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."


Sunday, December 03, 2006



Dogwoman (1742 - 1766)
An old woman protests that dogs were good enough for the ancestors -- who needs horses?

Eats Alone (1767 - 1791)
A chief has everything but confidence in the Sacred.

Two Medicine (1792 - 1821)
A young two-spirited man falls in love with a little blonde priest, thinking he is also a man in a dress.

Horse Healer (1821 - 1841)
A woman warrior is captured and taken over the Continental Divide.

Horizon (1843 - 1859)
An exploring Indian goes back East and is mistaken for an insane person.

Eclipse (1860 - 1882)
A priest and a doctor puzzle over what to do with an old dead woman.

Whiteout (1883 - 1900)
An abusive wolfer is killed by his woman and her niece.

Cutnose Woman (1901 - 1924)
A woman unjustly punished for being unfaithful finds happiness unexpectedly.

Gay Paree (1924 - 1953)
Three Blackfeet soldiers, very different from each other, accidentally meet in Paris at the end of WWII.

Basketball Warrior (1953 - 1969)
A young athlete goes off to fight at Wounded Knee but never makes it.

Sweetgrass Hills (1969 - 1991)
A young man takes his Vision Quest in the Sweetgrass Hills, not knowing a rancher’s daughter is nearby.

The Sun Comes Up (1992 - now)
A female Blackfeet Fish & Game warden picks up a Blackfeet man (who has never seen the reservation) plus the bones of the ancestors so that both can come home.



OR NOW in bookstores:
ISBN 978-1-84728-453-2

“Mary Scriver is an unruly fireball of writing talent -- full of horsepower, information, soul, brains, and juice.” MICHAEL B.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


“I enjoyed reading your stories. I found your blog while doing a search on Nancy McLaughlin Powell. I have some Nancy McLaughlin art and am interested in her history, personality, etc. Do you have first hand knowledge of her or people who knew her?”

This query came in on my prairiemary blog, but I’m going to answer it on, where I talk about artists. The inquirer didn’t give me any way to respond directly to her.

Nancy McLaughlin Powell was a little older than myself and married to Ace Powell while I was with Bob Scriver. Since Bob and Ace were close friends from childhood, we often formed a foursome. But Ace and Nancy lived on the west side of the Rockies, where there is money, rain and a lot of art predation. Bob was on the east side where the wind sweeps everything down to essentials and the cold discourages predators of all kinds. Nancy was Ace’s third wife, I think. There is a book wandering the universe, privately published, that is her life story with photos. I’ve seen it but never bought it.

Nancy and I were both the sort of women who are vulnerable to older men with big dreams. We believe in them, support them, mainline our energy and very blood into them, and suffer when they are neither grateful nor faithful -- sometimes not even successful. Nancy was high-headed and independent (Her white wedding dress was edged with scarlet ribbon.) and absolutely moral in terms of her husband and children. The devil was alcohol. Ace never pretended he was not alcoholic and what that does to a marriage is well-known. When it’s a third marriage, things are even worse: more to hide, more debris and baggage, more bad habits.

In spite of all that, which is more or less what people expect of artists, Ace and Nancy did pretty well. They aligned themselves as sort of hippie, Mother Earth, creative, counter-cultural types, though Nancy did most of the work. Ace couldn’t -- by the Sixties his heart and lungs were only partly operating. He’d say, “For Christmas I bought Nancy a new ax and I promised to go out and hold up the lantern for her.” It was a joke but probably the truth.

Nancy was also physically vulnerable: asthma could absolutely flatten her. The two of them were a kind of type, not-quite-blonde, thin, pale. They had huge amounts of courage and general attitude. Something vaguely Appalaccian in their Western world-view, like Ed Abbey. They were funny. Once we were talking and someone said something about having Ace in the hole. Nancy quipped, “I’m the only one with Ace in the hole!” and then turned bright red!

Their way of going at art was to produce lots of it with prices an ordinary guy could afford. They never made a big deal about being geniuses. Nancy did Indian portraits on velour paper with pastels, cool colors (blue and green) on one side of the face and warm colors (red, orange, yellow) on the other side. It was a gimmick, but very effective, and the works sold well. In addition, she would do charcoal drawings with white and red highlights on buckskin-colored paper, and some illustrations for books. She loved Indian legends and had close friends in the tribal world. There was always enough money for her Arabian horses.

The next devil entered through the book door. A writer crazier, needier, and much more demanding than Ace. He seemed strong, maybe a genius, and a way out after Ace and Nancy’s studio had burned, leaving them with very little except talent. For a while, she lost her nerve and that broke the attachment to Ace. She left with the writer. (Ace remarried.)

It was a huge mistake. The writer was a monster who made her and her children suffer badly. Eventually, having re-established and expanded her art career in Washington State, she built a new life, but it was late and she finally died of emphesema, asthma, “obstructive pulmonary disorder” -- whatever they called it. The year was 1985. She was born in 1934. Ace had died in 1978.

David, the oldest of Nancy and Ace’s children, is a member of the Cowboy Artists of America. He is happily married, has a son of his own, and an upstanding stepson, now adult. Before returning to easel painting in his studio in Simms (classic Charlie Russell country), he made quite a name for himself in Hollywood doing sets and costumes and providing advice on authenticity. Sometimes one can pick him out of a crowd of extras. The two younger children, both girls who look much like Nancy, have established their own lives with children of their own. Nancy would be proud. So would Ace. I don’t think he ever stopped loving Nancy.

Both Nancy and her son, David, are listed on the reference website called

Sunday, August 27, 2006

7-ll Collection at Sotheby's

It appears that “cowboy art” is finally making it into the mainstream of art in America. Sotheby’s Auction House -- not any of the auction houses that specialize in Western art -- will auction drawings, paintings and sculpture on September 13 in New York City in a catalogue simply described as “American” but including well-known Cowboy Artists of America figures alongside the more familiar landscapes and portraits from across the country.

It never really occurred to me before, but 7-11 does sound kind of like a ranch brand, so maybe that’s why they bought so much Western art for the walls of their headquarters. It never occurred to me that 7-11 stores might go bankrupt, either, but I gather that this development, plus merging with another chain, has meant that much of the collection has been let go. A spokesperson says that there is still plenty of art left, which makes me wonder who made the choices about what to sell which leads to wondering who made the purchases in the first place. As I say, it appears that they just backed a truck up to a CAA show.

Weighorst, Payne, Sharp, Gary Niblett, Joe Neil Beiler, Gordon Snidow, James Elwell Reynolds (value estimated at $50,000 to 80, 000), Bill Owen, Jim Boren, John Wayne Hampton, Tom Ryan, Fred Fellows, U Grant Speed, Ned Jacob, Robert Elmer Lougheed are included among others. It gives me a jolt to realize how many of these men are dead of old age. Another jolt from realizing that some of the living are about my age (Fellows, Jacob). And a rueful note: who knew about these crazy middle names and suppressed first names their Mama gave ‘em? Most of the estimated values are around $10,000, give or take $5,000. Some of the works are bronzes.

For comparison, Macmonnies’ “Diana,” a familiar American bronze by a recognized master, is on auction also, valued between $20,000 and $30,000. She seems to have left her bow somewhere.

At this URL are the online catalogue pages. Cowboy stuff is late on the list.

A good deal of optimism accompanies this auction because of an earlier set of auctions of the 7-ll photographs. Quotes as follows:

“You may be surprised to learn that behind your favorite Slurpees in the 7-Eleven convenience market chain lay a rich cache of 2500 works on paper and classic vintage photographs collected in the early 1980's to decorate company headquarters. It was an auspicious, low-priced time to collect, especially photographs.

“The Southland Corporation, as the business was then named, subsequently endured a leveraged buyout, a real-estate collapse, downsizing, and other pressures that drove a good chunk of their great photographs into storage for the last ten years. This year it was time for a change. Richard Allen, manager of The Collection of 7-Eleven, Inc., as it is called, explained that even after offering 126 top 19th- and 20th-century photographs at Sotheby's, they retain plenty of great images for their own use.

“...The 7-Eleven corporation originally acquired most of its photographs from the early established galleries, especially the Weston Gallery, Carmel, California, which had an arrangement with the Paul Strand archive; Foster Goldstrom Fine Arts, San Francisco; and Galerie Rudolf Kicken, Cologne, Germany for European images.

“...Altogether, the 7-Eleven collection pictures at Sotheby's brought a rousing $3,607,160, a record for a single-owner photograph sale in New York City and outstripping expectations.

“...Nine lots sold in the $100,000 to $300,000 range; 57 sold in the five-figure range; 48 at four figures; and two in the hundreds..”

“... The Stephen R. Anaya collection of California gold rush photographs brought $1.3 million for its 48 offerings, with three major bidders trampling the estimates and slugging it out for the golden 19th-century spoils.

“Anaya, a Santa Monica College faculty member, discovered gold rush images in the 1970's as a graduate student and then assembled a celebrated collection of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, and paper prints often tapped by museums and television producers. For example, many of Anaya's images appear in The West, a documentary by Ken Burns, and in its companion book. The auction offered Anaya's wide selection, from California prospectors out digging to the rudimentary towns that sprang up to service them.”

One wonders what the Adolf Hungry-Wolf photo collection will eventually bring at auction. Be nice to the guy! Get your set of “The Blackfoot Papers” early!

“An Edward S. Curtis bound volume with 101 large-format photogravure plates, The North American Indian, 1899-1914, went to a private collector for the sale's top lot at $101,500 (est. $40,000/ 60,000).

“In a four-way phone battle, The Wild Bunch, circa 1900, a group portrait including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, by Texas photographer John Swartz escalated from the $25,000/45,000 estimate to the final $85,000 from an anonymous private collector. The last of the American frontier bank and train robber
s, the five remaining members of the Wild Bunch sat proudly for their portrait, wearing identical shiny black derby hats. In its prime the legendary group had over 20 members and cut a swath from Wyoming to Texas.”

My considered opinion (and warm hope) is that all the print debunking of the Wild Old West will be brushed aside by love for the images in photos and movies. Maybe the New West is a matter of Santa Fe Cuisine and Sundance decor, but that doesn’t photograph so well. And why buy a Terpening painting of Indians at an inflated price, when one could buy a Sharp or Jacob for less?

Sotheby’s. No need to fly out to Texas.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


When I told Ray Djuff, author of many books about Glacier Park or rather Waterton Peace Park since he comes from the Canadian side, that I had a better library on the Blackfeet than some public libraries, he called my bluff by arriving to spend a couple of days at my work table going through what I had. As a sort of “hostess gift,” he sent me these photos he had taken of the Scriver sculptures now emplaced at the public schools in Babb.

These are fiberglass monuments that were in front of the Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife and Hall of Bronze in Browning. When the Montana Historical Society arrived to take away all of Bob’s work, they were hard-pressed to know how to transport these monster statues or where to put them if they got them safely to Helena, so they loaned them to the Blackfeet Tribe. The Tribe has a lot of empty warehouse space up at the Industrial Park by the railroad depot, so they stashed them in there to save them from vandals. There is still enough animosity against Bob for renegades to feel justified in spray-painting or otherwise defacing his works. (Of course, there was a great outcry of protest when the statues were missing!)

In fact, the rumor went around that the big bull-rider statue was dropped at some point and was “busted.” However, Gordon Monroe was on the tribal council at that point and he was the person who had made the casting from the original mold in the first place, so he was perfectly capable of fixing it. Gordon has done all of Bob Scriver’s fiberglass casting as well as creating some major works of his own. For instance, his huge “corpus” of Jesus on the Cross is in the Church of the Little Flower in Browning.

These two huge works come out of the rodeo phase of Scriver’s work, which is all some people really think of when they reflect on his entire body of a thousand sculptures, partly because the rodeo sculptures are what he always sent to the Cowboy Artists of America shows. “An Honest Try,” which is a portrait of Bill Cochran on a Reg Kessler bull, became Bob’s trademark and motto, replacing the “Lone Cowboy” motif he used earlier. This one-and-a-half life-sized version was commissioned for the Inland Trade building in Kansas City in 1986.

The other big statue is a version of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) figure on their official belt buckle. A bronze version of it is behind the Montana Historical Society building in Helena. They gave Bob one of these buckles and he may have been buried wearing it.

The tribe didn’t mess around with deliberations over where to put these statues. They just did it. The Montana Historical Society didn’t know until I told Arnold Olsen and I didn’t know until I was Googling School District #9 and came across the pictures on their website. I still haven’t seen them in person.

Bob had many connections to Babb, mostly from the days when he lived all summer in a cabin he’d built halfway between Babb and St. Mary. I had connections there myself, partly through some of the Blackfeet Sandwich Shop and Free School faculty who later taught at that school and probably had something to do with this, and partly through the year I was the Methodist minister for the Blackfeet Reservation and preached in Babb every Sunday. Because the St. Mary Valley opens to Canada rather than the reservation, the culture is a little different there. It’s more of a tourist town with white businesses that have been there since homesteader days, gradually becoming Indian businesses as the generations intermarry -- but with a strong strain of Metis.

Anyway, they look great in front of the new Babb school and I hope they have a long and happy life there.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


The Royal Alberta Museum Scriver Show continues through the summer and into November.

After I wrote the just previous blog, I sent copies to the Montana Historical Society, the Royal Alberta Museum, and the Evans and Cree Medicine families. The families just grinned. The Montana Historical Society said I was unfair. Bruce McGillivray, the director of the Royal Alberta Museum, thought there was some justice in what I said. He arranged for Bob’s second wife’s sister, Helene, who was also Bob’s model for the Pieta and his “muse” and encourager in the late years, to be invited to the Opening.

Helene was thrilled. She lives only blocks from the museum, in a river-view condominium in an older building. She has known Bob since he began to date her sister during WWII, when she was 17. When Jeanette divorced Bob in 1959, it only created a temporary gap in his complex and long-standing friendship with her family. The commission to make a “corpus” (Jesus on the cross) brought Bob back into active relationship with both Helene and her and Jeanette’s brother, Maurice. That commission became entangled with the death of Bob’s daughter, Margaret, who was about the same age as Maurice. Bob’s way of handling her death was the creation of his “Pieta,” for which Maurice and Helene were the models.

Helene says she’s not ashamed of her age (81) but she has always warred against actually aging, with considerable success. If the Royal Alberta Museum was expecting a white-haired granny in sensible shoes, they must have been disconcerted by this elegant petite woman clicking through the entryway in her usual high heels. She had brought with her an escort, someone younger and quite handsome. When she saw the big portrait of Bob at the entrance of the display, she burst into tears. “He was grinning, Mary,” she said in her telephone report. “He was like he used to be in the happy days!”

A second-hand report is what I have. I was invited once Bruce saw what the signficance of the claim was, but have no money and am wrestling to understand a recent diagnosis of Diabetes II, which is significantly affected by travel and meals “out.” But Helene’s report was vivid and I thought she should be the star anyway. Her patience and faithfulness have been unending. She is really VERY charming and glamorous and she appreciated the whole scene, the grace and society of it. “All my relatives have gotten old,” she wailed on the phone. Jeanette herself died just a few months ago after years of bedridden pain. “I hope she knew I was at this show and that she was pleased,” declared Helene.

Doug Macfie, head of Clan Macfie in Canada and maintainer of the genealogy website for the family, was also pleased and told the Quebec cousins including Margaret, the cousin for whom Bob named his daughter. Doug tells me that Bob’s grandfather, George Macfie, had two brothers who headed west. I had thought they landed in California and Seattle like the Scriver ancestors, but in fact they remained in Western Canada and have spread across the prairie provinces as the generations multiplied. This suggests to me a new project: making a family tree for the Macfies into a mailing list. There are several cornet players among them -- might there be another sculptor?

Museums and historical societies are nervous about families hanging around, because they often interfere -- sometimes even try to take back donations of objects, claiming they were only loans. Historical societies are particularly tricky because so much of history is about families who are happy to be supportive so long as the accounts are flattering, but inclined to be unhappy when skeletons fall out of closets. For an historical society to double as an art museum is quite common in the West because the value of Western art is often seen as rooted in the history of the frontier. This means that the twists and turns of history can affect the actual cash value of an art collection.

The tendency of Western art curators and dealers has been to find a template that has been successful in the past, and then to force every new artist into that same pattern. All his life Bob was pushed to be like Charlie Russell, both in his technique and as a person -- but he was NOT Charlie. Not even Charlie was the stereotypical person created by legend! To commodify an artist like this is to destroy the very uniqueness that makes him or her valuable.

The enormous contribution of the Royal Alberta Museum in this show of Scriver bronzes is to separate Scriver from the distant SW Western Art Money Machine, as well as the perhaps too-close cliches of Charlie Russell, and to show Bob in his own right. The strangest reactions by pre-readers of “Bronze Inside and Out,” the biography of Bob that the University of Calgary Press will publish in the spring, were those that wanted to remove the genealogy and those who wanted to remove the hunting stories, both important keys to his personality. (Charlie Russell was not a hunter -- he would skin and pack, but would not shoot.)

Edmonton was a major part of the Bob Scriver’s life. The support of the wife he found there, Jeanette, was one reason he was able to move from music to sculpture -- though it meant returning to Browning, Montana, when she would have preferred to live in Edmonton. Her family remained dear to him. For the RAM to include Helene DeVicq in the opening of this exhibit was an act of generosity and justice. Surely it will create good karma. Maybe enough to rub out the curses of the jealous malcontents who invaded the opening of the Scriver Artifact Collection years ago.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Thad and Ellison Scriver had two sons, one for him and one for her, but the sons themselves either had no sons (Harold) or had a “lost” son (Robert). The solution in Bob’s case was to informally involve -- not quite adopt -- the sons of two other families: Evans and Cree Medicine.

The Joe Evans family, Catholic, had plenty of kids and they related to Bob and his wives because Joe helped to invent the Bighorn Foundry and kept the Scriver Studio in general up and running. Joe was one of those people who can do sheet metal, HVAC, plumbing, or any other mechanical puzzle that came along, aside from the building skills that many folks around here assume they have -- whether or not they do. Anyway, Joe built a big house on the road out to the dump and, with the steady help of his hard-working wife, raised a heap o’ kids who came and went through the studio.

The first funeral I ever attended in Browning was that of Lila Evans, a daughter and fearless horse-rider, who’d pitched off and hit her head on a big stone. It was in the stone Church of the Little Flower, a funeral mass for a child, the Mass of the Angels, and a choir of nuns sang in the balcony. Bob and I were sitting way in the back, so I didn’t even realize the loft was there. When the beautiful voices of the nuns first raised in song, I thought for a moment it was angels indeed.

When Bob sold the rodeo series to the Riverside Foundation and inherited his mother’s money, which made it possible for him to buy the Doane ranch, he hired Corky Evans to live out there for security and to finish off the cows by raising them to the point where they were saleable. Boyd Evans married Lila Walter, whose brother had dated Laurel, Harold’s daughter, who spent enough time with the Walter family to be a sort of honorary daughter in that family. In the 1930 Browning High School yearbook photo of Bob’s sophomore class, Lila’s mother is sitting next to him. According to the Browning newspaper, Bob and Hiram Upham once went out to visit Lila’s mother in the badlands east of the rez and came back with some nice rattlesnakes.

When Bob was commissioned to create a Lewis and Clark monument for Fort Benton, it was Boyd who wore a buckskin suit around on horseback for a few months of ranch chores so it would be authentically creased and greased. When the actual parade celebrating the unveiling came on July 4, 1976, it was Corky who had grown a beard, donned a fur cap, wore the buckskins and rode a horse so skittish that when he got it home it vamoosed, never to be seen again. (After being exposed to bagpipes, Uncle Sam on stilts, and other remarkable sights, it probably never wanted to be in another parade!)

Tony was mortally stricken with cancer. Bob made a sculpture of him on horseback: “Our Tony,” to help raise money to pay the bills. A quick 8”X10” painting Bob made of one of the boys feeding orphan calves -- green hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, tan and white calf, bright yellow straw -- disappeared when Bob died, but remains in all our minds one of the best paintings Bob ever made: simple, vivid, real.

When no one else was around to ride with Bob (usually meaning no female), he’d take an Evans boy with him. Boyd rode with him in the Indian Days Parade. Corky was riding with him, late in life, when he had some kind of episode that knocked him off his horse. Corky figured a heart attack, but Bob would admit nothing and would do nothing about it. Later he did make Boyd promise to bury him beside his horse, Gunsmoke, after Boyd came out with the backhoe and buried the old horse.

The Evans family was an archetypal High Line Montana small town and ranch family -- lank, droll, teasing, almost Ozarkian in their independence and free lance spirit, which occasionally got them into trouble. Think of the parts played by Lucas Black in movies like “Slingblade” or “All the Pretty Horses.”

The Cree Medicine family has no equivalent in movies. They are full-blood, not really traditional, but the old days are very close under the surface. Carl, by now the grandpa and patriarch, is about my age and was Bob’s best shop helper when I came. He did taxidermy, sculpture molds and castings, and building with equal attention and skill. He worked in the shop for all the years I was with Bob. After I left, Bob hired his sons. I don’t know what the circumstances were or the time-line, but I did see the certificates of achievement Bob had given Carl and that Carl kept on the wall of his little office when he was running a program to help street people. I know Carl and Carma managed to kick alcohol and find a home in the Catholic church. Sometimes now we meet at funerals.

David Cree Medicine became Bob’s foreman with Jody as dependable helper. This is a family with many deaths, tragedies and addictions. For people who live on a reservation, that’s the legacy of conquest. Many whites deny it, but others treat even the troubled as individuals deserving respect. In return, the Cree Medicine family never turned away from Bob, either in sickness or when he raged or as the women came and went. They managed the animals and fixed the fence and -- when necessary -- carried Bob in or out of the shop. Rumors went around the rez that they secretly did Bob’s sculpture for him and they did put clay on the armataures. It was David who broke the door down to get to Bob’s body. It was David who helped the Montana Historical Society crew who came suddenly to take everything away, needing to know how to crate bronzes.

The great irony is that these two families of near-sons have been completely invisible to the Montana Historical Society and the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton. They are not invited to openings or shows or even advised that there are such events. It was not Lorraine, Bob’s widow, who cut them off or left them out, but rather the officials, who cannot imagine that they exist. Neither do they think of Bob’s five grandchildren, who are nearly fifty now with children of their own.

I suppose a case could be made that Bob Scriver and his work belong to the ages and that these institutions are the guardians. But to the Evanses and the Cree Medicines, Bob’s work was a major part of their lives and they have many stories to tell. Instead, somehow, the lawyers and entrepreneurs have elbowed them aside. The result has been a paralysis, a void, an ignorance.

The Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton will be showing the sculpture of Bob Scriver all this summer, beginning June 8 and ending in November. Maybe some of Bob’s real friends and family will manage to go see the exhibit.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

SCULPTURE REVIEW, Spring 06, "Education of a Sculptor"

When I was in seminary (1978-1982), there were two lively currents of dissent and argument in the student body about the seminary itself. The first one was whether a seminary ought to be only for dedicated persons who wished to become denominational ministers (which was the original definition and founding goal) or ought to be a place to explore oneself, expand, and hopefully become a better person but not necessarily a leader of congregations. (The seminary itself -- always in need of tuition-paying students -- was happy to broaden the goal. The denomination was kicking in money for the program specifically to make sure there were high-quality ministers.)

The other argument was about whether the seminary should be giving us the actual skills we needed for success in the ministry or whether they ought to be giving us broad principles from which we could develop our own understandings, principles and tools. A subset of this argument argued we should sue the seminary for failing in its duty, since some felt a major shortfall when they got into their job placements, a suit that might have had some teeth if anyone had any idea exactly what it was that the place was promising to do.

I say this is as introduction to a discussion of the latest “Sculpture Review,” Spring, 2006, which focuses on “Education of a Sculptor” and puts on its cover aspiring sculptors rather than the usual fine sculpture. (Earnest young men in smocks at Greenwich workshop in NYC, 1935-39, gathered around a serious older man in a three-piece suit.) Though the magazine is sponsored by the National Scupture Society, which seeks to support figurative sculpture, the problems of sculpture are widely shared among all the humanities now that everything, even education, is commodified.

Some argue that if a person goes to an art school and emerges unable to earn a living, that person has been tricked. In music they say that since symphonies are more penniless than ever, more musicians (granted that they are fine) are being produced than there are jobs. (In fact, this was the situation for Bob Scriver right after WWII when his skills would seem to qualify him for a fine orchestra, if those entities hadn’t already been packed.) Others would say that a humanities or fine arts degree and/or any education (since they don’t always coincide!) is such a valuable thing in itself, that no one should complain at having their life enriched.

With characteristic humor, Giancarlo Biagi illustrates his editorial on entering art school with Rodin’s “Gates of Hell!” “Make me into another Michelangelo, Rodin, Saint-Gaudens,” the student begs. But do they know what path they are entering upon? Biagi concludes: “To the layperson’s eyes, the life of an artist appears to be filled with glamour, passion, and success. In truth, however, the path is forged in dedication and humility, enlightened by an intellectual zest and virtuosity, and a unique style that belongs to each artist, in my point of view.”

The first article is a review of The Art Student’s League and the National Academy of Fine Arts, illustrated with two sharply contrasting photos: a cluster of young men in vested suits without jackets, earnestly drawing a naked lady, versus a class of mixed ages and genders sculpting a naked man. Student and faculty works used as illustration mix fusty old Zorach with such modernities as a humorous mixed media polychrome bust of a woman with real hair.

The second article gives us Elisabeth Gordon Chandler, a sculptor and teacher as well as founder of Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme , Connecticut. She is 92 and still working. A review of the program fills a page.

Another sculptor/teacher is Evangelos Frudakis who describes both his learning and his teaching, especially at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art museum and art school in America. (Founded in 1885.) Frudakis and his work look the way most of us (and Hollywood) think a sculptor should look.

The two articles I liked best have long titles: “Teaching the Basics to Foster Mastery: a Survey of Figurative Sculpture Programs” and “Sculptors Educating Sculptors: A Panel Discussion of the New York Academy.” They are about what their titles say they are about. Following the same compare-and-contrast principle, the New York Academy of Art and the Florence Academy in Italy both stick to figurative work. The tricky question of academic credit and degrees is mentioned -- some offer them and some don’t, though one can always petition for equivalence.

The University of California at Berkeley and the University of Oklahoma programs do not stick to figurative sculpture. The latter program was reinstated after a lapse of thirty years by sculptor Paul Moore. Moore’s classroom is pictured, but not his work. Attention is paid to how to run a studio and capture public commissions for monuments, how to relate to a foundry, how to design contracts, how to relate to clients. It is unclear what relationship the program has to the C.M. Russell Center for the Study of Western Art which is funded by the Nancy Russell Foundation and housed at the U of Oklahoma.

The panel discussion had the most striking illustrations. Judy Fox’s super-realistic portraits of children in terra cotta are almost disturbing, as is Laura Frazure’s “Self Portrait as a Japanese Bride.” I was very grateful that the captions for these works were where I expected them to be, so that my eye could find them quickly! I urgently needed to know what I was looking at! (Really, my thanks for this change!) Harvey Citron’s “Charon,” a clay near-diorama of Charon perilously ferrying a couple over a tossing sea (I know -- it’s supposed to be a river, but these huge curling waves are like surf!) kept me looking for a long time.

Taplin, whose work was not illustrated, had an interesting idea about the difference between “hand/eye sculptors” and “conceptual skills.” He wishes for a close relationship between having an idea and having the hand/eye skills to bring it to reality. My guess is that none of these sculptors was particularly enamored of giant clothespins, no matter how realistic.

Fox thought that it was important for an artist to define to his or her self just what they were doing. “It should not be done in a naive way.” (Corrals of home-taught cowboy sculptors bite the dust. Maybe they ought to!)

Visco wanted people to consider their materials and their audience -- why is it important for works to be in a certain medium? I was interested that he said, “Some students can get too involved in process -- they sculpt because they like to touch stuff.” (Very much the way Bob Scriver was. He loved the substances in his hands. Charley Russell was famous for the dirty ball of beeswax he kept in his pocket and constantly modeled.)

Taplin and Eardley contrasted the freedom of Bernini to design the architecture around his figures with the hostility of modern sculptors to being defined by any one place. Citron offered Rodin’s "Balzac" as an example of a monument that could hold its own in many contexts and pointed out that it took over forty maquettes to get to that level.

This whole issue of Sculpture Review, whether approached through the photos of sculpture or through the content of the articles was deeply engaging for both professional and fan.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Birder's List from Southwest Art, April 2006

The April 2006 Southwest Art chose as a focus “Animals in Art.” Since many of the animals in question are birds, I thought I’d just treat the whole issue as birding expedition. What I found was a flock of birds in every style and medium. I don’t know quite what conclusion to draw except that artists love birds -- and why not?

I also found that I didn’t know my birds very well! I simply couldn’t tell what species some of them were. Have to work on that! In the meantime, here’s my list. You might enjoy spotting them yourself.

Heron (sculpture)
2 shrikes (sculpture)
Hummingbird (stylized painting)
Pigeon or dove (realistic painting)
Geese (underfoot in a family portrait)
Chicadee (realistic painting)
Heron (“natural impressionism” painting)
Heron (Even more impressionist painting)
Shorebirds (Godwit? Yellowlegs? Painting)
Flying birds (? Painting)
“Canadian Geese” (Giclee print)
Bluebird (stylized painting)
Eagle (Eagle sculpture)
Crow (one live and one dead, with sculpture figure)
2 crows (realistic painting)
Magpie (realistic painting)
Heron? (painting)
Swans (painting)
Parrots (painting)
Coot (painting)
Peacocks (painting)
Sparrowhawk? (painting)
Cedar waxwing (stylized painting)
Roseate Spoonbills (painting)
Magpies (stylized painting)
Terns (realistic painting)
Golden eagle (realistic painting)
Crow (stylized abstract)
Domestic geese (realistic painting)
“Japanese Bantam Rooster” (sculpture)
China pheasant roosters (sculpture)
Bird on a branch (realistic painting)
Owl (realistic painting)
“Tufted Cranes” (realistic painting)
English sparrows (“poetic expressionist” painting

$831,00 PAINTING

Though I’ve fallen far behind with my art mag readalongs, I’ve still been acquiring and reading art mags. Not with subscriptions but as a kind of fox hunt on occasions when I get to Great Falls.

I want to comment on the column called “Straight Talk” which is written by Allan J. Duerr and Thomas F Teirney, the publishers of “Art in the West.” The issue with this column in it is May/June 2006, and has a lovely fuzzy elk monarch with his harem around him, standing in a meadow backed by yellow aspen. The subject the writers chose for their column was the value of art, comparing Michelangelo’s Pieta with Terpening’s recent sale of a painting for $831,000.

First maybe we can deal with the Pieta, which is the name for a whole cluster of sculptures, not just Michelangelo's. The name refers to a group based on Mary holding her dead son, Jesus, in her lap. In fact, when I got curious about who made the statue of Paris Gibson in Great Falls, the town he founded, I searched the bronze monument for a name and came up with a fellow named “Partridge.” He was also the sculptor of the Pieta that is in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Bob Scriver made a Pieta after the death of his daughter. I’ve never made an exhaustive list and don’t know whether any one else has either, but I’ll bet the National Sculpture Society could. And my guess is that the skill and the value of them is all over the place, from high to low.

A commentator contemporary with the making of the Pieta by Michelangelo said (in Italian or maybe Latin) “No one else could make a statue this good.” I’ve heard that said about a lot of statues, some of them of the Western persuasion.

Duerr and Tierney were challenged by someone who said that no painting could be worth $831,000, much less by a popular illustrator who used to be published with slick stories about girls in love. (His girls used to alternate with those of Jon Whitcomb. I was much smitten with them and yearned to be like them. I suppose some young folks must have the same reaction to romantic paintings of 19th century Indians.)

Terpning himself is becomingly humble about all this and says it’s a great responsibility.

What no one is saying is the obvious: Terpning, like Bev Doolittle and Norman Rockwell, is a one-artist print industry. I would be very curious who bought that painting and how the rights to reproduce were handled, because that’s the real value of the painting -- not a yard or so of canvas on sticks, but the promotion and sale of the industrially reproduced image.

This means that he, like a movie star, has a battalion of accountants, lawyers, printing technicians, and publicity managers who must be paid. None of us are ever going to see how that $831,000 divvies out -- unless we work for the IRS, who will get its share. But we should at least be aware that we are not talking about one man in one studio.

Of course, Michelangelo had a studio full of helpers as well. And when the Pope tells you to make something, one doesn’t have the option to decline.

Some years ago a nasty little incident occurred. Terpning had bought a box of glass negatives taken by an unknown photographer. He painted many appealing and saleable works verbatim for these images. What he didn’t know was that they had been stolen decades ago from a woman photographer who lived among the Crow Indians. Her son, an elderly man who was retired in poverty, recognized the images and approached Terpning.

The next thing the old man knew, he was being confronted by hostile lawyers denying him any claim, rights or compensation. He was not even to admit that Terpning had used the images as reference. The whole $831,000 or whatever was evidently committed, with nothing left over for old janitors. He’s gone now, I guess. It's a pity.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


This material comes from New York magazine (, an article entitled, “Five Theories On Why the Art Market Can’t Crash and Why It Will Anyway” by Marc Spiegler

The article wasn’t written about Western art, but it is relevant. The categories referred to are Impressionism and Modern (which have been dynamic for quite a while) and Postwar and Contemporary (which are just now taking off).

Here are the five theories:

1. “The Expanded Art World.” Up to twenty times more people are buying art now as in 1990.

2. “The Art World’s Gone Global.” The big recent contemporary-art collectors have been from Brazil, Mexico and South Korea. Next might be Russia and China -- maybe India or Arab emirates. For cowboy artists, Japan and Germany have always been happy. But an interesting “Western art” trend is paintings of and by Russians, Chinese, Mongolians, and so on.

3. “Art is the New Asset Class.”
Compares well with real-estate or bonds. Mei-Moses, two NYU economists, did a study that shows contemporary art compares well with the S&P 500. This is constantly pushed among some dealers.

4. “Diversification As a Safety Valve.”
Because there are so many different kinds of art (think of video, etc) the action rolls through them so that there are many small corrections to the big category of Art. This is probably less true of Western art, which is not so diverse. The diversity tends to be in the subject matter: still-life, landscape, portraits, wildlife, etc. All representational, if occasionally a little surreal or abstract.

5. “The Japanese.” The last boom (esp. in Impressionism) and bust (linked to a crashing Japanese real estate scene) were both Japanese, but they seem stable now.

Advice: Watch Christie’s and Sotheby’s. In the past they wouldn’t sell works less than ten years old, but now they’re taking works three or four years “out of the studio.” Though their sales are only a tiny part of the art market, they are so public that they tend to control impressions of how the art market is doing. If both major houses have failed auctions back-to-back, people will panic. But in fact, private and gallery sales might be quite different.

“The defining characteristic of the current art world is speed.” People are buying online after seeing “only a J-PEG” image, as opposed to having to travel to a different country and taking months to make a decision. “Speculators, private dealers and consultants” abound and can disappear overnight. (Posting JPEG versions of paintings in online catalogues for auctions has become very sensitive and may diminish online sales.)

The bad words are “correction, contraction or crash,” which mean that prices will be abruptly cut, galleries will disappear, and some artists will become unsaleable. (Anyone want to buy a pickled shark?) Some aspects of some artists (cheap prints) will be worthless. (Hello, Terpning.)

The bright side: Of course, great opportunity for those with reserve cash for buying! And all the softwood imitative artists will drift off to something easier -- maybe rodeo competition -- while those who truly love it for its own sake will continue to follow their vision and sharpen their skills. The best art is always done by hungry artists who aren’t distracted by cocktail parties and opportunists looking for someone to exploit.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


DOUBLE READALONG: You’ll need these two magazines for this to make sense. It’s going to be one of those “compare and contrast” exercises, just to see what turns up.

ART OF THE WEST (March/April, 2006)
SOUTHWEST ART, Fine Art of Today’s West (March, 2006)
1. SW Art is one month, 168 numbered pages, and comes out of El Segundo, CA. It’s part of an Active Interest Media. Inc. I have no idea what that implies.
Art of the West is 2 months, 128 numbered pages, and comes out of Minnetonka, MN, and belongs to Duerr & Tierney, the two publishers.

COVERS: Both are showing women on the cover. SW Art’s is a crisp depiction of cowgirl in SW gear on an appaloosa that is cropped except for enough horse to support the saddle. It’s by Ann Hanson, a Wyoming cowgirl. AofTW shows an nearly black/white with touches of red Spanish dancer, blurry to suggest movement. This is a Pino “female appreciation.” Both artists have stories inside.

ENTRANCES: SW ART: p. 21, a waterside doorway by Grigsby. p76, industrial doors by Sally Cleveland. Ad section in back: “Lavendar Abbey” garden entrance by Greg Gawlowski. SW home by Birgitta Kappe. San Juan Capistrano arcade photo by Vern Clevenger
AotW: p. 122 “A Conversation in Trastavere” by Milly Tsai

CAFES: SW ART: p. 20 Two glowing interiors. Is the artist named “Coffee?” p. ? Near the back: inside lookin’ out by Alan McNiel.
AofW: p. 28 Slightly misty cafe (steam?) by Michael Steirnagle.
p. 25 “Outside the Library” by Keith Larson. I love this one. It's my kinda lifestyle.

BIRDS: SW ART: p. ? Ad section in the back, a sculpted road runner on a pot by Jason Napier.
AotW: p. 116 Magpie on a saddle horn by K.C. Snider.

TERPNING: SW ART: P. 29 “Protectors of the Cheyenne People” print. P. 97, “Protectors” again, plus “Captured from General Crook’s Command” and “Plunder from Sonora.” prints.
AotW: None. p. 91 Ed Kucera’s “The Looking Glass” is a similar style.

: I remember Fred Fellows’ studio when he first showed up in Montana in the Sixties. It was a little more “homemade” then and he owns a lot fancier stuff now, but it’s not all that different. He just has a second wife (he was widowed earlier) and a lot more money.
AotW: Morgan Weistling’s studio is an addition with a pop-up window to bring in light. The room looks homey and includes his grandmother’s century-old dresser and a comfy rocker with cushions and a ruffle. His daughter is home-schooled in his studio. His wife is a painter, too, but she uses a guest room.

In general, Southwest Art, even in an issue with Classic Western Art on the cover, is slightly more open to abstract art. The talented and highly trained Chinese artists are welcome. There’s a guy wearing’ a do-rag and sittin’ on a super-realistic motorcycle. “Road Warrior” by Valerie Stewart, p. ? SWArt is bad about numbering pages. There’s a bit of “NA” art, even baskets, and the inimitable Navajo Gorman, who is so recognizable that his work shows up in cartoons! Once there was a little sequence of cafe art -- this time it’s six tough cowgirls, each unique.

AotWest will be bought by some people (mostly guys) just for the Pino pinups, but women will like “The Matriach” who has white hair now, but as much style as ever. I’m impressed by David Nordahl’s Apaches, which are detailed in his own vivid style and appear to be based on research. AotW includes more notices of exhibits and auctions -- both coming and going -- and a unique feature: a page on “Law and the Art World” by Bill Frazier, Attorney, which always gives good advice. The two publishers also claim a page to make observations of their own, but the actual editor is a woman, Vicki Stavig. At SW Art the editor is Kristin Bucher.

Both magazines noted the passing of several artists. One might think that this because the explosion of Western art of the Sixties and Seventies has meant that time’s arrow has pierced more than a few familiar artists, but there seem to be illness and accidents as well.

When visitors to my house pick up these magazines and flip through them, they sometimes say that all the pictures look the same to them. But they sure don’t look that way to me. Not only do they seem different from each other, they also seem different than they used to be. Better, I think, just like the artists.

Friday, March 24, 2006


On Thursday at 9PM on Yellowstone Public Radio (which can be streamed at Leni Holliman hosts a redaction (and sometimes rearrangement) of some literary event around the state, often something from last year’s High Plains BookFest in Billings. Last night, March 23, the panel Leni presented was on a topic that I’ve searched for without success until now: writing about Western art.

Montana looks entirely different when viewed from the east end. In the Western valleys where the Montana Festival of the Book is staged, cowboy art, cowboys and talk about cowboy art is mostly met with a blank stare, though I’m sure someone in the Flathead would be happy to sell you some cowboy art from about forty years ago. On the east side of the Rockies you stumble over the cowboy artists themselves, as well as the marks made by some historical figures of some stature.

This panel was chaired by Corby Skinner, who is active with writing, theatre, and so on in Billings. His panel had four members:

1. Bob Wakefield, who was a personal friend of Conrad Schweiring and wrote a book about him. Schweiring’s father was the Dean of the School of Education in Laramie, WY, and though “Connie” wanted to be an artist right away (claimed he painted murals on his bedroom walls when he was a child), his father made him get a degree in commerce and law first -- to make sure he could earn a living. After graduation, Schweiring began to paint but didn’t turn away from art education and ended up in New York City where his best teacher told him he was a good artist, but ought to go back where his heart was: the Tetons. By then married, he and his wife set out towing a trailer and found their “heart spot.” For eleven years they lived in the trailer and sold paintings to tourists. Then they’d made enough money to buy land and build. His reputation was made on big landscapes. Towards the end of his life, having moved to the Mexican coast for the winters, he was working on seascapes -- still learning.

Don Frazer is a Will James expert. The book he wrote was not about James but is a bibliography, which would take plenty of pages as a simple list, with information about each book. James told some fanciful stories about his origins, but in fact he was a Quebequois who came West to Alberta. He did pen and ink sketches only -- no color or oil -- of such detail and delicacy that one can understand all the equipment and manuevers portrayed. Bob Scriver always said that Will James was more of an influence on him than Charlie Russell was. The room where the panel was meeting was decorated in Will James’ pictures.

Tom Minckler
is a fine arts dealer and expert on Western art who splits his time between New York City and Montana. His book was still being researched and is unexpected of an unexpected subject: flower still lifes by James Henry Sharp! There turn out to be about 200 of them. Sharp was academy trained in Europe and though he’s noted for paintings of Indians and his involvement with the Taos 7, he also painted many landscapes, often plein air. Bob Scriver had several small sketches painted around Browning, but when Sharp was up north, he mostly stayed in Crow country.

John Taliafero is the author of two boat-rocking books: one a life of Charlie Russell which knocks off a bit of rust and romance in order to reveal a boy who grew up in an affluent and educated family but reinvented himself in Montana as a wild and woolly cowboy who painted his own friends and life. Taliafero also wrote an account of the carving of Mount Rushmore by Gutzon Borglum, pointing out some of the ironies and egomanias involved.

One of the topics Taliafero returned to several times was the ghettoization of Western art. So far in the history of American Art, the Big Deal has been abstract painting in New York City. That has crowded out everything else and in fact, been so hard on realistic representation that such work was driven off into the far corners. Western art then circled its wagons and declared they preferred being able to tell what a painting is about. Since then, there has been a mutually excluding boundary: the Manhattanites consider “cowboy art” to be naive self-taught doodling (though some of it has excellent pedigrees) and cowboy artists think of whatever is sold in big shot galleries as over-intellectual pretentious claptrap.

The very fact that someone so blunt and perceptive as John Taliafero is willing to speak about such things bodes well for the future in my opinion, or the genre will become stagnant and strangulated -- dead. Leni Holliman remarked that after the mikes were turned off at the panel, some smokin’ discussion continued. How I wish I could have heard it!

Maybe next summer at the next High Plains BookFest. The website is already up: Featured speaker is Ivan Doig, who spent his high school years in Valier, where I live now.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Jeanette Caouette Scriver Chase has died of rheumatoid arthritis and simple old age in a nursing home in Grants Pass, Oregon. She was Bob Scriver’s second wife, the one who helped him make the transition from music to sculpture. The relationships among former wives are unpredictable, dependent on individual personalities and the circumstances and times of the marriage. Bob was a problematic husband, one of those larger than life personalities who gets that way by sucking up the energy of everyone around him. I sometimes joked I would start a support group for the four of us who were formal wives and others who never quite made it to that status.

Bob’s first marriage was a catastrophe -- both persons too young, a shotgun wedding when neither was prepared for a child, and two families of origin who were not supportive. Maybe the two fathers were, but not the mothers.

Jeanette and I could not be more different and we were from entirely different eras, but Bob’s problem with us was the same: we were strong creative women who could propel him where he wanted to go, but he couldn’t quite control us and was sometimes afraid of us. So relating to him was sometimes ecstatic when it all balanced and then demonic when we were in pitched battles over who was in charge.

Jeanette was born in Morinville, Alberta, a little French-Canadian town north of Edmonton. She was the oldest and the first of her generation, very much cherished by a huge extended family. Her father ran a barbershop and pool hall and she was his favorite, so his patrons were also among her admirers. Her father’s family was easy-going, music-loving, full of jokes.

French-Canadian Alphonse/Gaston jokes (as remembered and told by Bob, who loved them.) The two are nailing shingles onto a roof. “Alphonse, why are you throwing half the nails away?” “I have to, Gaston. The heads are on the wrong ends.” “But Alphonse, those are for the other side of the roof!”

Alphonse and Gaston go fishing in a rented row boat. “Alphonse, this place is such a wonderful spot for fish. You better mark a big X on the side of the boat to show where it is.” “Gaston, don’t be stupid. We might not get the same boat next time!”

My favorite: Alphonse and Gaston are arranging to meet but concerned that they might miss each other. “Alphonse, if I get there first, I’ll make a blue mark on the wall.” “Right, Gaston. And if I get there first, I’ll rub it out.”

Jeanette’s mother’s family came to Alberta after some years in Argentina and were a different kind of French: thrifty, religious, careful in all ways. Jeanette’s mother never warmed to her but was absorbed in Helene, a very pretty little girl who sang and danced. There was a third daughter, whom Jeanette claimed as “hers.” But she died of rheumatic fever. The impact on the whole family was deep. And there was a son Maurice, born late, whom Jeanette also claimed. She loved to manage men, thought they were all boys who would go astray without a firm hand.

Even now, old ranchers and townsmen will remark to me that they were fond of Jeanette. She flirted with them all, danced with many while Bob played with his band, and they thought that Bob worked her too hard and didn’t appreciate her. She had a business making custom cowboy shirts and buckskin jackets. A woman contacted me recently because she had been cleaning out her closets and came across the buckskin jacket she had bought from Jeanette and saved because it was fringed and beaded by Blackfeet. The label in it gave Jeanette’s name and “Browning, Montana,” and Google offered one of my blog entries mentioning her.

Bob married Jeanette’s family to the extent that long after the divorce in 1959 we visited San Rafael (1967) and found Helene (the beautiful sister as opposed to Jeanette’s intelligent sister) and Maurice. These two sibs became the models for Bob’s small cluster of religious scuptures: first a commissioned corpus for a cross and two busts of Maurice (one expressionistic in character as Jesus and one severely classical as himself); then a Pieta when Bob’s daughter (about Maurice’s age) died; and finally a huge project that proposed a statue of Jesus on top of a pyramidal peace monument -- rather transparently intended to give peace to Bob Scriver. Helene and Maurice became Bob’s emotional center in his last years, not always comfortably since they could not make the world right for him, as he begged them to do.

Jeanette, on the other hand, “married” Bob’s first wife and his two children by her. Unable to have children herself, she dedicated herself to the two small and chubby kidlets and did her best to be their mother. (Their blood mother went on to have four more children with a second husband.) She stuck by the daughter until she died of colon cancer in 1967, but had a harder time with the son who also died of cancer.

At one time this sort of dynamic was hidden and considered embarrassing, but now I’ve seen the same patterns so many times in so many families, that I see no reason to hide them. Still, there were uniquenesses. It was the daughter’s death that had three wives sitting around a kitchen table, arguing amiably about who got stuck in the mud on a duck-hunting expedition and then, more seriously, what should be the fate of the daughter’s children.

Jeanette came back to Browning several times, briefly visiting the museum and signing the guest book. Bob always ran away and locked himself in his little house, as though she might tear strips off him. She brought her harmless and sweet husband, Norman, along with her. Bob never tried to make peace except while his daughter was dying.

So I went the other way. I came back often and hung around every chance I got. It took a while for Bob to stay in the shop when he saw me, but then he grew used to it and would come out to meet me, unexpectedly dumping a pet badger or bobcat into my arms.

When Bob died in 1999, I began to research for the biography of him he’d always asked me to write, but then interfered with so much that I couldn’t do it. When I called Helene DeVicq, she gave me Jeanette’s email address. It turned out that Jan Chase, as she was known then, had a computer that “her Norman” had given her as a “toy.” She had just returned to her house after a terrible bout of bad health.

When Norman died of cancer, Jan’s health also came apart. She fell and shattered a leg and rheumatoid arthritis twisted her hands. After operations that left her hallucinating for months from the anesthetics, she went into a nursing home, not expected to live. To pay bills she authorized someone to sell all her furniture, with some reservations. One thing NOT to be sold was the classic bust of Maurice, her brother, which her mother had owned. But it was sold to some stranger who had no idea what it was, offending Maurice to the heart. The computer was not sold. It’s value was recognized, while the sculpture was just a tschotske.

After a time Jeanette was moved to a care home where she began to recover and eventually was able to move back to her house. She bought a bed, a rocking chair, and a very few other things and engaged someone to come clean and otherwise help out. She had sold one of her paintings for enough money to pay a carpenter to build-in a breakfast nook. A food pantry operated out of her pool cabana. She was able to keyboard with one finger, pecking out telegraphy and forwarding all the awful stuff people constantly forward.

We corresponded almost two years before she declared it was too painful, that I’d made her look at things she’d resolved never to think of again, and that there was no point to it. She ripped a lot of photos out of her albums and sent them to me, including a photo of her cameras! (She was a professional-level photographer, either learning with Bob or teaching him.)

But anyway, I’d double-crossed her by repeating to her family some of the increasingly dangerous episodes in her health while she was alone. She thought she could control death and that it would be sudden. Instead, she died helpless in that nursing home in Oregon -- her cherished house sold to pay the bill.

I celebrate Jeanette’s drive to exist and prevail, her energy towards goals not always her own, and her determination to have things “right.” Before she asked me not to call anymore, I could hear her while on the phone directing the person making up her bed how to properly place the pillow and how far the topsheet should be folded over the blanket. She could no longer do it herself. She was a lesson and a caution. I hope she made Saint Peter spell her name properly when she got to the Pearly Gates. I have no doubt she was welcome.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


$2.2 million at the auction “proper” as compared to $1.9 million last year.
$275,000 at the fixed price sale.
$52,750 at the two Quick Draws.
Top price went to the Russell: “Judith Basin Cowboy
First runner up was Russell Chatham’s $140,000 painting in the fixed price sale.

At the first auction in 1969 (I was there.) the total of sales was $10,872. The first artists were asked to donate their art.

Monday, March 20, 2006


No one ever pretended the CM Russell Auction was about anything but money. When in the Sixties the Great Falls Ad Club invented the auction, they frankly intended to make money to benefit the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls -- period. The auction has fulfilled that goal with such effectiveness that sometimes onlookers lose focus.

Let’s look at the money:
THURSDAY FIXED-PRICE SALE TOTAL: (This was a new feature and was held at the C.M. Russell Museum.) $275,000 TOTAL
Most expensive: Russell Chatham’s “Rain Sweeping Over the Sweet Grass Basin.” $140,000
74 living artists participated and the works will remain on sale until March 31.

FRIDAY AUCTION TOTAL: $750,000. (Last year same night was $753,000.
C.M. Russell’s “Indian Portrait” (10 by 8 inch watercolor) valued at $55,000 to $65,000 sold for $45,000.
Clyde Aspevig’s “Winter Glow” (“big” oil) estimated at $50,000 to $70,000 sold for $32.500
O.C. Seltzer’s “Blackfoot Scout” (16 by 17 inch watercolor) valued at $30,000 to $45,000 went for $35,000
E.S. Paxson “The Aspen Fireplace Screen” (51 by 48 oil) valued at $20,000 to $25,000 went for $32,500
Chuck Fulcher “Under a Yellow Canopy” (oil) valued at $2,000 to $3,000 went for $2500. (The painting won the Tuffy Berg Award for best new artist. Fulcher works for Lodestone Advertising in Great Falls.)
Three lots failed to meet their minimum and were withdrawn.

Saturday night’s totals haven’t been given yet, or maybe I missed them. The keystone to that night was two letters written and illustrated by Russell and sent to Robert Benn, proprietor of the bar in Kalispell’s Montana Hotel. One was written August 15, 1908, and the other July 22, 1910. Benn was murdered on March 27, 1915. It was rough in them days. (I can’t resist saying that Bob Scriver was born August 15, 1914.) One letter sold for $70,000 and the other for $69,000. I doubt anyone could tell you the reason for the $1,000 difference.

There were two sets of “QUICK DRAW.” This year there was no model and the artists had a whole hour to work, rather than 45 minutes. They painted “out of their heads” or from photos. The first go-round added up to $28,000 for the work of twelve artists, almost double last year’s Friday quick draw ($14,850). Together the two go-rounds raised $52,750. (Last year the total was $55,550.) There was only one sculpture in each event. Gerald Balciar’s “Eagle Rock” went for $10,000. (One assumes the clay will be translated into something else, like bronze.) The most unusual painting was in French dye on silk, “Catch & No Release” by Nancy Dunlop Gawdrey, which sold for $5,000.

Aside from the Russell main action auction, there are a number of parallel gallery and association events. At the Great Falls Native American Art Show in the Civic Center, the event was swept by Blackfeet. Lyle Omeaso and Terrance Guardipee won juror’s choice. Honorable mentions went to David Dragonfly, Gale Running Wolf Sr, Kodi Kuka and King Kuka. In the miniature program the juror’s choice went to David Dragonfly and Robert Orduno, Honorable mention to Howard Pepion, Francis Wall, Valentina LaPier, Khol Kuka and King Kuka. These were not purchase prices and there is no mention of sales.

One of the most interesting stories was the fate of a fake Russell that showed up in last year’s auction. Paul Masa of Kalispell said he burned it “under the personal supervision of Ginger Renner.” B. Byron Price claims there were only two of these paintings of “Black Eagle” whom Russell knew from the winter of 1888-1889. I suspect that a search of negatives would come up with the photo Russell used for reference. If someone discovers irrefutable proof that Russell painted the “fake” after all, there will be wailing. He DID sometimes paint the same subject twice or even more. That’s not unusual.

Another interesting development is that the Russell Auction, which has in the past been “local” and “Western” has begun to open out to other representative art. In fact, the “best of show” was to Calvin Liang for “Newport Sailboats.” (One assumes that was Newport, Washington.) I think this is the trend most likely to change the face of the auction, so that it will be more like the Western Rendezvous show in Helena. In fact, I suspect that the genre of “Western art” may be in the process of losing its boundaries into the larger world of realistic art, esp. when it comes to landscapes and still lifes.

One exhibitor at the Heritage Inn kept a tally of visitors to his room and found that last year he had close to 2,500 visitors but this year he counted more like a thousand. I had a sense that there were fewer exhibitors in fewer rooms, but thought it was because I went on Thursday rather than Saturday. A major snowstorm came through late in the auction, which confused the issue. Did people stay away because the weather was so good just before the snow, or did they come when the snow began? Many exhibitors stayed over until the roads were safer.

It seemed to me that might be less enthusiasm on the part of motel management now that Al Donohue, one of the heavyweight Ad Club personalities, is deceased. The effort and wear-and-tear are enormous. The motel itself is aging, though it’s well-maintained.

In the case of the usually overrun Manitou Galleries auction at the Townhouse Motel, the action was clearly diminished. (There weren’t even many gamblers in Lucky Lil’s.) Nelson has sold the auction (but not his galleries) to Best of the West so the great quantity of assorted stuff he normally provided was not there. A modest show in the basement was more convenient, but less exciting.

One exhibitor said it was just much easier to sell art on the Internet. When I suggested that complications were arising with artists becoming reluctant to post photos of their works online (because of copying), they reported they hadn’t felt the effects yet.

Much of the reported material was about the big-time buyers, who appear to be treating the auction like a sporting event. They come in a group in a corporate jet, usually organized by someone who has become a Western art enthusiast, and each buy a dozen or so works, calling them “an expensive hobby” or “an addiction.” For them, being there is at least part of the point and it’s a chance to see the West, dress up in Western clothes and so on. In short, play “Dallas.” There were a few shadowy figures who bought big-ticket art (like the Chatham) and remained anonymous. People generally suspected the media figures who have ranches in the state. But who knows? Might have been Japanese millionaires or German aficionadoes.

The Scriver bronzes were mostly the usual late and small pieces that circulate constantly through the auctions. In general, I thought the bronzes being shown were all high quality, and so was the painting. I’m always bemused by the monumental sculptures that show up on low-boys and are parked as close to the doors as they can get. This year there were fewer realistic horses and more wild welded Indian figures with a lot of action and whipping cables in them. Often skillful and striking! Something to put by the gate of your McMansion in a wheat field. (There weren't any of those in the Sixties when this auction first started.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

CM Russell Auction in Great Falls 3-17-06

Two gents were sitting on either side of one of the doors to a motel room/temporary gallery, so that one had to walk between them to get in. One man was clearly part-Indian (“Assiniboine-Cherokee,” he confided, “But I never lived on a reservation.”) the other one looked vaguely familiar. In search of clues, I asked him, “Are you from Montana?” He looked as though he were trying to decide whether to kick me or laugh. He was Ron Marlenee, the Montana Representative to the United States Congress for twenty years. I thought of him as being ancient, but when I Googled him, I see he’s only five years older than me.

After a side nod to Bob Scriver, the two guys launched into stories about drunken Indians, mostly Billy Big Springs. For those who don’t know, Billy was a massively built oil millionaire who married a petite Irish Colleen from back east. (Happy St. Pat’s, Mrs. Big Springs!) And so it goes at the annual C.M. Russell Museum benefit auction and associated events.

I really went down to Great Falls to look for photos of Bob Scriver in the Tribune morgue, but it turned out that they were being put online and even the librarian in charge of them didn’t know how to access them. I’ll have to wait a week. So I swung by the main auction motel, where all the rooms are converted to galleries once a year, and minor Scriver bronzes abound on all sides. This year was much smaller and quieter, partly because some of the main action had migrated back to the actual museum and partly because -- or so it seemed -- the exhibitors and customers were all as long in the tooth as me and Marlenee. We’ve now seen the entire arc of the Western art genre from its meteoric rise in the Seventies to its roaring Eighties and Nineties and then a long sliding descent into the 21st century.

At the “other” auction at the “other” motel, the action was even slower. Nelson, son of Van Kirke Nelson and owner of the Manitou Galleries, has sold the auction to Best of the West Auctions. (He kept the galleries.) The long tables of objects with dubious provenance are replaced by a modest assortment in a basement display room. Lots of Ace Powell and Nancy McLaughlin works.

But I wasn’t looking for art -- I was looking for people, like Ace and Nancy’s son David. Didn’t catch up with him but did run into Rex and Judy Rieke with Judy’s sister, Gail. Once again we swapped email and blog addresses. Rex will have a show at the Yellowstone Art Center in Billings -- all abstract paintings. I watch Rex very closely. He’s the person who sold Bob his first Rungius moose painting, a keystone for Bob’s art thinking, and he is also a musician, more persistently than Bob. He still plays. If Rex is doing abstracts, what does it mean? And yet the old guys lounging around the motel rooms suggested that the Western art market has just about bottomed out and will soon begin to go back up. I suggested that a new crop of soldiers might be prospective customers and soon found myself in political soup. It was more interesting than the art.

While I was in the big city, I picked up the latest issues of “Art of the West” and “Southwest Art” and was interested to see in the former mag’s letters to the editor a quite stiff scolding to the Cowboy Artists of America (once beyond rebuke) recommending that they stop the sausage factory and begin to make real art again! Most of the letter quoted an admonishment from Fred Renner, whose wife, Ginger, is one of the stalwarts in Great Falls this weekend. I’d have liked to have talked to her.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Scriver Bronze Donation
Cut Bank, MT •

Former resident donates valuable Robert Scriver bronze to local museum.

[Photo at the Pioneer Press website]

BY LINDA BRUCH for the Cut Bank Pioneer Press
Thursday, February 23, 2006 8:48 AM MST

The word bronze can mean a couple different things. It can mean the color of your skin after basking in the summer sun. It might also be referring to the color of a medal received by a third place finisher in the Olympics. Then again, it could mean a fabulous sculpture created by Bob Scriver. It's the last definition Glacier County is excited about.

This Robert Scriver bronze, with a certified value of $15,000, has been donated to the Glacier County Historical Museum by a former Cut Bank resident. Pegge Dallum, the sister of David Withers, first thought she would donate the bronze, which is entitled “Too Late for the Hawken,” to the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, but then decided it belongs in Glacier County.

In December of last year, David Withers' sister, Pegge Dallum, made a decision to donate a fabulous bronze sculpture she had in her possession. She hadn't quite made up her mind where to donate the bronze, but she did have a couple ideas. One of the places she was thinking about was the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls. Dallum was just about ready to start the paperwork for the Great Falls museum, when another option came to mind.

What about donating it to Glacier County? After all, she used to live here and still has family ties in Cut Bank. The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea. This time when she started the paperwork, it was to donate the bronze to Glacier County.

The bronze is entitled “Too Late for the Hawken.” It depicts a fur trapper who has obviously been surprised by an Indian on horseback. The Indian, with his spear-like javelin in hand, is ready to impale the trapper. It is obvious the trapper, whose rifle is in plain sight, will not be able to reach his weapon in time to save his life. The piece is magnificent and much like all the other creations designed by Scriver gives incredible attention to detail.

Scriver, a world-renowned sculptor, is credited for creating thousands of outstanding bronze sculptures. The pieces vary in size from tabletop to full-size and each one is remarkable in its own right.

Much like Dallum, Scriver had deep roots in Glacier County as well. He was born in Browning in 1914 and lived and worked there most of his life. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in music and for 17 years shared his love of music by teaching it.

In 1951, Scriver changed careers and became a taxidermist, opening up his own business in Browning. It wasn't long before his talents and abilities as a taxidermist made him well known throughout Montana. It was this foundation that ultimately led to his calling as a sculptor in 1956. For the next 34 years, Scriver would continue to sculpt, receiving worldwide fame for the fabulous pieces he shaped.

His life ended in 1999 at the age of 84, but his work is timeless and will continue to be shown in galleries, museums and exhibitions throughout North America. Scriver's work truly speaks for itself and explains why he has been called “American's foremost living sculptor of the west.”

Too Late for the Hawken” has been certified at $15,000 by Cut Bank attorney Darrell Peterson. “This is a pretty major piece,” said Peterson. He agreed Glacier County was lucky to have been the recipient of this fantastic piece of work. Peterson knows what he is talking about as both he and his office have a number of Scriver bronzes, making him a good authority on their worth and beauty.

Peterson said a number of Scriver pieces are currently on display at the Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena. With more Scriver pieces in storage than they currently have room to display they have begun preparations to construct a new showroom designated specifically to Scriver bronzes. It is estimated this exhibit will hold approximately 1,100 pieces crafted by Scriver.

If you didn't think Glacier County was fortunate to receive this generous gift before, here's betting you do now. Glacier County would like to offer a huge thank you to Pegge Dallum for this wonderful donation. It is proudly on display at the Glacier County Historical Museum.

Friday, February 10, 2006

SOUTHWEST ART, February, 2006

SOUTHWEST ART: Fine Art of Today’s West, Feb. 2006

A flip-through. You need your own mag so I won’t get into trouble for scanning.

This is the “Tenth Annual Landscape Issue,” so no wonder I really liked it! The only thing I like better than landscape is land! But relax, there is the usual quota of 19th century Native American images, much as it makes NA’s sigh into their coffee cups.

Terpening: p. 32. “Protectors of the Cheyenne People” sold for $478,000. (Settlers West Galleries’ Great American West show -- total sales more than $1.l million. 75 of 109 available works sold. Also Robert Griffing’s “At the Water’s Edge” went for $42,000; “Distant Smoke” by Roy Andersen went for $35,000; and Bob Kuhn’s “Curiosity Fed the Cat” sold at $21,000.) p. 81 “Captured from General Crook’s Command,” “Plunder from Sonora,” and “Camp at Cougar’s Den.” These are Greenwich Workshop Giclees. p. 160 Another “Protectors of the Cheyenne People” and an ad for a book. Pour on the gas! These people are not afraid of overexposure!

Birds: P. 33 a little flock in brush, a bronze at the Karin Nwby Gallery.

Cafes: p.37 Two by Leslie Sandbulte, lovely satires of a “Tea Party” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” P. 66. Linda Keyser Smith does something similar with “The Chill Is Gone,” a fur-embellished lady who appears to be thawing over a greenish drink. P. 68 Andre Kohn is not sure this one is a lady: “Martini, Dirty, Two Olives.”

: p. 76, an urban one by Michael Shankman, from up high, prob’ly SF judging from the tilt of the street. p. 90 I particularly like this Michael Shankman SF corner dive storefront. Also, the p. 93 juxtaposition of old and new in “New Mission.” p. 140 Carol Hopper’s “Sunset at Tuscany Stables.” p. 155 Wiliam Haskell’s “End of Season,” a classic front porch.

Expressionist and almost abstract landscapes:
p. 80 “Soft Tabs by Christopher St. Leger. It’s Houston at night. Much as people may mock glass envelope skyscrapers, this vision is transcendent. Actually the whole issue is just crammed with gorgeous, nearly abstract, fauvistically colored paintings. I love them all. (I also love the Western homesteads done realistically.)

Condos, clubs, resorts and fancy hotels are advertising in this mag. Looks like there’s still a lot of money in the “New West” lifestyle.

The paintings of Nick Kosciuk are NOT landscapes, so I’m not sure how they got in this issue, but they ae remarkable. There’s a whole article explaining his paintings of “Angels and Orphans” from Eastern Europe. Children with monarch butterfy wings perched on windowsills, or with haloes -- holding out hands without stigmata -- or just curled together defensively. On p. 140 a girl on one foot in front of a blackboard that says “mama.”

Connie Borup in Utah is a whole ‘nother story, making mosaic and carved screens of ordinary leafy branches and sometimes showing through them the landscape or just the sky.

p. 120 Elaine Holien throws orange, sienna and purple togther, adds a slash of blue and calls it a landscape -- which it is.

p. 141 Ad for Dave Powell whom I must mention since I’ve known him since he was a button. He’s in Cowboy Artists of America now. His “Pa,” Ace Powell, would be proud.

p. 151 Gregory Reade’s powerful bronze called “Chain of Success: Mentor.” I’m not sure what it’s about, but it’s beautiful. I’m also not sure why people have stopped making bronzes -- at least I see far fewer in the mags and shows. Maybe the proliferation of a lot of second rate stuff when casting became cheap and easy due to silicon slurry investment? Maybe the effort and expense of even cheap sculpture? Or is the problem with knockoffs and counterfeits?

Friday, February 03, 2006


From the NYTimes: “New York State has imposed a moratorium on new commercial colleges in the state, in the face of explosive growth in their enrollments and increasing reports of problems.” These schools are consuming more than $100 million in state aid. With so many young people believing that they’d better find a way to make a lot of money quickly, schools other than the academic are promising results. These schools include art schools. Art as business.

For a long time “abstract” has almost defined expensive art -- the Picasso/Pollock complex. But all the time, in the background, representational art has gone along on its own track -- both as illustrations in magazines and in the field of Western art. Many of the most famous Western artists are in fact illustrators from an earlier time. Howard Terpning is predicted to be the first living Western artist to be paid a million dollars for a painting. Though he sells in the hundreds of thousands of dollars now, a million is still a little optimistic. He has also “home schooled” two daughters into high-priced artists.

With Western art auctions handling something approaching sixty million dollars a year and such news as Charles Willson Peale’s portrait of George Washington selling for 21.3 million dollars, the attention of many people is attracted. The image of the impoverished artist wavers a bit. Painting doesn’t seem so hard -- maybe a few lessons. Not much expensive equipment needed. You can do it at home on your own time. Just paint what you see, right?

In academic circles it may still be hard to find teachers and courses that are more than theory and experiment suitable for abstractions. But there ARE commercial art schools that teach a person to paint realistically with sophistication. In fact, Terpning originally studied at the American Academy of Art, which was founded by an advertising man named Frank Young in the early 20th century specifically to train commercial artists who could do layouts and so on. Young charged low tuitions because he needed the talent to be there to do advertising work, his main income.

By the time Frank Young had passed on and his school had been passed down through the generations, the tuition was four or five thousand dollars a year. But then the school was sold to someone who was interested in the school as his profit base: the tuition went to $13,000 a year. The tuition is now $27,000 a year. And they get it. There is no academic degree now, but the school has realized that if they include a minimal number of math and lit classes, they can qualify for receiving student loan money from the government. Hello, New York!!

Down through the ages, would-be artists have gotten their educations by attaching to a “master” and following him (usually male) around in a studio or atelier until they’ve learned the basics -- maybe even done some of the prep and background work for the master. But now many successful artists are not entirely willing to accept apprentices. The more popular pattern is the painting workshop in some attractive spot where the students pay a lot of money for an accomplished artist to teach them for a few weeks. Some artists spend as much money scouting locations and making arrangements for housing, etc., as they do actually painting and teaching, but they clear hundreds of thousands of dollars. And maybe they pick up some good customer or gallery contacts.

Another model is that of the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art. ( For $400 a year you can attend open, uninstructed studio sessions with live models. Instruction is in addition, maybe $20-$25 per student per session for ten weeks. This approach is recommended by Brian Minder (blog at with examples of his painting). Brian is a civil engineer part of the week in order to pay for being an artist the rest of the week. He is totally opposed to going into debt, having seen too many people crash and burn.

Brian’s hero is a painter named Richard Schmid, who is sometimes presented as a Western artist. Schmid -- in a world where many artists think only of their income -- has been generous with his help and support for artists at the Palette and Chisel, which has created a kind of “school” or “group” that paints together and keeps up with each other. Brian names Clayton Beck, Dan Gerhartz, Nancy Guzik, Rose Frantsen, Scott Burdick, Susan Lyon, Ken Cadwallader, Romel de la Torre. No tuition was involved. (Note women are included.)

In addition, Schmid has written a number of books, one of the most significant being Alla Prima: Everything I know About Painting (ISBN: 0966211715). A used copy of this one will sent you back $300 on, but artists say it is a key source of advice. There are also Schmid books on landscape and on nudes and many artists do DVD’s (rather than tape cassettes) that are demonstrations. I’ll append an account of the annual Schmid Auction in Bellvue, Colorado, where he used to live. It’s a benefit for the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department that raised $265,000 last September. (He lives in New Hampshire now.)

But there are not enough Richard Schmids to go around all the anxious and aspiring wannabe artists who run up huge debts at commercial art schools without any promise at all that they will be able to earn a living, much less pay back the thousands of dollars. The more who read about the money a Schmid or Terpning can make, the more who fantasize about their own future, the more the field is crowded with competition. Despite their dreams and hard work (and not all work that hard) in the end they may need to assume a new identity or emigrate to a new country or take bankruptcy.

Bob Scriver and I used to talk about the two kinds of artists. One sort loved being an artist and had the studio, the costume and the palaver all ready to go. You might say they were “all hat and no painting” after the cowboy who was “all hat and no cattle.” Painting, to them, was a kind of lifestyle. The other kind just wanted to paint -- didn’t care where or how so long as they were warm and fed. These are the ones who eventually are worth a lot of money.

Art today is often judged by its price -- the public seems to believe that a painting that auctions for a lot of money is a better painting than one that doesn’t meet its withholding price. In the past, valuing art was put into the hands of authorities -- professors and professionals who spent time reflecting upon and defending aesthetic standards. The danger then was that the view became narrower and narrower until art began to asphyxiate in the repetition and tight boundaries. Eventually, that triggers a counter-phenomenon like the wild explosion of energy and experiment at the beginning of the 20th century.

This is the way Minder’s reflections go: “The problem is that everybody thinks that they are the “One,” that they have a chance at greatness. There is no humility and very little of the idea that you may love the arts and even be competent in one of them, but you still have to step aside for others who are more talented. Or that you may have to make sacrifices in the material world to satisfy what uplifts you spiritually.”

This is from Art of the West magazine, Jan/Feb. 2006:

Art lovers from throughout the country spent a record-setting $265,000 on paintings and sculptures at the 10th Annual Richard Schmid Auction in Bellvue, Colorado, last September. Proceeds from the auction help to suport the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, which depends entirely on donations to protect the homes and people in more than 100 square miles west of Fort Collins.

The one-day event culminated in Schmid’s Whetstone Brook oil painting selling for $80,000. Another of his paintings, Roses, sold for $20,000. Other top-selling artists included Schmid’s daughter, Molly Schmid, Nancy Guzik, Rod Salter, Nancy Seamore Crookston, C. Michael Dudash, and Joseph Todorovitch. They joined 137 other artists who participated in the live and silent auctions.

’This is America at its best,’ Schmid said as he watched the art auction. ‘It is amazing how the power of art can unite a community.’

Wes Rutt, president of the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, said, ‘Our record-setting results confirm that this event has become one of the most anticipated and well-attended art auctions in the West. Since our fire department receives no tax dollars, it is Richard Schmid, the talented artists throughout the country, their generous patrons, and everyone who attends the auction who deserve credit for making our volunteer fire deparment one of the best in the state.’

The fire department will put the net proceeds of more than $129,000 towards the purchase of a fire truck that can spray fire-retardant foam on homes.