red. He says he likes the people talking, interacting, but these four are not. The picture is dominated by the composition.

Annie Dover’s picture came from a photo in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, a place of experiment and cruising. A dark shape, round-headed, occupies the lower left corner, and a young woman sits on a stool with only condiments in front of her. The writing behind her on a sign is the lower part of “Market” and a blackboard that says “As Heard on NPR,” “New York Times” and “Financial...” This is evidently what’s in her head -- typical Seattle liberal sources and worries. But in between the market sign and the blackboard is a little sign that says in block letters, “BELIEVE.” What can it mean? Dover herself thinks the woman is going to hook up with Mr. Roundhead. My advice would be to concentrate on the busy and solid-looking cooks, one wearing a t-shirt that says “City” with a big fish, the other in a billed cap. Under the blackboard is a small painting that might be a meadow or a shore. Something romantic. Seattle is an urban mystery, a port city. The woman looks vulnerable.

Jim Beckner’s cafe is a night scene and the people have wine in front of them. The floor-to-ceiling windows are black and the brushwork is vague, almost screened or fibrous. The interior reflects slightly in the windows. No one is alone, but faces are averted, pensive, pulled into groups, intimate. This is Denver and the cafe might be Potager. Beckner has been commissioned to create a series of paintings about downtown Denver to hang in a new Hyatt hotel.

Linda McCall painted the man with his bare foot on the table. He seems to be in a kind of banquette with a low table in front of him. There is a bottle. He’s an older man, bald, sunglasses. Sun floods in on him sideways, but does not reach a man standing with his back to the bar -- also bald with sunglasses, but seeming younger. The light and dark patterns are rounded, almost blobby, hard to interpret. Far in the back is the glimmer of windows. Directly behind the seated older man is a post and his banquette is clearly black leather. McCall says she likes intrigue and mystery. If the young man in the first painting is waiting for a girl, who is this man waiting for? What will he give that person? Is the man at the bar a spy? This must be Europe.

Karen Horne’s autumn twilight diners are in Italy -- or maybe not. She lives in Salt Lake City. Do they have nice places to eat outdoors in Salt Lake City? There is no wine on the tables. Two bare-armed women are in the foreground. They are not brooding or conspiring. In fact, they seem a little tired after a long day of work or shopping. The rich amber of the trees matches the t-shirt of one woman and the hair of the other. That dark yellow, plus lemon yellow on a roof, play against the amethyst ground. In the distance is green foliage, a little darkened and grayed out by the setting sun. Dark shadow takes the lower-left-hand corner, but there is no person there.

I greatly enjoyed this little series of pictures by six artists.

THE REST OF THE ISSUE

On p. 4 is an ad for Donna Howell-Sickles. She gave a speech at the C.M. Russell Auction in Great Falls a few years ago and really blew me away. The paintings seem like jolly dance events where her animals participate with her, the cowgirl. But there’s always much more to it than that, because she paints out of a personal mythology, a story that is partly just her and partly classical stuff. In this painting she seems to be trying to calm and separate five horses, while her dog helps. Up in the top right hand corner is a triangle with a horse “behind bars,” red corral bars, in fact. It’s rather like a thought balloon with a picture in it instead of words. Maybe a threat! The title is “Boys Will be Boys.”

On p. 117 is another Howell-Sickles: “The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon.” Maybe you know about the ancient frescoes that show temple maidens leaping over bulls. Here you go!

On p. 83 is another heavily symbolic painting, but I don’t like it. Maybe you do. I don’t like the fox.

On page 84, the very next page, is Charlie Burk’s painting of NOTHING. Just grass. But it grows on ya. Maybe it’s even symbolic. I once gave a sermon about nothing but grass. (No, not THAT kind. It’s an herb.)

On p. 21 is a totally unexpected “hand painted dressing screen by Joseph Lorusso.” It’s two-sided, three-paneled, and meant to as a shield from eyes while changing clothes. One side shows a tailor shop with one woman holding a dress against herself, a tailor measuring a second woman, and a third woman adjusting her hair as she stands with three headless dummies. The other side is supposed to show two seamstresses and the “tailor at work.” it’s bright, intriguing, and totally original. I’ve been wishing for a screen. What a great thing to have!

On p. 38 is a gorgeous landscape by Ron Rencher -- a pale moon above pale knife-edge mountains and in the foreground darkening sage and greasewood. Below that are a pair of Sherry Salari Sander mountain lions. There has been discussion about her including more and more of the environment with her figures of animals, and she has done that very well here. One lion is stretched out along a fallen snag which juts over the other dozing on a rock ledge. Maybe it’s this issue that shows mountain goats in craggy rocks. (Not.) She gets the “echo” of the shapes beautifully and shows the fittingness of animal to habitat.

In the northeast states there has always been a tradition of “women in white,” and I own (somewhere) a desk calendar that is compiled of Sargent and Cassett, et al, paintings of 19th century women in white dresses. On p. 36 are two Richard Segalmen paintings of what might be SW versions of women in white dresses. One is in a big closet or room of flounced white dresses and appears to be wearing a petticoat with straps. The other is at the beach, her very white skirt billowing under an ivory overblouse.

On p. 44 is another of those “grid” paintings, this one composed of two rows of four bust portraits of Charles Reid’s favorite artists. (I share his taste.) They are beautifully, delicately, skillful watercolor portraits and seen together, rather than individually, the impact is wonderful, delighting both eye and mind.

On p. 46 are two “yellow slicker” paintings by Craig Tennant. One is a still-life under a longhorn skull -- the cowboy in the yellow slicker is a young fellow (about five) in a painting on the shelf. Title: “Little Cowboy Dreams.” The other painting is subdued light, either night or under a roof, and the cowboy is pensively coiling his lariat. Title: “Cowboy Blues.” On p. 204 is another yellow slicker picture -- the artist is not named. He’s riding a willing horse and pulling a slow pack horse and has got himself into a push-me/pull-you situation that can’t go on too long.

On p. 56 I spot a doorway: one of those mysterious “men only” places with stairs that go up to places women never see, a refuge. This one, by Brian Slawson, is “Mull’s -- 18th & Vine.” On p. 224 is a similar building, but no signs and reduced to a graphic design. On p. 78 is the entrance to a wonderful porched home, an historic house. Pamela Panattoni is the artist. On p. 80 is the abstracted entrance to a cathedral. Interesting to compare these four.

On p.79 is one of those pickup trucks that sneak into cowboy art. This one is “Old Orange Truck” by Barbara Chenault.

Here’s an interesting sequence: On p. 95 here come three cowgirls walking straight toward the viewer. “Buckle Brigade” by J.E. Knauf. (Think J.E.’s a woman?) You could call them “Buckle Bunnies,” but the middle one is armed. On the very next page are three cowboys in chaps, walking away. “Going to the House” by Howard Post. And on the NEXT page overleaf are four cut-out desperadoes coming this way, all armed. Thom Ross’ “An Afternoon Stroll Down Fremont Street.” These guys look to be on bases so they can stand alone. Probably life-sized.

p. 126 is a whole article about Kenny Harris who has developed a unique vision of floors and doorways with light sweeping over and through -- nearly abstact and yet realistic and HIGHLY suggestive, emotional. Bravo!

p. 132. More symbolism: Wes Hempel’s surrealism. I like the one of him walking a tightrope stretched over a European masterpiece dark crashing sea into a tunnel of light in the clouds.

p. 184. You know how they say, “She put in everything but the kitchen sink?” Well, here’s a very nice stainless steel kitchen sink! Susan E. Roden. It’s a pastel. Whaddya mean there’s nuthin’ to paint?

p. 186. I keep preaching about the importance of infrastructure to the art business and here’s FIVE small jewels. Well, THEY call them “Pearls in the Sagebrush.” Woolaroc Ranch, Museum and Wildife Preserve in Bartlesville, OK; West Valley Art Museum in Surprise, AZ; Springville Museum of Art in Springville, UT; Haggin Museum, Stockton, CA; Bradford Brinton Memorial and Museum, Big Horn, WY. Ask me how hard it is to keep these tiny places alive and working and I’ll start to cry.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Sheepherder "Hay-soos"



Bob Scriver always thought of sculptures in "sets." One set was going to be American characters, which would include the portrait of Ace, Charlie Russell, the Sheriff, Bandito, Tintype, and so on. One figure of that "set" was a sheepherder, a much more sympathetic and appealing one than the characters who occasionally broke into our cabin while they let their sheep eat our clover and dump little turds full of biting flies that stayed the rest of the summer.

This sheepherder statue was one of my favorites, partly because of the dog and partly because sittiing in a high place and looking a long ways is so characteristic of this part of the world. In fact, when the obsessive commotion over the giant statue of Jesus -- meant to signify peace but strewing nothing but belligerence, competition, and missing funds -- was over, I suggested that this statue was much better than any overweening and idolatrous monster.

If it were up to me, I would cast this sheepherder in heroic size (life-size plus one-fifth, which looks life-size when cast), put it up at the top of a hill, and let people who wished peace approach with a stone in their hand to add to a cairn, an ancient tradition that appears in many cultures, including those of the Basque sheepherders. It's the cairn that should be huge, not the statue.

Of course, in this case, the sheepherder named Jesus would be pronounced "Hay-soos."

When I suggested this to Rex and Iola Brennemen, long-time friends and art collectors of Bob's, they said they'd have to think about that for a while. They own a casting of this piece.

Margaret Scriver "To See Eternity"




Bob Scriver’s daughter, Margaret, died of cancer at age thirty. Because her conception forced his first marriage and because he loved the actual fact of her existence as a smart, responsive, and loving little daughter -- followed by a kind of loss as the marriage failed -- he had intense emotions surrounding her death. These he resolved in a portrait bust done at the hospital.

Her hair had been cut short for convenience in the hospital and she asked for it to be restored in the portrait. Bob made it blowing in the wind and spoke of her as his “prairie daughter,” which became the working title. Only later did we speak of that wind as death, a cold wind indeed, and then the title became “To See Eternity.”

This bust represents a breakthrough into a set of busts totally unlike Bob’s more familiar cowboys, Indians, and wildlife pieces, but not entirely unprecedented. Earlier he had done a bust of Arlene Lightfield, called simply “Arlene.”

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel

The Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel was a phrase I just made up for purposes of kidding around, but now I find that it is -- and maybe always was -- a real phenomenon: a connected ring of artists, dealers, and curators who try to control the price and nature of Western art. I’m not surprised. People tell me that in Santa Fe they walk down the sidewalk almost crowded into the street by the plethora of eager cowboy art galleries, most of them crammed with work that looks pretty much alike. Art is like rodeo -- a way for a hopeful to try to make enough bucks to save the ranch. Hard to blame them for that.

The Cowboy Artists of America is definitely acting like a cartel. (Dictionary: “An association of businesses aiming at monopolistic control of the market.”) For two years they have been engaged in sniping at AskArt.com, a database website that lists American and some Canadian artists, supplying biographies, bibliographies, galleries, and so on. The registrar is a highly art-educated woman who works from a home office. Thousands of artists are listed, most of them historical. Also supplied are essays on important groups of artists, explaining who they were and why they mattered.

One of the most popular essays had been the one on the Cowboy Artists of America, originally an exuberant group of artist friends, inspired by helping on a ranch, that developed an association. The group was taken in hand by Dean Krakel, then creating the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and quickly became a spectacular success. The idea was that they would show all together at the Hall of Fame, attracting high class customers and patrons, then the Hall would award purchase prizes and thereby develop a fine collection while making the CAA artists famous and certified.

Bob Scriver was an early member as were Harry Jackson and Ned Jacob, but the latter two quickly pulled back out. The three had dominated the prizes. Jostling increased and CAA left the Hall. Krakel, always quick on his feet, organized the National Association of Western Artists, starting with all the CAA prize winners. (Not all the original CAA artists were that great as artists -- they were just great friends.)

What everyone who bought art wanted to know was which paintings and bronzes were good, in the sense of good investments? Many of the customers were capitalists -- that is, they managed large amounts of money, moving it around to places it would create profit. You can tell them to buy with their hearts all you want -- since their checkbooks are chained to their hearts for security purposes, they still want to know if the value will remain or increase so they can keep loving it.

The next step was the Great Falls Ad Club’s 1968 invention of the annual Charlie Russell Auction to benefit the CMR Museum. Aside from the benefit to the museum, the auction bloomed, then exploded into a major social event, a festival. Other auctions sprang up both in GF and in other cities.

After thirty-seven years enough of the original CAA artists and collectors had aged enough to die, giving rise to estate auctions. Now even the big auction houses like Christie’s were taking notice. Western art increased in value by leaps and bounds, because it was a portable form of storing wealth -- almost as good as gold or diamonds. No taxes, as required on real estate.

The second tier of CAA members had been east coast illustrators left adrift by the death of the magazine story-and-illustration combos that used to fill Redbook, Colliers, and the women’s magazines. These people were highly trained, disciplined, business-savvy but not cowboys, though some were Westerners. Moving to the SW, they built atmospheric studios and were soon busy looking leathery and grizzled.

Then there was a shifting third-tier of ambitious younger men. Not very worldly but VERY ambitious. Their fortunes went up and down, which was apparent to those who tracked auction prices. Bob Scriver despised auctions and did his best to hold his work out of them, knowing that they were sometimes highly manipulated. But the capitalist buyers used auction results like stock market indicators.

AskArt.com supplied those auction results, along with images so a person could tell what sold. They are the same images that appear in online catalogues, since so many galleries and auctions have been putting the works online to attract email and telephone buyers who can’t get to the actual location. (One man told me his practice is to go to see the actual art ahead of time, but then always to bid from his car phone in the parking lot, so people can’t tell what he’s up to! He buys antique guns that way, too.)

In 2003 one of the third-tier artist’s wives -- perhaps prompted by slowing sales -- decided to attack the messenger: AskArt.com. She felt her husband’s work was being erroneously reported and therefore damaging sales. She was asked to make the corrections, but refused, saying, “ You’re making money on reporting this stuff -- YOU find out what the right sales figures are!” So AskArt simply deleted the artist from the database.

Pretty soon that artist became the CAA president and attacked AskArt on behalf of the whole organization, claiming that there was something illegitimate about them posting an essay about CAA, though it was exactly the sort of thing one would find in an art magazine. (I downloaded it and have it around here. It was no different than the articles on California art or flag paintings or the “Trashcan school.”

CAA demanded that the photos of works be removed, as AskArt didn’t have permission to use them and the photos were copyrighted. They accused AskArt of “trademark infringement and unfair competition” and “infringing the copyrights of CAA’s members and CAA itself by providing high quality reproductions of its members’ works without permission.”

So AskArt took off the website all the CAA connected material: keywords, individual artists (unless deceased or requesting to be kept), images, and so on. There were about two dozen artists, a very small percentage of the total database. Though CAA fills the entire mental screen of the Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel, the people back east still have only heard of Russell and Remington.

Other database websites that monitor auction results exist, but I haven’t looked at them. Frankly I never look at the auction results on AskArt either, not even for Bob Scriver. In Bob’s case, the bronzes that circulate constantly through the auction houses were commissioned by speculators who bought the right to reproduce and had huge editions (a hundred castings) made by small town ceramic shell casters with indifferent patinas. The prices of them are not going up, though they fluctuate a little.

Evidently the “masterpiece” bronzes (the big rodeo pieces, the major Blackfeet pieces like “Transition” or “No More Buffalo” that Bob cast in our own Bighorn Foundry) are not coming to the market, or if they are, they’re moving through galleries and individuals. There is another set of bronzes, mostly the religious pieces and other portraits Bob made for himself, that are one-of-a-kind and therefore priceless. They are at the Montana Historical Society. The several monuments, of course, stay where they are.

A high proportion of Bob’s work (a total of a thousand sculptures) was never cowboys or Indians, but wildlife. I’ve seen little of it go through the auctions. The funniest phenomenon has been the tourist trinkets Bob made when he was first starting out -- mass-produced plasters that originally sold for $4.95 -- that are now showing up on eBay for less than a hundred dollars. Some people are buying them, casting them in bronze, and thinking they have Scriver bronzes. It SAYS that right on them!

Art must be valued according to its quality, but if people are not educated to recognize quality and cannot be persuaded to buy art because they love it -- good or bad -- then they can expect disappointments. Repeating a formula over and over, depending on secrecy and bluff prices, and trying to threaten anyone who counsels the buying public are great ways to shoot oneself in the foot.

You’d think cowboy artists would know better.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Scriver Religious Sculptures




The four of us dressed up and went out to dinner to celebrate the completion of the Pieta. L. to R.: Mary Scriver, Bob Scriver, Helene DeVicq, Maurice Chaillot.

This bust of Jesus was a study for the much smaller Crucifix.

Bob Scriver ended up doing religious sculptures in a roundabout way. One could say that the first Christian statue he did was a cement version of the Virgin Mary for St. Anne Catholic Church’s graveyard in Heart Butte in the Fifties. But it may have only been a repair. He repaired one of John Clarke’s big cement goats as well.

In the mid-Sixties a couple named Walters, quite wealthy, came on vacation to the Big Hotel in East Glacier and visited the Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife. They liked the sculpture and ordered several bronzes. Then Mrs. Walters said that she would very much like to have a portrait of her husband, Robert, a fine polo player. She wanted him portrayed on his horse so we would have to go to their ranch in Santa Barbara. In the spring of 1967 we did that.

On the way, driving our faithful little red van, we stopped in Santa Rosa to see Bob’s second wife’s sister, Helene and her family. The second wife’s brother, Maurice, had just come to visit. When we went on, Bob remarked that he’d make an excellent model if a person wanted to portray Jesus Christ, and then we had a good laugh. But Mrs. Walter’s next request was for a “Corpus” of Jesus on the cross, except it wouldn’t quite be a Corpus because he wouldn’t be dead yet. She wanted the moment when Jesus asked, “Father, Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

Maurice agreed to come and model that summer. On the way home we visited Bob’s daughter, Margaret, and discovered that she had cancer. Maurice is a Catholic and so was Margaret -- somehow over the months the Crucifix became conflated with Margaret’s suffering. When she died, Bob decided to continue with the Pieta with Maurice modeling along with his sister Helene as Mary. There was more than fifteen year’s difference in their ages.

Bob was not much of a Christian. His parents had attended the Presbyterian Church early in the twentieth century when Reverend James Gold, the Scottish missionary who was the father of Doug Gold, was there, but it was a very small congregation, almost a “house church,” since Rev. Gold’s ministry was mostly one of visiting and support to the Blackfeet. Bob had only the most surface and popular understanding of Christian doctrine. He never attended the little Methodist church, though I did, even singing in the choir in the Sixties. He did pay for several stained glass windows in the names of his brother and parents. His brother and mother were buried from that church but his father had a Masonic funeral in the old Masonic hall, and Bob himself was buried from the library of Browning High School with a Catholic priest and a Blackfeet Bundle Keeper presiding. It was not a mass.

We did research into practical matters for this Crucifix and Pieta. What clothes of the times were like, whether a dead person would show veins, and where the nails should go (hands or wrists) and so on. Maurice, educated by Jesuits, knew what it was all about theologically.

Bob divorced me in 1970 and in 1973 I returned to Portland, Oregon, where I grew up. In 1978 I began to prepare for the Unitarian Universalist ministry at the University of Chicago, earning an MA in Religious Studies and an M. Div. as a professional degree. In 1982 I returned to Montana to ride “circuit” among four small fellowships. While I was in seminary, I wrote a sort of early version of a “blog” -- one single-spaced typed page a week -- which I xeroxed and mailed to friends and family. Some of them were sending me money and I felt obligated to keep them informed. I always sent a copy to Bob Scriver. He never responded directly, but the evidence is that he read them. I always wondered how much they had to do with the next step.

The next Christian image was really the idea of an old man who wanted a peace monument with a huge statue of Jesus on top, big enough for a person to walk into the head and look out the eyes. Bob became obsessed with this and conflated it with his need for a more permanent museum off the reservation. The project persisted for years but finally fell of its own weight. Carroll College, somewhere in there, asked Bob to design a statue to be called “Jesus the Teacher” but the idea Bob offered was so silly that that was abandoned as well. It was Jesus in a very pleated gown holding up one finger. One can imagine what a student body would do with that, even nice Catholic students at Carroll!

While all this was going on, Bob’s “real” religion was quietly continuing: Bundle Opening. The first Bundle was transferred to the two of us in 1970 and he rejoiced in the felt unity with the old people of the tribe. But they were so old that they soon began to drop away, and anyway the young fierce post-colonial warriors attacked Bob and tried to suppress him the same way Indian agents tried to suppress those old people. It was ironic. Almost secretly, Bob went on with his smudging and bundle-opening with a few close friends. To some extent, I have, too.

He made two large round sculptures of Blackfeet ceremonies. One is the “Opening of the Medicine Pipe Bundle” which consists of portraits of all the old people in whose circle we sat. The other is the women doing the “beaver dance” from the Beaver Bundle, but the people are generic. There are also a number of sculptures illustrating Blackfeet mythology. Most of these pieces have never been on the market and therefore remain nearly unknown.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Scriver Pieta



"Pieta" is a category like "Nativity" or "Passion" (the Crucifixion) in which a religiously defined moment -- in this case the dead Jesus taken down from the cross and lying in the arms of Mary -- is portrayed. Many artists have addressed this theme over the centuries, in many styles and for many reasons. This "Pieta" was made by Bob Scriver after the death of his grown daughter, Margaret, who died of cancer in May 1968. It was created that next summer.

So far as I know, no copies of this piece have ever been sold. I have no measurements but Bob always worked to scale, often to a scale of one to five, so I would guess it is a little over a foot wide and maybe a foot tall. The only copy I know of is at the Montana Historical Society.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sculpture Review Summer, '05

http://www.nationalsculpture.org
“The National Sculpture Society is the oldest organization of professional sculptors in the United States. It is master sculptors and architects like Daniel Chester French, Augustus St. Gaudens, Richard Morris Hunt, and Stanford White who founded the NSS in 1893 and have comprised its active membership since. Current membership continues to contribute to the great public sculpture in this nation, as well as being represented in museum, corporate, and private collections around the world.”

http://www.sculpturereview.com
“The first sculpture exhibition in the United States was staged by NSS in 1895. Today, an exhibition schedule in the Park Avenue Atrium in New York, NY provides a venue for the public to view some of the best contemporary figurative sculpture in the country. The Park Avenue Atrium is a permanent showcase for exhibitions by the Society.”
___________

Long before there was Cowboy Artists of America, there was the National Sculpture Society. When Malvina Hoffman and Joy Buba proposed Bob Scriver for membership in the Society in the Sixties, this was probably his highest moment -- for these were sculptors and these were the very sculptors he admired most.

Not cowboy or Indian sculptors, these were nevertheless the first to respond to the notion of the American West as it formed. Today there are cowboy, Indian and wildlife sculptors (both in identity and subject matter) among the membership. The only restriction is excellence. Oh, and you have to be able to figure out what the piece is. Bronzes might be embellished, distorted, augmented, experimental or not even in bronze, but the sculpture should be figurative to some degree.

Let's take a look at the Summer '05 issue of "Sculpture Review," a smashing, gorgeous, always unexpected, thought-provoking magazine. My favorite. Lately it has been organized around themes, which is a brilliant idea because it brings forward work I never heard of, never could have imagined, had no idea existed. This issue is an excellent example. The theme is "humor, satire and caricature.

If you thought Tonto and the Lone Ranger fist-fighting in heaven was funny, take a look at these two mismatched ladies on the cover in their naked alabaster asymmetry. One is huge, bulbous, grinning. The other, the more aggressive, is ancient, suffering a bad case of osteoporosis, her hair in a knot. She tries mightily to sock her opponent, while the massive one simply holds her away. "Battle Eternal" by Henry Clews.

With only a little forcing, you could find parallels between Henry Clews (1876-1937) and Charlie Russell (1864-1926). They both left prosperous families in search of their own worlds, they both married dedicated and supportive wives, they both became discouraged with society, and they both had sides both sweet and devilish. But the Clews did not live in a log cabin: they rebuilt a chateau at La Napoule between two Saracen towers near Cannes.

At first Clews was an admirer of Rodin, much influenced, but in later years he developed a strange, semi-Oriental style that to me suggests Jabba the Hutt. He could and did make tender and romantic portraits, but then could indulge in "biting satire" against "catacombs of unbelief, artificial pleasure, false happiness, machine idolatry, and suffocating idolatry." One doesn't know whether to laugh or to shudder.

Far more comfortable, even pleasurable, caricatures are by Elie Nadelman (1882 - 1946) who has a New Yorker cover sensibility. Faces taper to pointed noses, legs taper to pointed feet, ladies have ample poitrines. There is another category, small glazed potteries of gesturing blobby ladies with bumpy pets (poodles, probably). I have never heard of another sculptor who created busts in plaster, then plated them electrically as though they were baby shoes!

A series of small portrait busts by Daumier (1808-1879) are laugh-out-loud exaggerations of the features the subjects undoubtedly would least like to have pointed out. Strange noses, twisted mouths, ridiculous expressions, all stuffed into the tops of 19th century collars and bows. These are known politicians. How one longs for portraits of some of today's "Celebrities!"

Then, just as one is thinking that such lively art is a far cry from those Greek statues we usually see around Important Places, here is an article on "Caricature and the Grotesque in Helenistic Sculpture." That beautiful marble boy pulling a thorn from his foot is countered by a twisted little shepherd in exactly the same pose -- but he's only achieved terra cotta.

This magazine is meant for artists more than for customers, so the advertising is mostly for sculpture supplies and services. Still, sculptures illustrate the ads. I'm a little discouraged to see that ads for Western McEstates, usually featured in slick cowboy "lifestyle" magazines, have penetrated even to this market.

This is the only magazine that I know of that seriously discusses sculpture from several points of view: bios of the artists, the impact of the cultural context, influences of friendship, the materials, the methods, the achievements and the "so-what?" step -- why does this work count? What does it do to the viewer?

Usually you can find this magazine in one of the better bookstore newsstands or even in a library that hasn't been flayed to the bone in order to buy computers.

If you do find yourself in this sort of library, refer to the URL's at the top of the page and there will be plenty to contemplate anyway. This time when I looked, I came upon a portrait bust by Adrienne Alison of "Fundator Johannes Strachan (1778-1867)," that is, Bishop Strachan, founder of a girls' school in Toronto and looking entirely capable of keeping girls in line. Strachan is my maiden name. Every time I work on the family genealogy, he pops up, but I've never seen what he looks like before! I think my father had a nose like his.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Bob Scriver and a hand-painted version of "Lone Cowboy" -- a portrait of he and Playboy. Thanksgiving, 1967

My Learnin' Horse: Skeeter

If you live in Montana, you MUST have a vehicle, but in 1961 it seemed more important to have a horse. I bought “Skeeter” for $100 from Don MacRae, a local contractor and lumberyard owner, but the big brown gelding had originally come from the Bullshoe relay race horses out at Heart Butte. I suspect that his genes came from decades of big brown cavalry horses, which occasionally got diverted into Blackft hands. Part of the reason I got Skeeter so cheap was that he was old, but the rest of the reason was that he was thin-skinned and every summer the flies picked at his head until he appeared to have mange.

In the 19th century thousands of horses were shot by cavalry to stop the pandemic of horse mange. Of course, it was also a good excuse for getting rid of a key part of Indian military power. When the horses were replaced, the government offered them plow horses. There were already a lot of big heavy horses around, used for wagon shipping and to build the railroad. Those who witnessed the mass slaughter of horses were haunted for the rest of their lives by the screams and thrashing of the horses as they died.

Skeeter didn’t really have mange. Still, it was close enough that people veered off when they saw me and wouldn’t let their horses near mine. Every time Skeeter got loose, he set off for Heart Butte. It was always home in his heart, even after he’d been in the field with our other horses for years. Since in those days there were no fences between Browning and Heart Butte, it was essential to catch him again before he passed the last barbed wire at the edge of town. I learned to feed him oats often and to carry any ropes or halters wrapped around my waist so he wouldn’t see them.

The idea of putting me on this horse was that he wouldn’t do anything that wasn’t safe. The first thing he thought was unsafe was me in the saddle. He was tall, so if there was no one around to give me a hand up, I had to stand on an overturned bucket or the fence. If I tried from the fence, Skeeter turned until he was head-on -- no possibility of getting a leg over. If I tried from the bucket, he cleverly kicked the bucket out from under me just as my toe approached the stirrup. You could ride him in any direction for as long as you liked, and the return home would take twenty minutes. He simply adjusted his speed to the distance. And he adjusted his belly size to make sure the girth ended up loose.

Terrible groans and rumblings came from his middle when you were in the saddle. Seemingly in extremis, he could never resist lying down in a good sandy spot to take a nice roll -- the rider and saddle presenting merely an inconvenience. If only I could have taught him to lie down when I wanted to get in the saddle.

But if we were really out for a ride (and in the early Sixties that was just about every summer morning at daybreak) and we were with Bob on Gunsmoke, his little gray half-Arabian that he got from Hughie Welch, Skeeter would settle down and cover the distance, rocking along in a steady gait from his relay race days. It was a mercy to push him past a trot, as he must have had the roughest trot on the rez, and one had to be alert for quick turns. His turning method was to slam the ground with his front feet to throw his weight in the new direction. Suddenly he went left or right and the unwary rider kept on over his head in the previous direction. I unashamedly hung on to the horn -- TIGHT -- and never got thrown, quite. Ended up pretty high on the horse’s neck.

One day he was cut under the fetlock by glass in the borrow pit along the highway, a constant and vicious hazard. Even after months of not being ridden, he never quite healed up. Indeed, anytime a person appeared to be moving a saddle his way, he made it a point to limp ostentatiously. Pretty soon Bob bought me another horse, Zuke, a smaller pinto who didn’t mind a rider, though he had a bad habit of falling flat on his face. I wouldn’t have believed a four-legged creature could do that.

Skeeter sort of lived in retirement unless we had company. When Bob divorced me, I had no way to take care of a horse and sold him to Harold Hatfield. No doubt he ended up canned. Bob thought this was cold-hearted of me and accused me of wanting to can him, too. He had made a model of Skeeter’s head, which -- flies aside -- was really very nice, a typical hotblood head. It’s still on my wall.

On the morning this photo was taken by Bob out at Trombley’s, he got on “Playboy” -- a beautiful sorrel quarterhorse who was a cousin to “Descent,” the famous bucking horse, and who posed for the horse in “Lone Cowboy.” In about half an hour Bob was lying face down in the trail where Playboy had bucked him off. The horse had begun to buck actually IN a small stream and went up the bank where the trail was cut down by feet. Bob’s shoulders struck on either side of this groove so that the cartilage that holds the rib cage together in front, the sternum, was split. He was enraged but couldn’t get up without help. I managed to get him onto Skeeter and back to the pickup.

I said I was taking him to the Indian Health Service Hospital emergency. He said he wasn’t going to any hospital. I said if he wouldn’t go to the hospital, I’d go into every bar in town and announce that he couldn’t ride his own horse. That did the job. The truth is that he couldn’t have stopped me from driving anywhere -- as soon as the shock wore off, the pain was bad. It took months and months to heal -- never really did. When they did his heart by-pass surgery they sawed open his sternum again, but this time they wired it back together. Nevertheless, for the rest of his life after that morning he wore a kind of leather corset he got Bell, the saddle-maker, to build for him.

But at the moment of this photo life was as good as it could get early on a clear summer morning with the prospect of a long ride. Even Skeeter was kind of looking forward to it. Sometimes it’s a good thing not to know what’s going to happen.

Me and my "Learnin' Horse."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Bob Scriver & Ace Powell

Well, these two guys ain't Picasso and Matisse, but that's not their fault. Both pairs were creatures of their time and place.

Bob Scriver and Ace Powell were buddies from high school and collaborated on the school yearbook in the early Thirties-- that would be the Browning High School "Etaikasi." They drew and modeled all the time with whatever materials they could find, including clay dug from river banks. Ace hung around Charlie Russell at Apgar where Ace's family worked. Bob hung around Charlie when he came to visit the Blackfeet.

The photo was taken at the Moiese, Montana, National Bison Range, just a bit north of Missoula in the Flathead Valley. C.J. Henry, the manager of the range and a darned good photographer, caught his two friends in their characteristic roles, Bob listening sceptically and Ace gesturing his way through some major principle about art in Montana in the 1960's. The two (along with Nancy McLaughlin, Ace's wife) were helping with the annual fall roundup, when all the buffs were run into sorting chutes for inspection and inoculation. Some were selected out for slaughter and others were sold as yearlings for others to raise.

Bob was a doer and Ace was a talker, though the latter was a multi-tasker -- he could talk while he did anything at all! And he never let his cigarette go out, either, though it's Bob who's holding one in this photo. They were very different men and yet they shared deeply what they believed. And they believed in art.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"American Art Review" (July/Aug 2005)

“American Art Review” (July/Aug 2005) is not a cowboy art magazine, but includes most kinds of representational art -- impressionist, plein aire, and so on. The articles included are scholarly, usually having been written by curators to accompany exhibits.

This issue warms the cockles of my heart (what are cockles anyway?) because it includes two articles from out here where some people think there is “nothing.” One is from the Winold Reiss show in Kalispell this summer and the other, rather surprisingly about The Taos Society of Artists, is from Spokane.

But first want to mention my hobbyhorse about cafe art. On p. 51 is a wonderfully atmospheric nighttime portrait of a little sidewalk cafe in Rome called “St. Marks Mozart,” by Marilyn Simandle. The musicians in question are under a glowing marquee while the clientele seems to be largely missing, maybe because of rain. The cathedral takes up one-fourth of the painting, which is impressionistic.

Another favorite subject sub-genre of mine is doorways. In this issue is a very geometric and white (p. 57) entry to “French Quarter Gallery” by Dean Mitchell. An excellent example of the “golden proportion” of one-fifth to four-fifths, a strict watercolor, and yet evocative. On p. 64 is another near example of the proportion, but this time it is a series of entries on both sides of a street -- one white in the sun, one red in the shade. “Ancient Colors” by Lisa Bloomingdale Bell.

Another red entry way on p. 72. “Work Detail” by Aline E. Ordmann puts a janitor under a noble arch. On page 80 a white entryway, the Best of Show in the Paint Annapolis 2005 plein air event in which the artists do exactly that: go out to paint scenes in Annapolis for the day, then re-convene for sales and awards. The porch in question is “Front Porch Geraniums” by Robert Barber. Only one plant sports a red bloom.

One that really apeals to me is historical: Frederick Childe Hassam’s “The Stairs” 1888. P. 119. A mother and child at the top of sunny stairs that evidently open into a home. A calico cat is crouched on one stair. I’m especially fond of Hassam because he painted in Portland, OR, where I grew up, and I’ve seen a lot of his work. He seems to me “the way a painter ought to paint.” Another master is on page 120: John Singer Sargent’s painting of the stairs to “Scuola di San Rocco.” There’s another next to it on the same page, “Street Scene at Capri” 1899 by Elihu Veder. It’s too small to tell very much, but could be interesting.

The captions in this magazine, like the captions in the National Sculpture Society magazine, always bug me because I can’t separate them from the text. There are lines, but I can’t see them very well -- old I am and wearing varifocal lenses. The captions are grouped in the middle -- one would think I’d learn that -- but sometimes they’re NOT. And my eye has to go back and forth, searching, while I try to figure out what I’m looking at. Maybe a pastel color block background?

Anyway, “Enchanted Visions: The Taos Society of Artists and Ancient Cultures” includes a photo of the culprits ( no women) who could be said to have invented Western art, at least in the SW. The museum has a website: www.northwestmuseum.org. There is a 44 page catalogue booklet. Show lasts thru 9/25/05.

Much of the essay is about the models, how they were posed and paid. This is fair enough since so many of these paintings were portraits. Couse painted so many, so idealized and so typical, that a certain kind of subject is called a “Cousing Indian.”

The paintings shown are:

By Bert Geer Phillips:
“Watergrass” . (Title painted on the painting.)
“Spectators at Winter Ceremonial, Taos Pueblo”

By Oscar Berninghaus
“Racers at the Pueblo”
“Pueblo Indian Life”

By E. Martin Hennings
“Juanita”
“Indian Hunters Among the Aspens”

By Walter Ufer
“The Entertainer”
“The Listeners” 1920

By (William) Victor Higgins
“Apaches” c. 1918
(In regards to this one, compare with the Kenneth Riley “Plains Motif” on p. 37 in the September “Southwest Art.” The intersection of reality and abstraction is similar as well as the palette, though Higgins does an interesting thing by putting his foreground figures in shadow, even a hawk.)

By Joseph Henry Sharp
“Sage and Thistle”
“Studio Visitors”
On p. 20 is a good Sharp painting of Blackfeet or Crow lodges. Sharp is also considered a “cowboy artist.”

By William Herbert “Buck” Dunton
“The Hostiles” 1915
Dunton is included in the “cowboy artist” canon as well. On p. 35 is a fine example of “night” painting: “Above the Bed Ground”

By Ernest Blumenschein
“Indians Entertaining the Cheyenne”
Not hard to figure out that the cold climate prairie Cheyenne are wearing dark clothes and cowboy hats, which the SW Indians dress in white. Look at the proportion of light to dark in the figures: one-fifth to four-fifths?


“Winold Reiss: Artist for the Great Northern” will be on view through 10/18/05. www.hockadaymuseum.org. 24 page catalogue for $25 and worth it. This article is by the same author, Scott J. Tanner, who is joined by Linda Engh-Grady. The opening was attended by Renate Reiss, widow of Tjark Reiss, Winold’s son. She and other members of the family maintain the key website from the Reiss’ family estate in New York.

The paintings, all portraits, include:
“Bull Boy--Blackfeet, 1943”
“Calling First” 1935
“Under Owl Woman with Child” (Julia Wades in the Water and granddaughter.)
“Heavy Head” 1935
“Heavy Shield” (version 1)1927
“Snowbird, Papoose” 1931
“Sundance”
“Roasting Stick” 1944
“Mudhead, Bear Society-Piegan” 1943

There are two photos of Reiss at work, one indoors and one outdoors. I presume the boy in the outdoor one was Tjark, who was the same age as Bob Scriver (b. 1914). I don’t know who put that lodge up, but they sure did a bad job! Must not have been any grandmothers around!