Russell Skull Society of Artists Suites
The Russell Skull Society of Artists Suites is one of the highlights of Western Art Week, giving collectors the opportunity view additional works and have one-on-one interactions with artists.
Top-quality artwork from some of the top Western artists working today
During Russell Week, the modest town of Great Falls, Montana, transforms into the Western art capital of the world—it’s a celebration of Charlie Russell and Western art as a whole, with events occurring all across the city. While part of that lineup, of course, includes the C.M. Russell Museum’s annual Russell Exhibition and Sale, another anticipated event is the Russell Skull Society of Artists Suites held at the Mansfield Convention Center from March 21 to 23. “[The Russell Skull Society is] very much ingrained in all aspects of the Russell Sale and event. We originated the Russell Skull Society of Artists to really promote and celebrate the top tier of artists that have a longstanding history of participation in the auction events to benefit the Russell Museum,” says Duane Braaten, director of art and philanthropy at the museum. This secondary event bolsters the energy and excitement of the Russell’s main exhibition and sale; the Russell Skull Society of Artists Suites literally surrounds the room in which the auction is held. “Just visually, it reminds us why we’re gathered together. We’re surrounding ourselves with art. The creative spirits from Charlie Russell to the artists of today,” Braaten says.
Currently, the Russell Skull Society comprises 23 artists, ushered into the esteemed group for their artistic merits and history of support to the C.M. Russell Museum, says Braaten. Members include Joe Kronenberg, R. Tom Gilleon, Nancy Dunlap Cawdrey and Chad Poppleton, among others, as well as four newcomers: John Phelps, Don Oelze, Jennifer Johnson and Troy Collins. “The exhibition suites are a really unique opportunity to come and meet these artists all in one place...you can visit with these artists and have a great story to tell about the artwork you just collected over the weekend,” says Braaten. He adds that the Skull Society show and sale offers collectors even more art purchasing possibilities throughout the
In Luke Frazier’s Forest Sentinel, included in the Skull Society show, a formidable elk stands with commanding presence in the center of the composition. “Elk are some of the most vocal of the deer family—the bull elk bugle is a rugged and beautiful sound to hear in the wild,” Frazier comments. “A herd bull gets his moniker by being a bigger badass than the other bulls. He’ll run off all suitors, and on occasion, fight to the death for the breeding rights of the females.”
“The event has become a cornerstone of my career, and it was such an honor to be invited, and among the inaugural members of the [Russell Skull Society],” says Randy Van Beek, who has participated in The Russell for more than 25 years.
“It’s a huge honor,” Collins says of his recent inclusion in the Russell Skull Society. “[I’m one of the] landscape contemporary impressionist guys. Most of the other guys are pretty traditional Western artists, extremely good artists, so it’s exciting because it’s different...i’m really thankful that they’re allowing me to be a part of it.” One of Collins’ pieces, Dreaming in Color, features the artist’s classic aspen landscapes. “It’s not about the colors but the relationships of the colors,” he says. “Colors are only beautiful when they’re neighboring something that complements them. It all has to do with the harmonies you’re using.”
The Russell Skull Society of Artists Suites will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. all three days and is free to the public.
Artist Andy Thomas talks with a collector in his booth at last year’s event.
Chad Poppleton, Hazards of the Trail, oil on panel, 30 x 48"
Luke Frazier, Forest Sentinel, oil, 36 x 48"
R. Tom Gilleon, Winter Lodge, oil, 36 x 36"