Sandzén in Colorado, a nearly 80-piece exhibition of paintings, drawings and photographs by expressionist painter Birger Sandzén, is just a little more proof that you don't have to be a native to consider Colorado home.
Opening Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, this retrospective follows the artistic blossoming of Sandzén, a Swede born in 1871 who later immigrated to Lindsborg, Kan., and from there traveled to Colorado almost every summer from 1908 to 1952 to paint. He never built a house on the Front Range, but its shapes, colors and spaces had plenty of influence on his development and lasting impact as a highly regarded landscape artist.
"Sandzén really came into full fruition as an artist with his Colorado work," says Blake Milteer, the FAC's museum director, who notes that Sandzén also spent two summers teaching landscape painting at the Broadmoor Art Academy, the precursor to the FAC.
"He said that he'd been in many places, but that there's none that adapted itself any more to his desires than Colorado. Sandzén captured the colors of the landscape and the forms of the landscape in a way no other painter who's found his way through this region has."
Use of expressive color is a common theme with Sandzén. David Yust, a professor of painting at Colorado State University (and a panelist at the FAC's Sept. 30 members preview), spent much of one childhood summer working with Sandzén in his Lindsborg studio. He points to color as the key to Sandzén's draw.
"He is an example of someone who is absolutely supreme with his use of color. So many artists use color in their works — printmakers, painters, textile designers, sculptors — but working with color is not the same as being a colorist," Yust says, referring to artists whose trademark is the use of vibrant hues in their work.
And that this state was his muse means a lot to Coloradans, artists, natives and visitors alike.
"I didn't grow up here," says Milteer. "A lot of us, we came here by choice because there's something about this place that draws us here and keeps us here. This is an artist who not only passed through Colorado, but spent time and influenced the arts right here, where we stand."