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."


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