CINCINNATI.- The Taft Museum of Art presents Michael Scott: Farny Fables, on view through 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.
This exhibition closes Sunday, December 31. A companion catalogue, featuring Scott's narrative and an introduction by Ben Mitchell, is available for this exhibition.