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

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd