Art Gallery: Rich Charleson – Cowboys and Indians Magazine

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This Montana farmer has a way of growing dryland crops and processing wood.

That was in 1985. Montana farmer Rich Charleson’s crops were just damaged by a hailstorm. But life goes on. As the saying goes, “When one door closes…”

When local AQHA Equine Prospects needed a sign for Stallion Alley, Charleson created the Sequoia sign and carved it freehand using a router. His craftsmanship was a huge hit. “People liked it, so I started taking orders,” he says. “It almost became a business.” Those crops were lost, but “we had a fun Christmas making signs,” he says.

Sacred Circle.

Three years later, when those signs left a pile of scrap wood, Charleson had an idea. He glued the pieces together, bought a used lathe, and taught himself how to turn wood into bowls.

Today, Charleson’s unique, intricate, one-of-a-kind bowls, baskets, and other beautiful wooden creations are among Montana’s prestigious annual art exhibits. russell art auction, as the name suggests, will be sold alongside original works by legendary Western artist Charles M. Russell and some of today’s foremost artists. “I was the first woodturner to have my work published in The Russell,” Charleson says. “It’s a great honor.”

Stare at the sky.

It’s not just him. He was one of his first class to be inducted into the Montana Circle of American Masters in Folk and Traditional Arts in 2008. “I still don’t consider myself a master,” he admits. “I’ve never created a piece so perfect. I’m always learning.”

If not perfect, at least in his estimation, Charleson’s work is astonishing in its beauty of form and detail. At first glance, many look like finely woven Native American bowls or baskets. “I see a lot of Native American design,” he says. “It sparked something in my mind and I rearranged that whole design to come up with the bowl.”

Firestorm fantasy.

The patterns and colors are made from natural wood and meticulously crafted from thousands of individual pieces that are laminated, turned, sanded and polished. That work is incredibly time consuming. shattered dreamsThe piece up for auction in Russell was made from 12,000 parts and took six weeks to complete. However, artists tend to immerse themselves in the work they love. “It’s like fishing,” Charleson says. “It’s really relaxing. No one bothers you. All the worries in the world go away. And it keeps me out of his wife’s hair.”

His upper body keeps him grounded. “I have some old bowls,” he says. “When I get cocky, his wife brings them up and says, ‘Where did you start?!’”

We come from the same place (above).

We came from the same place (side).


Charleson still lives and works on his family’s farm near Great Falls, Montana. The facility, which began as his great-grandfather’s home, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012. The now semi-retired farmer, who grows wheat, barley and peas, spends the slow winter months making pottery and other art, working seven days a week starting in October. . march Although nearly all the pieces featured on his website are for sale, Charleson is a popular cowboy who attends his Christmas show every year in Las Vegas during his National His Final Rodeo. We are bringing in 40 new works. In addition to the special pieces created for Russell, Rich also sells pieces at the Great His Western Show in Great Falls during his Western Art Week.

south of Colorado.

Reflecting on his artistic journey and the fact that his work is now in the homes of collectors around the world, Charleson describes this second act in terms of the creative process itself. “I come up with a design, sit down and start creating. Once I start, it’s an adventure.”

And if it hadn’t been for that hailstorm some 40 years ago, he might never have set sail.

Makin Trucks

This article will appear in the January 2024 issue.

Russell’s exhibition and sales event takes time. Will be held as part of Western in March 2024 Art Week in Great Falls, Montana.for Click here to learn more about Rich Charlesons art, visit

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