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TeacherLore

Raphael Cristy coming to Society to talk Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell impersonator, historian, and now author Raphael Cristy will speak at the Montana Historical Society Monday (Nov. 15) at noon about his new book “Charles M. Russell: The Storyteller’s Art.?

“We are very pleased to have Raphael back in Montana. All of the magic that he created with his first-person Russell show over the years that he performed in Helena and elsewhere, has been transformed into a great new book that uses his art and his words to better define Russell’s place in western art,? Society Store Manager Richard Boyd said.

Byron Price, director of the C.M. Russell Center for the Study of Art, calls the new book “a welcome departure from the usual biographies and coffee table volumes on Russell and his art.?

“Cristy deals with an important, yet relatively unexplored, aspect of the career of one of the most influential interpreters of the American West,? Price said.

As a special bonus, the Society Museum will be open free of admission from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. that day. The Museum normally is closed on Mondays, but the Museum Store remains open through Christmas on Mondays.

The new book is divided into four general categories of Russell’s writings: serious Indian stories, men encountering wildlife, cattle range characters, and nineteenth-century westerners facing twentieth-century challenges.

Since he moved his family from California to Montana in 1985 and developed his popular “Charlie Russell Yarns? show, Cristy has delved deeply into both the art and the writings of Russell to dawn his Russell hat and sash and step into the boots of the famed Montana cowboy artist.

“Although Russell’s published stories might not match the artistic accomplishments of his paintings and sculptures, the synthesis of many cultural elements in his writings can outweigh the frozen moment of information embedded in specific pieces of his fine art,? Cristy said.

The book uses 143 Russell illustrations as well as his published books, articles, personal letters, and other archival information that Cristy has turned into a lifework project.

“At first glance, Charlie Russell appeared to be a gifted fine artist who also happened to amuse his family, friends and associates with an endless fount of stories and anecdotes about life in the West,? Cristy said.

But as his knowledge of Russell increased, Cristy said, “On closer consideration, however, he behaved more like a storyteller first and foremost, who shared insightful moments of cultural history as well as memorable characters through several narrative disciplines.?

Christi received his bachelor’s degree in English literature at Stanford, an MA in American history at the University of Montana, and most recently his Ph.D in American history at the University of New Mexico. The book is partly based on his Ph.D thesis, and he now resides in Albuquerque.

“We have been fortunate over the years to watch Raphael’s career blossom from a colorful entertainer to an acknowledged historian of the West,? Boyd said. “We hope that his many fans and supporters will show up to thank him for his work on this new book.?

The 347-page book is available only in hardbound for $45. Cristy will be available to autograph copies of this first edition, which will be available in the Society Museum Store.
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