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 22, 2008

DIORAMA: Grizzly, Wolverine, Eagle


As I remember, this was the first of the diorama animals that Bob made. He had a real feel for the “real bears,” as the Blackfeet called them to distinguish them from black bears or “nothing bears.” In Bob’s youth he hunted grizzlies, but at the time I knew him he was fifty and only a meat hunter. No more trophies. Instead he “was” the bear and prowled around the living room on all fours, searching under sofa cushions, in between working on his figurine.

The griz is way up in the mountains, so far up that an eagle is flying past lower than this ridge, and digging up a marmot, who defiantly sticks his head out. A wolverine is over to the right. This may be another Les Peters background -- hard to tell from only a picture of the diorama. Bob tried to imitate Les’ style and colors, with about 80% success.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


FRANCIS PAUL MASA (From the Great Falls Tribune)

KALISPELL -- Korean War veteran Francis Paul Masa, 80, of Kalispell, known as “Paul Masa,” a Western art dealer, died of natural causes Friday at his home in Kalispell.

Francis Paul Masa passed away peacefully at his home on Friday, October 10, 2008, surrounded by his family. Paul was born April 22, 1928, in Baker, MT, the son of Frank and Elisabeth (Sonsalla) Masa. He has two younger brothers, John and Tom Masa. Paul grew up during the Great Depression on a family farm near Marmath, N.D. and attended local schools.

Paul said, “My dad was a hard worker. I learned to work. He gave me the best education I ever got, hard work.” In his pursuit of “chasing the dollar,” he worked various positions in his life. He was a determined, strong-willed, loving man. He was a generous benefactor to many local groups and charitable causes. Paul’s work ethic carried him through life until his final days.

As a young man, he worked at the family farm and ranch. He also worked for neighbors driving tractors. Finally, at age 19, he drove his first car. Paul then worked various jobs, including on the railroad, until he was drafted to the United States Army in 1950, from Marmarth, N.D. He served in the Korean War as a mortar gunner. While in Korea, he was awarded the Bronze Star medal for unhesitant devotion to duty, tireless efforts and aggressive initiative. He contributed immeasurably to the successful accomplishment of his unit’s missions and reflects great credit on himself and the United States infantry. Paul willingly worked excessively long and arduous hours without proper food or rest under enemy fire to lend support to the infantry units in the field and to help accomplish the many other missions.

Upon his discharge he worked jobs in farming and construction. He then went to work for Montana Dakota Utility as the plant manager, and worked an additional part-time job as a bartender in Baker. There he met his wfie, Doris, at a New Year’s Dance. Paul and Doris were married in Baker on December 13, 1958. Paul and Doris leased a bar in Baker for four years.

After vacationing in the Kalispell area, Paul and Doris decided to make Kalispell, MT., their home, purchasing the Log Cabin Bar. Paul began to sell art on the side. Paul and Doris ran a successful business for more than 19 years in Kalispell. Paul then pursued his side business as a Western art dealer, full time.

Paul and Doris bought, sold and traded art and bronzes from 1953 until his death. This was Paul’s business, but also his passion. He loved every minute of wheeling and dealing when selling art with his friends and colleagues. His upbringing and belief in work kept him an active businessman. He attended more than 40 auctions in Great Falls, MT. Paul was well-known and leaves many dear family, friends and business associates behind.

Paul received many awards. In 2004 he was the winner of the “Bob Scriver Bronze Award” for his outstanding contributions to the C.M. Russell Auction and the field of Western art. In 2007 he was awarded “The Mentor Award” recognizing him as one of the most knowledgeable and informed art dealers operating in the Western United States. In this capacity he has seen fit to share his art and business expertise with others in the field.

Paul and Doris enjoyed many fishing trips together as avid fishers, including trips to Alaska for salmon. Paul greatly enjoyed spending time with his family. He hosted an annual Fourth of July party at the lake and was the grillmaster, if you like a rare burger.

Paul is survived by his wife of 50 years, Doris Masa; his children, grandchildren, and two brothers.

Comment by me would be tasteless at this time, but I’ll point out that Bob Scriver had nothing to do with choosing the recipient of the Scriver Bronze Skull -- in fact, had been dead for five years at the time it was given to Masa by the Ad Club.

Friday, October 10, 2008


This bust was made as a study for the small corpus Bob was commissioned to make a year before his daughter died, 1965, and which became connected with that loss.

The model is Maurice Chaillot, brother to Bob’s second wife, Jeanette Caouette whom he married in Edmonton just at the end of WWII. Maurice was much younger, a “surprise” baby late in his mother’s life. Highly educated at a Jesuit boarding school, he was a professor of French for many years and is now retired to a small Canadian paradise with an historic log cabin. He is himself a fine painter and photographer.

This portrait is “romantic” in style. Marks of Bob’s fingers are dominant rather than tool marks or the absence of any marks. This is almost impressionistic. It is classical in the sense that most classical busts have no draperies or embellishments, and yet it is romantic in its asymmetry and emotion. Mrs. John Walters, who commissioned the small corpus but not the bust, specifically wanted Jesus to be still alive, looking to the heavens and crying out, “Father, Father, why hast thou forsaken me.”

Bob also made a bust of Maurice in a more formal style, portraying him as himself, still without collar or drapery but in a more detailed and serene sort of way. Maurice was given a copy of this bust, but kept in the custody of his sister, it was sold by mistake while she was in the hospital. Someone in the LA area owns a remarkable portrait by Bob Scriver. It was unfinished: white plaster.

So far as I knew, few of either busts were ever sold to customers and only one of each was cast in bronze. But then Carroll College disclosed that they had a casting of the rough study. The Montana Historical Society ought to have both castings.


This Bob Scriver bronze is part of his rodeo series which consists of one dynamic and romantically executed portrait of each event, plus a more classically (detailed) portrait of the animal in question, but at rest -- simply standing. The animals are the key.

in this piece the composition and challenges of bronze-casting are relevant. This “design” is an explosion, which Scriver often uses in action pieces -- diagonal arcs fly out from a center. The technical challenge is the small base of metal (one horse leg) holding up a large body, meaning the body must be hollow and thin, while the leg itself is solid and of high-quality bronze with no honeycombing or bubbles. This can be tested by sharply rapping and listening for the sound.

“Paywindow” -- which means a bucking horse so vigorous that the rider is bound to score high if he can stay on -- portrays bareback riding, which is done on a horse with no saddle but a cinch around its flanks to make it buck. The cinch is padded with sheepskin but nevertheless is a matter of worry to humane society members. Other than that, the horse wears a halter -- no bit -- and the rider has only a handhold to keep him on -- no saddle. The two parallel “rough-stock” events are saddle bronc riding, and bull-riding where the bull has the added aggravation of clanking cowbells hung on the cinch around its flanks. Aside from being huge and snaky, bulls are considered harder and more dangerous to ride because they will attack the rider once he’s on the ground. Horses occasionally do the same thing, with front feet since they have no horns. On the other hand, many bulls and horses become accustomed to “show biz” and are quite mellow when not in the arena.

This particular photograph is excellent and shows the varied green patina that Scriver worked hard to achieve, using as a model a Barye casting made in Paris It also reveals the balletic quality of the two partners in the event.

For more detail, consult Scriver’s self-published book, “An Honest Try.” The book shows each piece in black and white against a rodeo setting.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Cultural phenomena go in huge arcs, decades long, so that students get out-of-phase with their teachers, performances get out-of-phase with their audiences, and art gets out-of-phase with public taste. There are two “long arcs” that I’m not sorry to see go on the down curve, one is the abstract movement of the first part of the last century, all those intellectual exercises in cubism and targets and Campbell’s soup cans -- though I have some favorites among them -- and the other is the outrageous career of Damien Hirst and his pickled animals, which no one dared to criticize until recently an Aussie critic (they’re still “cowboys,” unlike the metrofication of Americans) said they were “tacky.”

The new arc seems to be lifting up representational art, some of which had been reduced to the level of wallpaper in many institutions throughout the country. Not only can you tell what it is, the subject matter is often uplifting, even celebratory of the nation. Coinciding with this is a sudden realization that since real estate and the stock market have become shaky investments, art is looking pretty good. In fact, some paintings by newly admired artists have become so potentially valuable that the owning institutions have been unable to resist the temptation to sell them.

So what impact has this had on cowboy art? The Western art mags have gotten a little thinner and have included more art that is still certainly “Western” but about landscape, still-life or iconic works as well as the man on a horse with a rope. Some major corporations have sold off their collections, for instance, the 7-11 photos of the West. It’s nice to see familiar CAA artist’s names listed in the catalogues of Sotheby’s rather than the ghettoized but enormously successful annual Western auctions, and the value of the big names is holding if not increasing: Russell, Moran and so on.

At the shows in the institutions the art is increasingly skillful. One surprising factor has been immigrating Chinese artists, classically trained and seeing the terrain with new eyes. Another has been the influx to the field of cartoonists, most often the people who invented and replicated the backgrounds now drawn by computers. They are also skilled and have a kind of romantic aesthetic that goes well with Western subject matter. I hadn’t realized how many there were until I read the bios in the latest Cowboy Artists of America catalogue. I sometimes wonder whether the action isn’t with the teachers of wannabe artists, rather like the teachers of wannabe writers.

The CAA, which now often drops the second A, has had its troubles with the “arc” because of aging membership. The original group was knitted together both through friendship and from loyalty to their career-changing impact on the fortunes of cowboy artists. By joining with Dean Krakel and the Cowboy Hall of Fame, they achieved “critical mass” as a movement and respectability for pictures that appealed to a lot of rough-hewn shirt-sleeve millionaire buyers who needed to show they had “culture.” Now the founders are much outnumbered by a second and third generation of artists -- some of them literally the sons (no daughters) of the founders -- and far more competitive with each other. (Dean Krakel has been gone a while and the Cowboy Hall of Fame has changed its name again.)

Experts used to argue that Remington’s art was a better investment than stocks and bonds and had a little graph to show why. But that was before the SE Asian artisans discovered that they could eyeball any statuary and create cheap equivalents that the ordinary citizen could never distinguish from the originals. A new technology uses lasers to create a replica of any three-dimensional object, including a person, so now we’re back to the kind of accusations Rodin encountered when he created “The Age of Bronze” and was accused of simply casting his model from molds applied to his body. The tiny plastic injection toy farm animals I see at Big R are often as cunningly done as many bronzes. “Cold cast” miniatures are popular. The dime stores feature clever and fairly accurate painted animals and vignettes. And a giclee print with a few judicious paint-strokes added is for most people indistinguishable from easel art.

But probably the real key to Western art is -- as it was for most of the CAA artists -- life experience. These works appeal to people who can relate, so the success of the art is linked to people who hunt, who ride, who rope, who attend rodeos and eat beef. Thus, to some degree, the prosperity of Western art is linked to the fortunes of the Republican party. Every time I say this in front of a dealer they can hardly keep from putting a hand over my mouth. The excessive moral outrage of huggers -- whether of trees, buffalo or owls -- amounts to a form of terrorism. (Not that I disagree with the real problems -- just their methods.) At events about Western art the audience is often white-haired.

More and more, the kind of promotions that institutions like the CM Russell Museum use to build their base are programs for children, or with an interest in wildlife, or are linked with a particular lifestyle exemplified in magazines like the Big Sky Journal, based mostly on massive log, stone, plate glass, and Corten mansions in the middle of nowhere -- but a nowhere with a fine view and possibly a tennis court or ski trail. (How long this trend will continue as these people age is open to question.) Miniature art and “quick draw” events where the art is sold wet off the easel are also popular. So far I see few classes on how to tell “good art” from “bad.” Maybe it would have to be taught by some bold Aussie who isn’t afraid to bring down the wrath of artists on his or her head.

The dealers tell me that more than anything else, it is the thinning of the American middle class that affects sales. The very rich feel no constraints. The poor never bought anything but dimestore art anyway, though they might be loyal admirers of people like Charlie Russell.

In the end I think Damien Hirst’s pickled sharks are doomed -- the art reporters are saying a warehouse sale is planned. The best of the Manhattan-based abstract work will never lose its value in our lifetime because there are too many people who have taken the trouble to understand what it is about and to grow fond of it. If they pass that on to the next generation (if the experimental materials like Pollock’s housepaint and car enamel don’t just deteriorate out of existence).

I don’t think “cowboy art” -- the man on the horse with a rope -- per se will disappear. Rather it will become one figure among a whole panorama of American art. Quality will become increasingly important. The education and experience of the audience will matter. I’m very curious to see what happens to this amazing auction culture, rather like rodeo culture. Will there be on-the-spot bronze pours like rough stock events? Can’t you just imagine the searchlights sweeping over the gallery, the smoke and fireworks, the Western artists swaggering across the floor (covered in sawdust for the occasion) in chaps and Stetsons? Might work. But only for a season or so. Then back to the mantra: quality.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Clearly in these times monetary compensation is NOT going to most artists, but rather to the great swarm of curators, directors, archivists, critics, buyer’s guides, and other managers of opinion and valuation that surround and control the artists. This is true of writers as well as painters and sculptors, though the writers now have the escape valve of blogging just as the print media has begun closing down review sections for all humanities. (This seems to accompany the closing down of humanities themselves, which are giving way to technology and the less-humanities-like sciences, with the “soft” sciences migrating over to the arts.)

Therefore, I’m going to begin positioning myself as an arts critic! After all, I’ve been watching the Industrial Cowboy Art Cartel for fifty years which means about since the beginning of the current wave, long enough to have been significant changes in most everything except the actual painting. (Sculpture has taken some economically significant technical turns with aesthetic consequences.) I’m NOT going to put price tags on art nor am I going to “deal” art. Just watch and comment on others who do those things, a third circle outside the established critics, looking for uber-trends.

Recently, with real estate engulfed in floods and scandal and the stock market also submerged in scandal, some investors have looked around for a new category of acquisitions for money storage and increase. They have no interest in tulip bulbs (though ag categories like genetically altered seeds might interest some who aren’t afraid of the politics) maybe because most of these people seem to be urban. Or maybe because they don’t like to be at the mercy of weather in a time when weather in the macro-sense has become so politicized and terrifying. But art is a nice manageable sort of stuff and artists are much nicer to cultivate. (Though their wives maybe be, well, weeds. More about that in later posts.)

Several instruments of measurement of art value have popped up. David Galenson, an economist at the U of Chicago who used to specialize in colonial America (where the main criterion for the value of art was whether it were imported from England), has proposed a system like that of “valuing” research at universities. This system depends upon the scientific and academic custom at universities like U of Chicago of valuing work according to how much it is cited in subsequent professional journal articles and books. (Which is why grad students are constantly pressed to include many citations, esp. of works by their mentors, and to build their work on the cite-able concepts of their predecessors.) So Thomas Kuhn, with his definitive idea of paradigm shift, is a big winner, I’m sure, quite apart from his impact on analysis. We don’t even know who the losers of the citation competition might be, since there is no trace of them in anyone’s footnotes.

Galenson proposes that art be valued similarly by simply counting the number of times an artwork appears as an illustration or is referred to an example in published textbooks. The article to which I’m referring is by Patricia Cohen and appeared in The New York Times on August 4, 2008. She cites seventeen works of art by title in her article, all presumably top-of-the-list anyway. She also notes Galenson’s actual books for those who wish to delve further into the theories. All the works are part of the major art world in Manhattan in the first half of the Twentieth Century, a world as much rooted in Europe as Colonial “American” art, though we’re all supposed to be post-colonial now. The article ends with Mr. John Elderfield (one always refers to such persons as “Mr.”), chief curator emeritus at the Museum of Modern art, asking plaintively, “Where surrealism?”

Well, shucks, where’s cowboy art? Arthur C. Danto, art critic for The Nation, points out that art textbooks now include many more women, African-Americans, and American Indians. “The art world itself became politicized and that has affected textbooks and the illustrations.” (No need to call him “mister.” He probably doesn’t wear a bowtie either.) So now we have to consider the politics of the art, eh? Both in terms of content and in terms of the nature of the artist.

As far as that goes, where Indian art? Coming in mostly from the West side of the US, it is often surreal, abstract, inventive, mixed-media, and all the things proposed as values by the East Coast establishment (make that NORTH East Coast) except they don’t seem to have any awareness of it. In fact, awareness concentrates in the Southwest.

Consider this current cover of Southwest Art magazine:

This beautiful incised vase is by Paponee. She is not listed in, one of the websites that monitors art auctions, but Southwest Art has a nice article about her and I daresay she’ll soon be there. Still, so far, objects like these do not show up in the big Western art auctions much.

Auctions and their monitoring websites are now largely how investors figure out the value of Western art. This is true for the big Manhattan artists as well -- everyone waits to see what the French Impressionists will bring in, often millions at Sothebys or Christies or the other major auction houses. Art work with profiles as high as Monet’s water lily paintings move around the globe and sometimes end up in Japan as the latter become ever more open to the old-concept Western world in the sense of mostly white/male/European. I have not heard of them collecting new-concept Western art in the sense of the American prairie, Southwest desert, and California impressionism. Auctions seem to be a force for globalization. Nationalism, not so much.

In the meantime, some of the “cowboy” artists are now Chinese and others (including those who were always illustrators anyway) go global in the search for pre-industrial people: Mongols, Russo-peasants, Arabs, South American Indians. Maybe in time the genre will become “global pre-industrialism.” But there is an internal movement towards early industrial nostalgia: old pickups and the like.

There appears to be a steady market for the good old-fashioned horse-and-rider, esp. if it looks a bit antique like this sample on the front of “Art of the West.

An interesting development, parallel to the Wyeth family, is the number of generational artists. This is by John Moyers, son of William Moyers. Both are listed in and are members of the Cowboy Artists of America, which now tend to use the brand CA, since they seem to be reaching out to Canada and so on. One member, Oreland Joe, is explicitly Indian, though others have Native Americans in their family trees. Oreland Joe’s stone carving is more like Paponee than Charlie Russell, who remains the point of reference for many collectors, not least because of the phenomenal increments in value. Will that trend continue? Stay tuned.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Review of "Bronze Inside and Out"

BRONZE INSIDE AND OUT Review from “Alberta History”, Summer, 2008

Mary Scriver loves to write and she has chosen an ideal topic -- Bob Scriver, her late husband, a sculptor of international fame. A resident of Browning, Montana, he is particularly remembered for his bronzes of Indians, rodeo cowboys, and prominent figures, and prominent figures. Included among them is a 53 piece series of bronzes of Blackfoot culture entitled “No More Buffalo,” a 33 piece set entitled “Rodeo in Bronze,” and individual figures such as Eric Harvie of Calgary’s Glenbow Museum, rodeo star Casey Tibbs, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Teddy Roosevelt, and others.

In this book, Mary also tells her own story, of how she came to Browning and her experiences with the Blackfoot people. She met her husband there and tells of his life and accomplishments in an engaging and literary style.

Bob was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in 1914 where his father owned a store. After a stint at teaching, he opened a taxidermy shop which grew into a foundry for his sculptures. As one who grew up with the Blackfoot, he had a keen interest in their cultures, and participated with them in their ceremonies. His love for them is reflected in his many sculptures. He also collected many artifacts, as had his father, to preserve a disappearing culture.

In 1990 he became the centre of controversy when he feared his entire Indian collection would be seized from under a newly-passed “Repatriation of Indian Artifacts Act.” To prevent this from happening, he took his collection to Canada and sold it to the Provincial Museum of Alberta for $1 million.

This whole story of Bob Scriver is a fascinating one, and a good read.

Thursday, January 03, 2008



I'm particularly addressing "Bronze Inside and Out: A Biographical Memoir of Bob Scriver" which is now shipping to bookstores. It can also be ordered through

Prairie Mary