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Holladay Journal

Collector Dan Filler helps artists make a viable living

Jul 13, 2020 12:30PM ● By Sona Schmidt Harris

Dan Filler favors cityscapes, and several of them decorate the walls. Painting by James Randle. (Sona Schmidt-Harris/City Journals)

By Sona Schmidt-Harris | [email protected]

It all began when Dan Filler was 17 years old. He was a student at a Catholic secondary school when he saw a painting that one of his instructors, Brother Nicholas, had created. Filler paid $20 for the painting. 

Thus began his lifelong acquisition of art.

“It's taken me 30 years to actually collect this one,” Filler says, pointing to a painting in an impeccably kept living room. The painting is by Trent Call, a graduate with a BFA from the University of Utah.

“You can see his pencil drawing here, like this chair—and even here, you know—where he just kind of left it alone,” Filler said. He goes on to indicate that a similar effect was used on bottles in the painting. “He just left them drawn in there; they are not painted.”

Someare born with it, and some are not—the ability to discern fine art.  Filler was born with it.

He then moves to the opposite wall of the living room and points to a bright, floral explosion. It is a painting by Kent Wallis.

“This is rather unusual for his work—an abstract like this. Usually when you think of Kent Wallis, you think of, you know, pretty cottages with flowers and hollyhocks and that kind of thing,” he said. “And so, I think an abstract floral thing for him might have been earlier in his career.” 

Filler is animated when describing the art he loves so much. A senior claim representative for years, he is now retired and lives with his wife Devra in Holladay.

He points out a painting by James Randle, another Utah artist. Randle’s style has been referred to as “Urban Realism” or by author Gretchen Pahia as “Urban Art with a Heart.” Filler favors cityscapes, and several of them decorate the walls.

The love of art permeates the family. His daughter Katie married local artist, Troy Forbush. He shares a studio space with other artists in South Salt Lake.  

“This we're pretty proud of,” Filler says pointing to a painting by Forbush. “It is a portrait of Katie. He did a whole series of portraits for a show.” Katie, an attorney, gazes out at onlookers, grand-eyed and serene. 

Filler owns several Forbush paintings including Bob Dylan album covers and a replica of “The Goldfinch” about which a book and movie were made. The original “Goldfinch” was painted by Dutch artist Carel Fabritius and signed in 1654.

“That’s a Thomas Elmo Williams (from Helper, Utah). He likes that 1930’s Depression-era look,” Filler said. He points out paintings done in warm colors, mostly browns and golds. The subjects seem to be involved in some sort of work or looking for work.

He also shows paintings from David Ritchey Johnsen and Steve Larson.

Filler has no formal art education and it seems difficult to believe.

Remember the first painting Filler ever bought from Brother Nicholas? Well, there’s more to the story.

“I started thinking back about Nicholas and you know, I felt like I had taken advantage of him,” Filler said. “I tracked him down, and he was retired, still living as a Christian brother in an enclave in Santa Fe, New Mexico.” Filler then made a donation to the Christian enclave explaining to Brother Nicholas what had happened so many years ago.

Only a true lover of art would do such a thing—and maybe, just a great guy.