Monday, March 23, 2009


At the Native American Art show in Great Falls during the CM Russell Auction there was a unique piece that I wish I’d taken notes on since I can’t remember the artist. It was Indian faces, I think produced by modeling the faces in something solid and then pressing some kind of paper over them, so that they looked like leaves with faces embossed in them. Subtle and eerie, they have stayed in my mind more than anything at the major auction exhibit.

Indian Art is on the way up. For the first time the Mayor of Great Falls came to speak at the NA Art show -- of course, Dona Stebbins is no slouch and Indian-friendly in several ways. Her father was a veterinarian so she has a unique affinity for animals and her husband is a musician (she is a singer) so that other element is alive in her as it is in Indians. The current chief of the Blackfeet Tribe, Willie Sharp, was in the “rawhide drum corps” that opened the ceremonies with the presentation of flags. An outsider would find it hard to unbraid the forces acting together in this setting. Feminism with traditional grandmas, sophisticated graphics with naive dream-catchers, portraits of chiefs with depictions of drunks. Human beings. The People. Their faces.

Carl Cree Medicine, Sr.
, was honored with a plaque for his years of participation and service. He responded by reading this piece written by Henry Boyle which Carl uses in a little handout when he shows his art.

“Carl was born and raised on the Blackfeet Reservation where he now resides with his wife, Carmelita, on their small horse ranch. Prairie grass, willows and giant cottonwoods stretch westward through the Badger Creek valley to the Rocky Mountains, a perfect setting for an artist’s imagination.

“Mr. Cree Medicine does sculpting with various metals, both small and large, in bronze, bone and silver, as well as beadwork and leather crafts. He worked with the famous sculptor and taxidermist Bob Scriver of Browning for over twenty-five years, learning the art of taxidermy, bronze-casting and sculpting. Mr. Scriver also taught him the intricate method of “patina,” mixing proper chemicals to color the finished work of castings.

“Carl was instrumental in compiling a book with Bob entitled “No More Buffalo,” published in 1982. Carl, his wife and son served as models for many of the depicted sculptures in the publication.

“Over the years Mr. Cree Medicine has participated in art shows at the Native American Art Show in East Glacier Park and Great Falls, Montana; the Art Market in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Bemidji, Minnesota; Potsdam, New York; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to name a few.

“Carl’s earrings carved from bone or made from different metals dangle from the ears of many people throughout the world. His sculptures and works of art adorn numerous homes, offices and hotel lobbies as well.

“Carl can be reached at his home address: Pikuni Arts & Crafts, Box 60, Browning, Montana, 59417. (406)-338-2097 at home. (406) 338-7842 at work.”

The second part of Carl’s brochure was written by himself.

“My name is Carl Cree Medicine Sr., born and raised on the Blackfeet Reservation where I now reside and own a small horse ranch. I live approximately twenty miles south of Browning, Montana, in a small community known as Old Agency. (A history is behind this little place, also known as Badger Creek.) I have my own work place at my homestead where I contemplate my art and craft ideas. I do my own sculpting, hand painting of my work, and work with crafts in various medias.

“My earliest recollection of my artistic ability goes back to my childhood, during the time my father was alive as he too was an accomplished artist in his own right. He more or less worked with wood and his work has been displayed by different merchants in Browning, Valier and Dupuyer, Montana. I dabbled in art while I was in high school, but never pursued it until later in life.

“During my early adolescent years I became acquainted and employed with the renowned Western artist, Mr. Robert Scriver. He took me under his wing and gave me the opportunity to flourish in the art world. He saw the potential and knew I had a hidden talent to become an artist. With his belief in me and the encouragement I developed my own style and set goals for my art career. In the early years with Bob, I was taught the wrongs and rights to become an accomplished sculptor, taxidermist, and proper procedure for bronze casting. He also taught me the steps to the finished work (patina), the proper procedure to where very few people are famliar for this type of art (mixing the proper chemicals to color the castings). I did all this approximately ten years. Then we went on to establish the foundry. This was the peak of my art career where I worked on my own. I had first hand knowledge of experimenting with different medias and made major decisions to where my employer was my best friend and mentor in the art world.

“I owe a great deal to this gentleman, because without his belief in me and the faith he restored, I can’t say I would have set goals for myself as I have now. I have goals yet to conquer in the art world, but I know I will reach them for now I have the knowledge and know how for being a successful artist in my own right.

“I worked closely with Bob for twenty-five years and retired to take up other interests and work as a free lance artist where I am today. I travel to different art shows across the country and am invited to participate in various shows during the year.

“Since 1985 I have been participating in the Great Falls Native American Art Show, Great Falls, Montana. The largest I have participated in was in 1990, the “Art Market,” Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“I also had the privilege of working with Mr. Scriver in putting a book together titled “No More Buffalo,” featuring my son and wife in the book. the book is about the beginning of the Indian, notably the dog days and the travois to modern days.”

Carl is about my age (seventy or so) and was working for Bob when I arrived in 1961. He made a dollar an hour and I made $5 a day. (I was also teaching school most of the year.) He was wrestling with alcohol, which he finally beat with the help of the Catholic Church, and sometimes didn’t show up for a few weeks. But when he came back, he just picked up where he left off. We all did everything, whether it was receiving tourists in the front, building something in the back, repairing something at the ranch, riding horseback, skinning a bear, answering the phone, or doing the many small finicky tasks of producing art plus the huge life-endangering ceremony of pouring molten bronze. Carl paid attention. He learned. His son, David, became Bob’s much-prized foreman.

1 comment:

Lance Michael Foster said...

That is a great and wonderful story, Mary...I am glad good people succeed too sometimes! He lives a good life I think...out on the land with his family, and his workplace by his house...that is a dream, and he made it come true!