Fine art

The rise of Ben Shriver

'Family Folk' show at Magpie spotlights Taos son


An unusual event is happening at Magpie this month, namely, showing the art work of Ben Shriver, who lives and breathes art, but doesn't call himself an artist. Expect that to change in the not too distant future.

Shriver is showing in the Family Folk show that opened April 3 at Magpie, in the Overland Compound at 1405 Paseo del Pueblo Norte in El Prado. An artist reception was given Saturday (April 7).

His work is side by side with famous Taos relations, Jim Wagner and the late Bill Gersh, among others in his Taos family, as Magpie gallerist and artist Georgia Gersh has conceived it.

"I am starting off the season at Magpie with a fun, colorful folk art show," Gersh said in the gallery's press. "Artists to be included are my mom, dad, myself, my sweetheart, his mom and her sweetheart: Annie Degen, Bill Gersh, Georgia Gersh, Ben Shriver, Mary Shriver and Jim Wagner."

Shriver's decoupage, paintings, small furniture, woodwork and custom framing is intermixed in the show with such items as Jim Wagner-Mary Shriver hand-painted pillows, Bill Gersh and Wagner paintings, Georgia Gersh paper bowls and luscious paper landscapes, and Annie Degen's watercolor paintings.

Of Shriver Gallery fame (established over 40 years ago by grandparents Max and Pat Shriver, and later Bill and Marge Harrison), Ben Shriver said he has always made things; he grew up with paint, wood blocks, glue, carving knives or whatever, always available around various family and friends' studios and workshops in Taos.

"I worked with Gustavo Victor Goler off and on for over 13 years and with Jim [Wagner] for 10 or 12 years," Shriver recalls. He also did furniture with David Mapes for five years. "Jim saw a piece I did during my divorce - a shadow box with a heart and barbed-wire around it - and he said, 'Wow - that's straight from the heart.' I feel so lucky to have worked with Jim.

"Victor Goler has been a huge part of my life," Shriver added. "Years ago he started out doing restoration and repair of 1600s and 1800s museum pieces; I worked with him and was getting to touch things most people would never put their hands on."

Shriver bows to Georgia Gersh as muse and comadre of art. "It's wonderful to find a partner who you can sit down and make art with as well. We make art because that is what we choose to do. Because it soothes the soul. I've always done that."

"Maybe one day I'll see myself as an artist," he said, agreeing that the 2,200 baskets he created this spring at Petree's Nursery is horticultural art. "Just like finding rocks to make a birthday card for Georgia is my art. I'm always putting stuff together."

Georgia Gersh said she and Ben Shriver have been "playing with paper all winter making decorative bowls and decoupage landscapes for this show," writing that "Annie moved here from the Bay Area in 1969 as part of the counterculture movement. She paints happy watercolors from her mountain home in Lama nearly every day, and it is a joy to watch her evolve at the age of 78."

Shriver's mother Mary Shriver retired last year from 30 years in the art and home décor business. She first opened Country Furnishings of Taos 30 years ago, which Gersh says she started in part to help market Muebles de Taos, Wagner's furniture-making project with prisoners on parole. "Mary is enjoying a quiet lifestyle and exploring her creativity at home with Jim."

Gersh says Magpie will have a collection of their collaborative fine crafts as well as some of Wagner's small works.

For the uninitiated, Georgia's father Bill Gersh was often called an "outlaw modernist." As writer Melody Romancito said in a 2017 Tempo preview, "Outlaws, trailblazers, mavericks, outsiders and rebels. This is the league of iconoclasts and vanguard artists that enjoyed the company of the late Bill Gersh (1943-1994)." And we still enjoy his outlaw spirit today.

The Family Folk show kicks off Magpie's fourth birthday, and, Gersh says, will be the first in a series of eight shows in 2018, one a month through November. The roster is as follows: After Family Folk in April, Magpie's shows are Peter Parks in May; Nora Anthony in June; Bill Gersh in July; Dwarka Bonner in August; Nat Wilson in September; Claire Haye in October; and John Brandi in November.

"It's going to be a fantastic year for art in Taos, and I'm grateful to have Magpie be a part of it," she said.

For more information on the show or Magpie's stable of artists, contact Georgia Gersh at (781) 248-0166. Also visit