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."


Thursday, December 29, 2005


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 or 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?


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, 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,, and

"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.)
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?