Artist Dates


Title of Work

Ardell Scartaccini and Clem "Pop" Shaffer


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Date of Work

Ca. 1976


Super 8 film

Identification #



Art & Design Study Collection: James Smith Pierce Film Collection




UND Art Collections Repository

Artist Bio

Born in Brooklyn, New York, James Smith Pierce received his PhD in art history from Harvard University. During his career as a professor, Pierce also became an accomplished artist, whose artworks were included in important exhibitions (including a show on land art at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC) and books on contemporary earthworks and site-specific sculpture. Pierce was also a photographer, exhibition curator, and art collector.

Additional Information

This film features two separate artists.

About Ardell Scartaccini:

Ardell Scartaccini was born Ardell Burkhart in 1927. She grew up in New Mexico where her father was a trapper and owned a trading post and general store. She married a miner named Eugene Scartaccini and together the couple moved to Golden, New Mexico in 1961. There they purchased a ⅓ acre property where they lived and raised several children. Ardell made a living working as a housekeeper for the nearby Lloyd Ranch.

In 1964 the Scartaccinis opened the Turquoise Trail Shop, which sold various curios, in a one-room schoolhouse on the property. She began decorating the property with glass bottles and various found objects such as wagon wheels, tree branches, and antlers. She would hang the bottles along fence posts and place them in foliage on the property.

The couple sold the property to Vassillos J. Mantas in 1986. He subsequently sold off most of the glass and collectables before selling the property again in 1996. The property was purchased by Fabrizio and Linda Berochia in 1998. After the couple learned about the property’s history, they began working to restore the garden, and added in their own sculptures. The couple later sold the property in 2016.

About Clem "Pop" Shaffer:

Clem “Pop” Shaffer was born in 1880 in Harmony, Indiana. He attended school until the age of thirteen, when he withdrew to help his father in his blacksmith’s shop. In 1902 he married his first wife, Pearl Brown, with whom he had two children. He moved to the newly founded town of Mountainair, New Mexico with Pearl and their children in 1908. There Pearl contracted pneumonia and passed away in 1911 and their children were sent to live with Pearl’s family. Shaffer then married his second wife, Lena, in 1912. Shaffer originally worked as a blacksmith and refurbished old buggies on the side before selling Oldsmobiles when blacksmithing fell out of fashion.

In 1922, Shaffer’s house burnt down, leading him and his wife to build a hotel to live in and manage. The hotel was most well-known for its bright decorations. The outside of the hotel was decorated with several swastikas, originally a symbol of prosperity before its appropriation by the Nazi Party. Inside was a large dining room, painted in bright colors and designs inspired by Native American culture. In 1931, Shaffer also built a decorative stone fence around the hotel. By the 1930s, Shaffer struggled with heart issues and most of the work of running the hotel was done by his wife, Lena.

The couple then acquired a 240-acre farm known as “Rancho Bonito” where they produced meat, dairy products, and produce for their hotel. According to Shaffer, he was first inspired one summer afternoon 1939 when he noticed a calf in a tree on the farm. The calf was actually a piece of gnarled wood which resembled the animal. Shaffer then began to notice the shapes of various animals in the trees around the property, which he would cut down and carve or paint. Shaffer claimed that nature did most of the world and that he just finished it. Over time, he amassed a collection of around 300 animal sculptures which he showed in a “zoo” on the farm.

Shaffer’s animal sculptures appeared in several magazines such as Life and Family Circle and were written about by the journalist Ernie Pyle. Shaffer never sold his sculptures and only rarely gave them out as gifts. He notably gave sculptures to both President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eisenhower, as well as the Vice President Nixon. He wrote an unofficial autobiography in 1958 titled The Trials and Tribulations and Glory of Clem ‘Pop’ Shaffer, the Village Blacksmith. Shaffer died in 1964 of a heart-attack, after which his wife sold most of his sculptures to nearby oddity shops and museums. Five of the buildings at Rancho Bonito were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.


Very good.

Condition Notes

Digitally preserved 2021.


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