The eye behind the lens |

The eye behind the lens

Wren Wertin
Don Galgan/MK edit

Walk into the Eagle Library’s community room, and you’ll learn a lot about the sort of things that trip Don Galgan’s imagination. Windows, doors, endless Western landscapes, light and shadows – these are the stuff of inspiration for the photographer, painter, and realtor.

Galgan’s work will be on display through the end of the month.

By his own admission, some of his biggest influences were the artists who were painting at the beginning of the century in Taos and Santa Fe.

“They started creating a picture of the West,” he said. “And these artists probably had a lot to do with the cowboy movies of the ’20s, the scenery in the film. I think they had an influence on how the rest of the world perceived the West.”

The American West has always been synonymous with possibility, adventure and that pioneer’s spirit. It’s worked its magic on countless artists, Galgan included. Much of his art depicts those broad landscapes, sometimes peopled with a lone cowboy going about his business. The red hills and blue skies seem to stretch forever.

There’s always a bit of Galgan in his work, be they photographs or paintings. He’s taken his cue from Edward Steichen, a contemporary of Steiglitz.

“What he would do, that I unthinkingly try to do myself, is take a photo how (the scene) is, but give it the appearance of what you want,” he explained. “I try to take it as if the lens is like your eye, but I try to print it up as I want to see it in my mind later, how I want to remember it.”

In this way, he’s always a part of his work, whether he’s changed the color of the sky with paints or added a grainy texture in the printing process.

He always begins his paintings with a photograph, and works from them.

“Some photographs stand strongly enough on their own,” he said. “Some photographs capture something even better than a painting.”

One such photo, “Heavy Metal,” depicts a smoking train, steaming on a crisp morning in Idaho Springs. Galgan was on his way to a meeting in Denver when he espied the train from the highway. Clear on his priorities, he made a phone call explaining he’d be tardy.

Another photo, “The Red Door,” was taken in Leadville.

“I think windows and doors always give a lot of insight into what’s in the house, the eye of the house,” he said. “That red door in Leadville, it’s one of the only old things in Leadville that still has warmth, some life to it.”

His photo is warm, too, with an air of mystery.

Galgan has been in Vail since 1974, though he’s been visiting since the early ’60s. He comes from an artistic family, including his mother and a heap of cousins who have pursued everything from screenwriting to photography, whether as a hobby or as a career. He began with a Brownie Box Camera in high school, and scandalized his folks with the amount of film he ran through.

For the artist, putting his work on display isn’t a hard thing to do.

“If I think something is good, I like putting it out for people to enjoy,” he said. “If you do something you like, it’s so much better if you share it with others.”

He’ll be sharing his work through the end of the month. For more information on the artist, visit his exhibition.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.

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