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Artifact Spotlight #3

#9 (silent auction)

“My father’s old compass.” – Margaret Reeb speaking of George Reeb ('Morphine Charley')

Oil on canvas


An object can sometimes hold up on its own, based on its own merit, either its age, or its number, quantity, etc. Those qualities are important in discussing artifacts, there is no doubt, but sometimes its more about the connection. Who owned it, who used it, where was it used? Those are the types of questions that, when answered take an artifact to the next level. This compass comes across to me in both respects. From an artistic standpoint, it has a wonderful shape, delicate hands and a wonderfully textured case. But there is also so much history involved. This compass was once owned by George Reeb, who has a beautifully redemptive saga of shedding his alias as “Morphine Charley” in the 1890s. (Drop by the Museum to read his story). This compass is so much more than an object, it’s a pathway into a greater story and one very interesting life.

#17 (live auction)

“McLaren some years ago invented an ice cream cone. It netted him a comfortable fortune. His health failed a few years ago and he drifted west in search of strength.” – Big Timber Pioneer, January 18, 1934

Oil on canvas


Aesthetically the metal and wood, the curve of the scoop and the half curve of the mechanism made this artifact a must for me to paint. I paired these curves with the shape of the cone, and the triangle of the latter with the triangle of colored fabric. This was a fun painting to do. The diagram in the background comes from a printout of McLaren’s cone patent. This artifact opens up a wonderful discussion on how such a varied assortment of people came to work and live in the area.

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