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 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.


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.