Dan Burgette, S.A.A.

Dan Burgette at work

While growing up in Indiana, fishing trips and hikes in neighboring woods were important in shaping who I became. After earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Conservation from Purdue University, a career as a national park ranger allowed me to stay close to nature. Over two decades living in Grand Teton National Park, with significant time spent climbing mountains and hiking in wilderness, deepened my appreciation of the natural world.

Birds hold a special attraction for nature lovers. Their color, motion and songs enliven our world. Upon studying individual species, amazing facts are learned.

The sight and hearing ability of owls, the olfactory abilities of vultures, the range of niches that birds fill that affect natural systems such as the symbiosis between jays and pines, their quick evolutionary changes responding to environmental changes, the incredible flight capabilities of hummingbirds and albatrosses, and the speed of peregrine falcons and white-throated swifts all reinforce the sense of wonder.

Birds have been the subjects of artists for millennia. I was first motivated to try carving after seeing a duck decoy. My first effort was a canvasback that I carved with my tomahawk while talking to tourists during my living history duties at George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in 1980. From that crude beginning, I have learned a lot about birds.

The interpretive style attracts me because it leaves a lot for the viewer to add to the piece. This is especially effective when trying to depict the wonder of flight. The ability of birds to float, swoop and dive through the atmospheric vapors is a wonder. The swirling grain in redwood and cedar helps me imagine the swirling molecules that were disturbed by the passing bird. I am exploring the illusion of motion using carved and found wood, forged metal and sculpted rock.