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 Monte Flagg  (1929 - 1985)

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Lived/Active: Arizona      Known for: wood carving, western drawing, painting, Native American children

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following article is from the East Valley Tribune, Scottsdale, August 22, 2003 by Scott Seckel

Two weeks ago, antique dealer and inveterate junkman Neil King bought a broken down trailer for $75 at a storage unit auction on Pima Road in Scottsdale.

It was full of garbage bags. It looked like a tornado had gone through it. And it was the find of a lifetime.
Inside the bags of old clothes were oil paintings, jewelry, bronzes, wood carvings, pastels, sketches, photos.
"It’s pretty phenomenal," the east Mesa man said. "It’s probably winning the lottery. You will never see this again."

The collection is the work of the Flaggs, an eccentric family of Scottsdale art pioneers.

"He’s got a find," said Joanne Handley, president of the Scottsdale Historical Society.

"Invaluable," she called the collection.

Dee Flagg dressed Old West-style with a handlebar mustache and drove a 1914 La France fire truck around town with a wooden Indian chief he carved sitting beside him. His flamboyant brother Monte Flagg liked to dress like Buffalo Bill Cody and painted whimsical portraits of Indian children.

Herman Atkinson, owner of Atkinson’s Trading Post at 3957 N. Brown Ave. in Scottsdale, was a friend of Dee Flagg’s until Flagg died in 2000.

"They were all artistically inclined," Atkinson said of the family. "They lived a kind of a reclused type of life. They didn’t seem to get out into the social world like a lot of artists do today. They seemed to want to stay to themselves."

The Flaggs were the family of a Great Falls, Mont., art teacher and the grandchildren of a teamster who drove freight across the Oregon Trail. They arrived in Scottsdale in the 1940s and lived on Cheney Drive in what was then the outskirts of town.

"I always felt people like that were pretty much a part of the growing up of the West, and they had the talent to put this in some form of an art," Atkinson said. "Someday they’ll be recognized for that."

King’s roughly 500-piece collection ranges from 1890 to 1990. He not only owns the art, including paintings by the Flaggs’ father, James, he also owns Dee Flagg’s wood carving tools, napkin sketches Monte Flagg did of paintings, copyright certificates for works, and photos of the artists beside their pieces.

"The paintings! The paintings! We’re talking oils on canvas that have never been stretched!" King said.

King wants to sell everything as a collection. "I want it to stay here because this is Arizona," he said.

Atkinson has some Dee Flagg carvings among the jewelry and Indian pottery in his store, which he opened in Scottsdale in 1955. Dee Flagg came in to the store every two or three months.

"I don’t believe he was overly educated, but he was very intelligent," Atkinson said. "He was very appreciated by people who lived here for a long time. Over the years we knew Dee, we knew him to be very much of a gentleman."

Dee Flagg went to Hollywood and carved for the stars for a time. Among King’s collection are scores of Arizona Highways articles and newspaper clippings on the family. Wells Fargo Bank, Valley National Bank, Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service all commissioned work from him.

Dee Flagg carved all the famous figures of the Old West: Buffalo Bill, the Younger brothers, Billy the Kid.
"Dee represented the genre of Western art that relies on historic interpretation," said David Tatum, curator at the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park in Tempe. "He was very exacting with how he represented the accoutrements of his characters."

The entire family were Scottsdale fixtures. "A little bit of a flaky family, but they were extremely talented," Handley said. "They never married, and the four of them lived together."

Atkinson "wouldn’t even start to name a price on it." Millions? "I wouldn’t say it is or it isn’t, but if you have the background on a person like that it makes it more valuable."

The Scottsdale Historical Society would love to have the collection, but Handley said they have no space to store it.

Tight budgets at the Arizona Historical Society mean the collection is out of their reach, Tatum said.

Dee Flagg’s friends just hope his name becomes more famous.

"I hope that he gets recognition somewhere in his work," Atkinson said. "This might be the thing that gives him that particular stature in life."

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Monte Flagg, was a quiet but talented artist, selling his works through the O’Brien Art Emporium. He did a series of Indian children paintings.

The Old Town Scottsdale Cowboy sculpture that welcomed folks to town was created by Monte Flagg. The original was replaced with a more durable model, which is the source of identity rumors these days - recent newspaper articles have chronicled a current restoration of this most famous Scottsdale landmark.

Another Scottsdale Cowboy landmark was also created by Monte. The familiar cowpoke that graced the cover of the first Parada del Sol program in 1956 was his work, and came to be the standard bearer for the event.

Monte Flagg also was instrumental in forming the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce and was one of its founding members. This affiliation led to yet another Scottsdale Cowboy landmark as Monte produced the initial artwork used by the Chamber for its business sign; a tall, lean cowboy image with western town backdrop that became the Chamber’s signature piece.

Monte Flagg passed away in 1985 at the age of 56.

Submitted by Karen Overturf, whose source is The Bison Museum

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