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Heart Butte School, Montana (Non-fiction, the school and its community.)

Robert Macfie Scriver and Art: An archive. Books by Mary Scriver

ON AMAZON: "Bronze Inside and Out: a biographical memoir of Bob Scriver" and "Sweetgrass and Cottonwood Smoke: sermons for the prairie."

Monday, June 11, 2007


I’ve spent a good part of today searching my files again for photos of Bob’s first wife, Alice. No luck. Deadline is approaching. We’ll simply have to go without. But I found a little cache of other interesting tidbits: the Christmas cards I made when I was married to Bob.

These are linoleum prints. You buy a little block of wood with a piece of linoleum glued to the top of it. Draw your picture on the white linoleum, then cut away whatever you don’t want to print. (Art stores sell a little set of gouges for this, but you could use anything that will cut the linoleum.) Squeeze out some kind of paint on a flat surface -- piece of glass, maybe -- and roll it even with a brayer, one of those rubber rollers with a handle. Then use the roller to coat the linoleum block and press it on your paper. Presto! A little print! I think I got started because the market came out with lovely little prepared blanks for cards, folded, deckled and with envelopes.

This one didn’t say anything inside. I had kind of a thing for snowy owls in those days. They were illegal to own mounted, so Bob gave me a little hydrocal one, but he didn’t paint it. One of these days I’ll get up my courage and do it.

A real mouse modeled for this one. I kept it in a fish tank for a while and practiced sketching it. At one time I had a little mouse collection, the star of which was a Royal Copenhagen mouse. I gave it away when I went to seminary, along with a lot of other treasures. My reasoning was that I was entering a nun-like state in which I should embrace poverty. I could not have been more wrong. Anyway, this card said inside, “May the mouse in your house never go hungry.”

There were real models for this one, too: our springer spaniel pup we called “Buckshot” and the little fox vixen we called “Vixen.” Well, when we didn’t call her “Foxy.” They had a grand time chasing each other around and I have several “interesting” photos of Bob in his underwear rough-housing on the floor with them. (The photos are not in the pending biography.) The inside of this one said, “Who needs Donner and Blitzen? We have Bucky and Vixen!”

All this would be vaguely interesting except that we sent out quite a few of the cards to friends and customers who are now aged enough to be deceased. At their estate sales these cards are turning up and are represented as “original Bob Scriver works.” Pretty funny, really. I mean, representing a Seltzer painting as a Russell painting is one thing, but mistaking a clumsy little lino print as an original Bob Scriver? Come on, now!

And yet it’s a good illustration of that strange phenomenon of people not seeing artwork for its own sake but only in terms of its sale value on the market and its capacity to endow the owner with some kind of certification by association with a known Important Person.

Once I got a breathless phone call, directing me to straighten out an auctioneer who was selling one of these cards as an original Scriver. The caller knew it was not, but the auction folks wouldn’t take her word for it. So what was I supposed to do? Call the auctioneer and tell him it was worthless art because I did it? Why should I?

It’s pretty clear that a lot of people don’t buy art, they buy artists, and some artists are willing to accept that. Even Charlie Russell was a “special buddy” of certain people who liked to boast about it and Mamie was not above fanning the flames, since they bought a nice big painting every year. So that makes it especially ironic that people who bought these cards were buying a little bit of personal kitsch to show off, but not a remnant of the artist -- rather of his former wife.

If they were really buying the art, I’d go get a stack of lino blocks and start to work. I still have my gouges around here somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Hi again. I learned to do this blockprinting in art class at Jefferson High School. Many years I did Christmas cards based on this. Also fabrics. the teacher I think was Mr.Doerter? Three of we students plus Mr.Doerter, would go on special field trips. This included Bruce Ross, a great artist who apparently became an architect according to a search I ran. Edgar Bruce Ross. This is probably silly rambling but still it is fun. It was interesting to read your telling of the exact process learned in art class at Jeff. I remember we used a large press (a luxury compared to how I did them later at home) Now it has been many years since making the linoleum block Christmas cards and it led to various other types of homemade artwork cards.

prairie mary said...

Actually, I learned to do linoleum blocks from a book as I didn't take art at Jeff. I was a dramatics person. Mrs. Sparks was my hero but I remember Mr. Doerter. I don't remember Edgar Bruce Ross.

It seems to me that the art teacher at Vernon was Mrs. Kraut and we did a lot of little projects. Remember her jointed flat puppets we used to trace and finish drawings? Did you make puppets for Miss Colbert?

Prairie Mary