(This story was first published in the March 8, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
|Dan Gottsegen’s painting ‘The Wisdom of Birds’ is a prop on a popular television show.
By Dillon Walsh, Standard Correspondent
Almost every Thursday night, Dan Gottsegen’s work is on display in 20 million homes.
Gottsegen’s painting “The Wisdom of Birds” hangs in one of the apartments of a main character (Penny) on the popular television show “The Big Bang Theory.”
Represented by the Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery in Shelburne, Gottsegen’s work can be seen everywhere from the pediatric wing of the Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital to the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden. Gottsegen, a Hartland resident since 2001, says he often has work in galleries in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston and London — where he’ll sell pieces or authorize reproductions of his work.
This was the case in 2005 when producers of “The Big Bang Theory” contacted him about using one of his paintings in the show.
“That one was funny because people from all over the world were contacting me wanting to buy the painting. The painting had sold, and so what I’ve done is decide to sell a few clay prints of it,” Gottsegen said.
He’s received a lot of attention recently for the painting, but Gottsegen has been an accomplished artist his entire life.
“I think that for the past 20 years people decide to study art because it’s a potential career choice,” Gottsegen said. “It’s very different than people who make music or art because they can’t not do it. I was one of those kids.”
Gottsegen attended Brown University and later California College of the Arts where he received his MFA. It was there in California where he would explore nature.
“I would head up into the High Sierra at 10,000 feet alone backpacking on the Pacific Crest and hike off the trails so no one would find me and set up a base camp and spend a week in the High Sierra alone,” Gottsegen said.
Gottsegen’s nature influence deepened during his 12 years spent as a hawk bander in the Marin Headlands across from San Francisco.
“Twenty-thousand hawks, eagles, falcons pass over that point. Twentythree different species within a four month period,” Gottsegen said. “I would spend from the middle of August through December out in a blind every Friday banding these migrating birds.”
In a studio that he built himself, Gottsegen has been working on his art while he explores the Vermont outdoors. Unlike painters who take photographs while in nature, Gottsegen does something different: he uses a video camera.
“It is very difficult for us not to organize imagery when we’re looking at it. If we’re looking through that viewfinder, we’re looking to compose — we can’t help it. That’s what we do,” Gottsegen said. “What that eliminates is sometimes the opportunity, when I’m doing something with multiple images — for images that almost have an accidental quality. If you’re moving a video camera almost arbitrarily, it does it on its own.”
Usually over 100 layers on Photoshop, this intricate process gives Gottsegen a template of multiple overlapping images of video stills taken in both the East and West. During the painting process, Gottsegen says he will then sometimes add additional layers based off his own memories.
|Hartland artist Dan Gottsegen touches up one of his paintings.
Dillon Walsh Photo
“At a certain point, it becomes a conversation between me and the painting. When it’s really happening, I’m seeing where the painting needs to go before I even know it — the painting is telling me,” Gottsegen said.
For Gottsegen, it’s about his art being as ambitious as possible.
“There was something in me. A need to sort of — almost like a grain of sand in an oyster — do something that was difficult to respond to in the painting,” Gottsegen said. “That edge that made the thing deeper and richer.”
Gottsegen frequently collaborates with longtime landscape architect Terry Boyle on public art projects including the City Center Gateway in South Burlington and a piece for the new Vermont State Forensics Lab in Waterbury. Gottsegen and Boyle utilized a company from Los Angeles that they previously collaborated with to make the glass panels for the paintings for the Waterbury structure.
“We did an opening with the two paintings and the glass so it’s a 35-foot diameter circular garden,” Gottsegen said.
The biggest challenge came when Hurricane Irene hit the day before their design deadline, putting the piece on hold.
“It took us some months to get going again and when it did, I said to the committee, ‘I want to do something that will be healing for Waterbury that will include them in this project,’” Gottsegen said.
A solution would come in the form of a donation of bricks from Vermont Brick Company.
“We had a day where everybody in Waterbury and anybody who had been affected by Irene or who had worked in the recovery were invited to come and carve a brick. The bricks now line the walkways into the garden,” Gottsegen said.
After previously teaching in California and at UMass Lowell, Gottsegen teaches an art appreciation course online through a university.
“What I love about it is, it’s a lot of military people and a lot of people who never had access to higher education and they’re mostly business and management and IT-type majors and they have very little art experience,” Gottsegen said. “You’re kind of opening a whole world to them if they’re interested, and that’s really fun.”
Gottsegen’s also a Vermont Arts Council teaching artist, who gives classes periodically at the Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in White River Junction and the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire — where he will be teaching a figure painting in oils and acrylics class May 13 to June 17.
For more on Gottsegen’s art, or to schedule a tour of his studio, visit his website at dangottsegen.com.