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

"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.

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