Paintings set gallery aglow



February 4, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Dramatic lighting brings out the strong colors as well as the delicate brush strokes of the paintings by Kansas artists displayed in the art gallery of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
On loan from the Sandzen Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg, 18 paintings represent the best of Kansas artists.
Included is the impressionist oil painting “In the Garden of the Gods,” by Birger Sandzen, 1871-1954, a founding father of the arts movement in central Kansas and namesake of the gallery.
“Central Kansas is still considered a hub of art,” said Susan Raines, executive director of the Bowlus. “Salina, Hesston, Lindsborg — all have thriving arts communities.”
The exhibit features all original works. Some of the artists have world-renowned fame, including John Steuart Curry, whose “Erosion and Dust” depicts a bleak Kansas day.
Curry is the artist who painted the murals in the state Capitol in Topeka. “Erosion and Dust” is a study for a much larger work that was also intended for the Capitol’s rotunda. Because his murals, including the one of abolitionist John Brown, were considered “menacing” by many of the legislators of the mid 1930s, Curry never completed the project.
Curry is a native of rural Dunavant in Jefferson County. When only 16, he was accepted to study at the Kansas City Art Institute.

SANDZEN WAS as devoted to Kansas as he was to art.
A native of Blidsberg, Sweden, he emigrated to Kansas in 1894 when he signed on at Bethany College to teach languages and also serve in the art and vocal music departments.
He became the principal art instructor in 1899, retiring in 1946.
He continued to paint prolifically until his death in 1954. He had in excess of 2,600 oil paintings, 500 watercolors and collections of lithographs, block prints and drypoints.
His works are found in every major Kansas art museum as well as museums and galleries across the nation.
He refused many permanent positions at more prestigious institutions because of his dedication to Bethany College and Lindsborg.
Many of the artists featured in the Bowlus show were either students or on faculty at Bethany College.
The exhibit is here until March 10. The Bowlus secured the exhibit through a $500 bequest from the Sleeper Trust and Emprise Bank.
The gallery will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, plus during evening events such as “Tap Kids” and “In The Mood,” and  from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday Feb. 21.

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