Pam Bluhm has her hometown Harveys hanging for positive identification: This is Chatfield.
“Some I bought, some were gifts from Harvey,” stated Bluhm, speaking of the screen-printed, farm-themed silhouette plaques hanging in the front office of The Chatfield News that were made by the late Harvey Bernard, a well-known Chatfield-area artist whose affection for rural art is still apparent in the collections or occasional single print found on the walls of residents’ homes.
Bluhm’s collection of over 20 of Bernard’s prints are her own, but she chose to place them in the news office as a marker, something that significantly represents all that is “Chatfield.” Her plaques that surround a horse collar she bought from Bernard’s online estate auction – which has a small tag tucked into it explaining that Bernard got it in trade for a “Back Forty Philosopher” and a “Sunday Morning” plaque – range in vintage from 1972 to 1991.
The plaques include a wide range of Bernard’s works, such as: “The New Washing Machine,” a silhouette of someone’s farmer “Pa” and an eager farm boy unloading an electric washing machine from the back of a pickup truck while the lady of the home finishes taking laundry off the line; “The Dray Wagon,” one illustration of how farm implements changed over the course of the past half-century; “Summer Haircut,” reminding viewers of the joy of having Mom get out the mixing bowl to serve as a guide for the scissors; “Lunch for Dad,” showing a child carrying a lunch pail to a man working the field; and “Pure Horsepower,” a print celebrating the glory days of four-legged farming.
Most recently, she’s purchased a winter scene that shows a farm still operating in the middle of a cold snap, and this one differs from the rest because it is mostly gray-blue with black silhouettes and mounds of white snow.
Bluhm doesn’t have every single print Bernard ever made – that would take more wall space than she has at the news office or at home – but she appreciates the ones she has for their attention to detail.
“I like the detail in them, like how there’s a little cat sitting with a mouse hanging out of its mouth, or how there’s laundry freeze-drying on the clothesline and the kids are taking it into the house,” she said. “I like that they have everything, down to the last detail…the old farms in them help remember the past. I like all the horse ones because they’re good for Western Days.”
Although she likes “Summer Haircut” a lot, her favorite is “Woodshed Psychology,” even though the mom taking a switch to the boy isn’t politically correct these days.
“I like that I can hang these up and show Chatfield pride, because Harvey had his shop up the road,” said Bluhm. “I bought the horse collar that used to be in Harvey’s basement office, and I thought it would look good with his pictures. People stop and look at the pictures through the windows, and some of them even come back and come in to take a closer look.”
What’s most unique about the collection is that Bluhm has something personally invested in the artwork – just her small part, but something that made them possible. When she worked at Snider Publishing, she helped make them possible by shooting the negatives used as a basis for the plaques on the large camera in the shop that was needed for print jobs.
“I’d have to go downstairs to make the negatives, the reverses for the negatives (to make silhouettes), clean up the negatives with Harvey, Jr., and then he’d take them home and screen-print them,” she explained.
And in Bernard’s later years, she spent time at his home in the mornings and evenings for the last 11 months of his life, caring for the aging artist who’d survived childhood polio, getting to know him even better than the stories his artwork could tell. She’s thankful for that opportunity and to be able to still gather bits of Bernard’s talent long after his passing.
“I look for and buy his plaques when I find some pieces. I got a couple pieces I’m going to get framed soon,” said Bluhm. “I’m just looking to see if I can find some more that fit in, because if people have spares of some I don’t have, I’m always looking to expand my collection.”