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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Sandzén's world

You'll see 'love for God's creation'

Our Lutheran tradition has produced and nourished a rich mix of cultural contributors. One notable artist from the early 20th century is Swedish-American painter and printmaker Birger Sandzén (pronounced Sandzane), who died in 1954.

Emigrating from Sweden in 1894,Sandzén accepted an offer to teach at Bethany College, a Lutheran school in Lindsborg, Kan., whose founding president, Carl Swensson, had a "dream of bringing culture to the prairies." Sandzen's works hang in museums worldwide, but the largest collection remains in Lindsborg's Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery.

James Kaplan, who teaches languages at Moorhead [Minn.] State University, is a serious Sandzén fan and collector. He says he's often "made the pilgrimage to Lindsborg — a transcendent experience." This summer, through Sept.10, the Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead is presenting an exhibit of Sandzén prints from Kaplan's growing collection.

Kaplan says he's attracted to Sandzén because "in a world of cubism, surrealism, abstraction, a world of wars, devastation and turmoil, the art of Sandzén stands forth most clearly as an affirmation of serenity, respect and love for God's creation." The artist's depictions of nature, his most frequent subject, express "an ideal world," Kaplan says.

Sandzén's rugged and dramatic prints incorporate techniques he invented, such as using a nailhead on a woodblock. Other media in the exhibit include lithographs, linoleum block prints, drypoint and woodcuts.

If your summer travels take you anywhere near Moorhead or Lindsborg, use the opportunity to become acquainted with this quintessential artist of the immigrant experience, who saw in the American landscape the realization of his religious ideals. For more information about the Rourke Museum exhibit call (218) 236-8861; or the Sandzen Memorial Gallery, call (785) 227-2220; or go to www.sandzen.org.


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