Big Country

Born in Sweden, the transitional early-twentieth-century painter Birger Sandzén came to the United States expecting to be here only a few years. But instead, he settled in Lindsborg, Kansas, a small town with a reputation for being a “Little Sweden,” where he taught and later ran the art department at Bethany College. Denverite Joshua Hassel, who’s previously produced film documentaries on San Francisco artist Rex Ray and Colorado muralist Allen True, first became interested in Sandzén when he saw the artist’s colorful, impastoed landscapes at David Cook Galleries; Sandzén frequently summered in Colorado, painting the scenery around Estes Park and Colorado Springs. It inspired Hassel to tell the artist’s story on film, first traveling to the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg, and later following Sandzén’s footsteps in Sweden.

“He was a unique artist, and he was not afraid of color — he really went for it,” Hassel notes. “He really fell in love with the States, and found himself as an artist when he saw the mountains; some say he discovered a link between impressionism and abstraction. He lived all his life in an isolated part of the country, but he still made something of himself. He was very influential, and his work got out there. He showed in all the big cities.”

Learn all about it when Hassel’s finished documentary, Sandzén: Ecstasy of Color, premieres tonight at 6 p.m. and again at 11 p.m. on Channel 12, offering an alternative to holiday hoopla for folks done in by Christmas dinner and ready to cocoon; Hassel says it won’t be seen again by the public until screenings in Lindsborg next spring.
Sat., Dec. 25, 6 & 11 p.m., 2010

 
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