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Bucky on Parade feature: Dan Gardiner

May 23, 2018 By Parker Schorr

This summer we will feature a weekly Q&A with an artist who created one of the Bucky on Parade statues on UW’s campus to understand their artistic process, their inspirations, and why they love Bucky.

Buckys: Pucky (By Gordon Dining and Event Center)/ Bucky Alvarez (By Kellner Hall at Camp Randall)

Photo of Bucky Badger as a hockey player in Wisconsin uniform.

Photo of Bucky Badger statue modeled after UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, complete with headset and sunglasses.


Artist: Dan Gardiner

What is your history as an artist? 

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1980 and took a job with the IRS data center in Detroit. I quit after a few years and moved to Green Bay to be near my wife. My father-in-law found me a job at a printing concern, where I designed the 1983 Packer yearbook.

I moved on to a small “wall design” firm. They had secured several contracts to paint graphic wall designs in local nursing homes. I remember during my interview the owner tossed me a photo of a lake scene and asked, “How would you ever paint this image on a large wall?” I took a sharpie and a ruler, drew a grid over his photo, and told him that you just had to transfer the grid to the wall. He looked at me like I was Diego Rivera, and this started my “mural-ing career,” which still keeps me in the clover 30 years to this day.

At one point, I joined an interior design company in Fond du Lac. I worked with five great painters in large studio, traveled all over the country painting murals. Later, me and another laid-off muralist started our own business, and we did some cool stuff – like painting giant fish on the roof of the UW Hospital.

I moved to Madison 10 years ago to work on a “similar to Bucky” zoo animal project. I went from that job to cart-corralling at Home Depot, U-Haul, Kohl’s, Walmart, a janitorial firm, and so on until some art job dropped in my lap. Today I divide my time making torn paper collages, murals, and large paintings – and watching re-runs of “Breaking Bad.”

What inspired you to come up with this take on Bucky?

Well, I did five Buckys. “Pucky” was inspired by my many years as a hockey player.

A hockey stick is attached to Pucky’s paw. CREDIT: DAN GARDINER

What idea or message do you hope people get out of this piece of art?

All my Buckys are hand painted, without a lot of accessories or gimmicks like 15,000 pennies or alumni autographs, so I hope people enjoy looking at brushwork.

What was the process of creating your Bucky like? 

I would generally work at home on collages during the day, take a nap, then spend all night at Dane County Mural Arts building, cranking out Buckys. I just used Sherwin-Williams exterior house paint, and the fun part was hearing that someone liked the result. But, honestly, it was 99 percent labor and 1 percent inspiration.

Of the other Bucky Badgers created, which ones do you like best?

I worked alongside Phil Salamone and Ashley Sheridan and saw the hard work they put in, so I like their creations best.

A close-up of Bucky Alvarez’s ID badge. CREDIT: DAN GARDINER