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Michael Scott: Farny Fables

September 29 - December 31, 2006

 

Imagine Dutch old masters meeting up with Native Americans to hit the Strip in Las Vegas, then stopping by the county fair for the Best of Show judging. Contemporary artist Michael Scott conjures this rich world in a new series of paintings, Michael Scott: Farny Fables in which the four Queens --Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Faith -- help guide the participants toward true value and worth.

Like his previous series, Penny's Grand Vision (1999) and The Diaries of Little Red Hen (2002), Scott's eye-popping canvases are linked to a witty and philosophically subversive narrative.

"Tonight, a full moon is shining. Tomorrow is the county fair. In town, folks are placing bets on who will win the grand prize: will it be Farny, the painter of western scenes, or Grandma, baker of extraordinary cakes? While the roosters warn Grandma that someone has erased her recipe, the Dutch cowboys and Indian chiefs spring into action. At the end of the day, the judges make an unexpected decision about the prize . . ."

Throughout the story, the old masters rub shoulders with painter Henry Farny's vanishing Indians. Rembrandt's Polish Rider joins Farny's braves on a nighttime raiding party that turns into a carousel ride to Las Vegas riches. Scott's ever-present roosters search for Grandma's missing recipe, while Dutch burghers, now transformed into cowboys, bargain for the artist's soul.

This sequence of 30 vividly colored and imagined pictures offers one surprise after another. Using a realistic technique that entices the eye, Scott offers an original meditation on problems of luck, originality, value, and worth. Along the way, he pays tribute to those old masters by borrowing and recasting motifs from great works of art, including two paintings from the Taft Museum of Art -- The Song of the Talking Wire by Farny and Portrait of a Man Rising from His Chair by Rembrandt van Rijn.

Many of the paintings in Michael Scott: Farny Fables refer to works by Farny, one of the most important painter-illustrators of Native Americans during the late 19th century. Farny worked in Cincinnati as a freelance draftsman, then studied painting in Europe. In August 1881, he made his first trip to the Dakota Territory. The photographs, watercolor portrait sketches, and Sioux clothing and artifacts he brought back with him from this initial trip to the West influenced his work throughout his career.

Michael Scott received his MFA from the University of Cincinnati in 1978. His paintings are included in a number of permanent collections, including the Cincinnati Art Museum; the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY; and the Southern Ohio Museum, Portsmouth. Though he now makes his home in Santa Fe, N.M., Scott still has ties to Greater Cincinnati, even creating four pieces for the 2000 public art program, the Big Pig Gig, one of which is installed at Rookwood Commons.

The exhibition is organized by the Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, N.M. A companion catalogue, featuring Scott's narrative and an introduction by Ben Mitchell, is available for this exhibition.

 

(above: Michael Scott: Chattanooga's Moon Pie Melodies, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 51 x 39 1/2 inches)

 

(above: Michael Scott: Farny Flowers, 2002-2003, oil on panel, 44 x 36 inches)

 

(above: Michael Scott: The Golden Goose, 2003-2006, oil on canvas, 68 1/2 x 62 1/2 inches)

 

(above: Michael Scott: Sterling Vander Dough, 2003-2006, oil on panel, 56 3/4 x 46 1/2 inches)

 

(above: Michael Scott: Telegraphing Two Bit, 2003-2005, oil on panel, 41 x 58 inches)

 

Podcast

A podcast accompanying the exhibition may be heard here.

 

Checklist for the exhibition

 
1. The Admiral, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 49 x 40 _ inches
 
2. Chief Blueberry Blue Plate, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 56 _ x 45 _ inches
 
3. The Bookie, 2005-2006, oil on panel, 53 _ x 41 _ inches
 
4. Chief Shortbread, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 56 _ x 43 _ inches
 
5. The Queen of Diamonds (Beauty), 2003-2006, oil on panel, 26 _ x 22 _ inches
 
6. The Queen of Clubs (Faith), 2003-2006, oil on panel, 26 _ x 22 _ inches
 
7. The Queen of Hearts (Goodness), 2003-2006, oil on panel, 26 _ x 22 _ inches
 
8. The Queen of Spades (Truth), 2003-2006, oil on panel, 26 _ x 22 _ inches
 
9. Chattanooga's Moon Pie Melodies, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 51 x 39 _ inches
 
10. Chimayo Chicken in the Kitchen, 2002-2004, oil on panel, 42 x 34 inches
 
11. Bubble Gum and Then Sum, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 46 _ x 57 _ inches
 
12. Farny Flowers, 2002-2003, oil on panel, 44 x 36 inches
 
13. Grandma's Cake -- Farny's Fate, 2003-2006, oil on panel, 40 _ x 31 _ inches
 
14. The Golden Goose, 2003-2006, oil on canvas, 68 _ x 62 _ inches
 
15. The Night Rider's Horse of Money, 2004-2006, oil on canvas, 58 x 103 _ inches
 
16. The Missing Recipe, 2003-2005, oil on panel, 25 x 20 inches
 
17. The Horseshoe of Money, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 26 _ x 18 _ inches
 
18. Telegraphing Two Bit, 2003-2005, oil on panel, 41 x 58 inches
 
19. Cash Von Gilding, 2003-2006, oil on panel, 60 x 45 _ inches
 
20. Sterling Vander Dough, 2003-2006, oil on panel, 56 _ x 46 _ inches
 
21. Lady Luck, 2003-2006, oil on canvas, 71 x 63 _ inches
 
22. Rough Rider Artist Buyer, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 56 _ x 43 _ inches
 
23. Best of Show, Dutchmen Crow, 2003-2006, oil on canvas, 63 _ x 89 inches
 
24. Chief Crisco, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 54 _ x 44 _ inches
 
25. Randy's Nobility Assumes Probability, 2003-2006, oil on panel, 35 x 42 inches
 
26. Chief Sourdough, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 55 x 47 inches
 
27. Two Bit Von Tender, 2003-2006, oil on panel, 54 x 42 inches
 
28. Lemon Cake No Fake, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 56 _ x 45 inches
 
29. The Wall of Recipes, 2003-2004, oil on panel, 46 x 60 inches
 
30. Pull Back the Drape, Farny's on the Make, 2004-2006, oil on panel, 25 x 20 inches
 
31. He Had Lost His Head, 2005-2006, oil on panel, 32 x 28 _ inches
 
 


Selected wall and label text for the exhibition

 
Michael Scott doesn't just paint the West. It is part of him. His great-grandmother Mourning Star was a full Cherokee. Both sets of grandparents had farms in the Ozark Mountains, and as a child Scott heard entrancing stories of Indians and arrowheads. The artist himself was born in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1952 and grew up in the Midwest. There, he earned his bachelor's degree from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1976 and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1978.
 
In the late 1970s, Scott began to show his works throughout the United States. They have since entered public collections, including the Cincinnati Art Museum; New Orleans Museum of Art; Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio; Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky; and Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock. In 2003, Michael and his wife, Ellen, designed a home and studio in Santa Fe, where they currently reside, denizens of the West not only in spirit but in flesh.
 
The Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, organized this exhibition with the artist. The curator was Gayle Maxon-Edgerton.
 
Michael Scott's West is an intensely imaginary and personal place. It does have cowboys, but they incarnate mercenary Dutch gamblers and art racketeers trying to turn a greedy profit from sell-ing paintings. It has Indians, but they are expert chefs named Blue Plate, Shortbread, Crisco, and Sourdough, who work cosmic transformations in the kitchen. It has the requisite tough, wise old matriarch, Grandma, who narrates the tale of the temptation of Henry Farny (the real 19th-century painter of western scenes, who makes an appearance in this invented tale) by the Dutch cowboys, who urge him to sell out and paint for money, big money. It has a county fair, where Farny's paintings will compete against Grandma's famous MoonPie cake recipe, which has always won the Best of Show ribbon-until now, perhaps?
 
Finally, it has a larger-than-life Indian chief puffing smoke bubbles. But in Scott's zany world, this personage, El Bubble, is channeling the artist Vincent van Gogh. Vincent aka El Bubble confers wisdom in the shape of four playing cards-queens who teach four values that help to further and resolve the drama. Fittingly, the tale concludes at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds at night. To invite viewers into this wonderfully wacko universe, Scott has written down the narrative, which is available in the form of a book in the galleries.
 
 
 
The Night Rider's Horse of Money, 2004-6
Oil on canvas
Collection of Jeffrey and Darlene Anderson
 
This is the horseshoe of currency . . . It has power;
if you can harness its power, you will harness money.
 
 
The Bookie, 2005­6
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
It will all boil down to who will win-
Farny's paintings or [Grandma's] cake.
 
 
Wall of Recipes, 2003-4
Oil on panel
Collection of Frank and Janis Waller
 
 
The Horseshoe of Money, 2004­6
Oil on panel
Private collection
John Frederick Peto (American, 1854-1907), The Poor Man's Store, 1885, oil on canvas and panel. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
 
 
Telegraphing Two Bit, 2003-5
Oil on panel
Collection of Charles and Betsy Townsend
 
The title of this painting used to be "Song of the Talking Wire." Since [Farny's] joined forces with us and our scheme for making big money, it is now called "The Song of the Talking Liar."
 
Henry Farny (American, 1847-1916), The Song of the Talking Wire, 1904, oil on canvas. Taft Museum of Art, bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Phelps Taft
 
 
Farny Flowers, 2002­3
Oil on panel
Private collection
Balthasar van der Ast (Dutch, 1593/4-1657), Still Life with Tilted Basket of Fruit, Vase of Flowers, and Shells, about 1640-45, oil on panel. Taft Museum of Art, gift of Luther and Josephine P. Tucker
 
 
He Had Lost His Head, 2005-6
Oil on panel
Collection of Frank and Janis Waller
 
Farny paints another green bill. He begins laughing uncontrollably, boasting and saying, "I may have lost my head, but I am painting
for money now and I can't stop; I tell you, I just can't stop."
 
 
Lemon Cake No Fake, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Collection of Randall and Lynn G. Scott
 
 
The Missing Recipe, 2003-5
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
 
Bubble Gum and Then Sum, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Courtesy of Gerald Peters Gallery
 
[Vincent van Gogh] has channeled his energies into . . . the mythic figure, El Bubble. He waits for his name to be spoken and leaps
out for golden opportunities to teach those in need some lessons.
 
 
Chimayo Chicken in the Kitchen, 2002-4
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
 
Two Bit Von Tender, 2003-6
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
I am Two Bit Von Tender . . . Join me and place
your bets in my market scheme and we will all get rich.
 
 
Chief Shortbread, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Courtesy of Gerald Peters Gallery
 
My name is Chief Shortbread . . . I am here to tell you that
in order to be a man that divines water, you must first have heart.
 
 
The Queen of Hearts (Goodness), 2003-6
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
 
Chattanooga's MoonPie Melodies, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
 
 
The Queen of Clubs (Faith), 2003-6
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
 
The Golden Goose, 2003-6
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Gerald Peters Gallery
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606­1669), The Polish Rider, about 1655, oil on canvas. Copyright The Frick Collection, New York
 
 
Chief Blueberry Blue Plate, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Collection of Keith and Michele Schneider
 
 
Cash Von Gilding, 2003-6
Oil on panel
Courtesy of Gerald Peters Gallery
 
 
Pull Back the Drape, Farny's on the Make, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
 
The Admiral, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Collection of Tyson Foods, Inc.
 
 
Sterling VanderDough, 2003­6
Oil on panel
Collection of the artist
 
I am Sterling VanderDough . . . I am throwing the dice
heavily in Farny's favor . . . You see, the art world and the
gaming world are the same. They are both based on illusions.
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606­1669), Portrait of a Man Rising from His Chair, 1633, oil on canvas. Taft Museum of Art, bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Phelps Taft
 
 
How does Scott work? The paintings on view here were con-ceived as a cohesive group. Each work not only stands on its own artistically but also communicates part of the story. (The artist has created two former series in this way: Farny Fables is the third and final tale in the trilogy.) Scott worked on these paintings at once, going back and forth among the paintings over four years as he developed the sequence and its meaning.
 
On one level, these works tell a simple tale that a child could enjoy. On another, they represent a philosophical meditation on such values as goodness and truth. And on yet another, they are a witty satire about the commodification of art. Playing in the vast field of visual culture available in the 21st century, Scott appropriates imagery from both past art and popular culture to make his points. Among the images he borrows and reinterprets are three from the Taft Museum of Art collection, which Scott has admired for decades.
 
Like many of the artists represented in the Taft collections, Scott works in oil paint, a technique descended from traditional Northern European painting, and utilizes glazing (transparent, oil-rich layers) to enhance the luminosity of his colors. In the end, his vibrantly hued, fantastical scenes teach us about what is worthwhile in life: baking, art-making, and all other creative endeavors that bring joy-the true wealth.
 
 
The Queen of Spades (Truth), 2003-6
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
 
Randy's Nobility Assumes Probability, 2003-6
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
 
Chief Crisco, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Collection of Frank and Janis Waller
 
My name is Chief Crisco . . . If you follow me, you will learn the true techniques for kneading dough that justifies the means and not the end.
 
 
Rough Rider Artist Buyer, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Collection of Charles and Betsy Townsend
 
Howdy. I'm Rough Rider . . . inventor of the Belgian
Rough Rider sewing machine. With my brains and Farny's Indians,
I will get rich promoting my own line of Farny Doodles on Doilies.
 
 
Chief Sourdough, 2004-6
Oil on panel
Courtesy of Gerald Peters Gallery
 
 
The Queen of Diamonds (Beauty), 2003-6
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
Remember, as you adorn your cake you actually adorn your life.
And there your soul is awakened to the spiritual gifts of the MoonPie.
 
 
Lady Luck, 2003-6
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Gerald Peters Gallery
 
Do you know who or what Lady Luck really is? . . .
She is beauty, faith, truth,, and most of all, goodness.
These are virtues that money can't buy.
 
 
Best of Show, Dutchmen Crow, 2003­6
Oil on canvas
Collection of Mary Onstead
 
This year we have the extraordinary pleasure to award
two entries with this honor. Grandma's cupcakes
and Henry Farny's painting tie for Best of Show.
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606­1669) The Sampling Officials (Syndics of the Cloth Guild), 1662, oil on canvas. Collection Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
 
 
Studio Props
Mixed media
Collection of the artist
 
 
If your work is made from these four ingredients, goodness,
faith, truth, and beauty, then you will have a winning recipe.
 
 
Study for Admiral, 2003-6
Oil on canvas on panel
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Townsend
 
 
Study for Moon, 2006
Oil on panel
Private collection
 
 
Study, Ride 'Em Cowgirl, 2006
Oil on canvas on panel
Lynn Carlisle and Craig Jarvis
 
 
Farny Indian Study, 2003-6
Oil on canvas on panel
Collection of Ron and Florence Koetters
 
 
Study for Sourdough, 2004-6
Oil on canvas on panel
Private collection
 
 
Study for Moon II, 2006
Oil on panel
Collection of the artist
 
 
Study for Bookie, 2004-6
Oil on canvas on panel
Private collection
 
 
Two Bit, 2004­5
Oil on canvas on panel
Collection of the artist
 
 
Two Dutchmen, 2004
Oil on canvas on panel
Collection of Lou and Joan Lauch
 
 
Sterling, 2004
Oil on canvas on panel
Collection of the artist

 


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