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."


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.

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