Winter 2012

“Every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction. The dance of Shiva is the dancing universe, the ceaseless flow of energy going through an infinite variety of patterns that melt into one another. For the modern physicists, then Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter…a continual dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomenon.” ~ Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, pp. 241-245

 

The Hindu deity Shiva, in his Nataraja manifestation, embodies both the destruction and creation of the cosmos. This great avatar dances in the subtle radioactive rays emitted by my office computer. Almost daily, I see this four-armed god, each arm representing a cardinal direction, under the monitor’s silver Dell logo. At only one and a half inches in height, he stands triumphant with his right foot atop the prostrate dwarf Apasmara Purusha, the demon of ignorance and illusion. His left leg is raised in the air, bent at the knee, and forcefully, yet gracefully pivots towards his right, propelling him in a clockwise direction.

As Shiva Nataraja twirls with one revolution,* he fills his lungs with the fiery wind of his fierce spinning, ignited by the ball of flame thrown from his upper left hand. In so doing, he destroys the universe. Then, in the next revolution, he exhales ash from the universe just annihilated. And, with the beating drum held in his upper right hand, its rhythm and pulsating sound of OM from which all languages emerge, he gives birth to new and vast creations that feed on the extinguished inferno’s nutritious cinders—endless cycles of death, birth, and rebirth.

The King of the Cosmic Dance, with his lower left arm outstretched, points his hand towards his upraised left foot as a gesture to the release, or annihilation, of material bondage and the destruction of our imperfections, bad habits, and self-defeating attachments. Once overcome, the ensuing creation emerges, a transformed universe of beauty and wonder where divine qualities inherent in each individual are restored and opportunities for joy, peace, knowledge, and spiritual advancement are universally available.

Shiva Nataraja’s dance has been a poignant jig for me these past few months and why I’ve spent a bit of time on it here. I recently exhibited Spontaneous Memorial, an installation at the Springville Museum of Art designed to help us reflect on the significance of 9/11 and the ensuing ten years of war, continuing still. There has been much destruction during this decade with tens of thousands of lives lost and maimed and enough of the country’s treasure spent to easily thrust the nation into bankruptcy – morally and financially. I keep wondering when/if the “rejuvenation” cycle of Shiva’s cosmic reel kicks in?

* The duration of these cycles of decay and rejuvenation, which last hundreds of thousands of years each, is explained by my old spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in this purport about Lord Brahma: http://bhagavadgitaasitis.com/8/17/en1.

For information about how Spontaneous Memorial started, please refer to this pdf document. Reviews and other information are found here and in my posts for September/October 2010, March 2010, and October 2009.

Prior to installing Spontaneous Memorial, and between work as curator of Final Light: V. Douglas Snow in Retrospect, I exhibited:

  • New prints, augmented with existing sculptural works, at Terra Nova Gallery in Provo (see here).
  • Works from my reli ? QUERIES series at Nox Contemporary in Salt Lake City. Here are reviews. In conjunction with the exhibition, I published a chap book, The Destructible Object, with essays by Scott Abbott (see an example of the book shown here with Abbott’s essay titled: “The Other Side of the Limit” ), Alex Caldiero, Jay Heuman, David Gagon, and Geoff Wichert. It received an Arty Award from The City Weekly. What few books are left can be purchased through Ken Sanders Rare Books.
  • Next year is starting to take shape. I’ve received an invitation by Nox Contemporary to curate an exhibition of works by a minimalist sculptor well known in the Rocky Mountain Region that I’ve titled, “When the Bronze Cools: Works by Neil Hadlock.”
  • Another invitation came from my representative gallery, David Ericson Fine Art, for a solo exhibition in the fall.
  • I’m still hoping to move my studio to the two conjoining bays at the end of the building, doubling my work space. I don’t intend, however, to give up the semi-trailer behind the building used for storage, just off the loading dock. It’s difficult for me to make works from found objects if I can’t find them in the chaos of studio life. More space will help keep a modicum of order.
  • Most importantly, foundational to all of my work is the support I receive from Marjorie and our five children and their families and the encouragement, ideas, and flack from a great bevy of friends.
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Summer 2011 UPDATE

Nox Contemporary in Salt Lake City will host a second artist’s reception for reli ▪ QUERIES, July 15, 2011, 6-9 p.m. The gallery is located at 440 South 400 West, Suite H (www.noxcontemporary.com).

In conjunction with the exhibition, I published a chapbook, The Broken Object and Other Essays: the Sculptural Work of Frank McEntire. City Weekly’s art critic, Brian Staker, posted an article about reli ▪ QUERIES in its June 13, 2011 issue. It can be read at http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/article-14116-frank-mcentire-reli-queries.html and here

Hope to see you on the 15th!

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Summer 2011

What started as “HOLY MOLY!” finished as “reli ? QUERIES.” Perhaps the earlier exhibition concept—playful, hokey, and humorous—will find a venue as a product of warmer revelry than one of the longest, gray-cast winter seasons I’ve encountered that just passed—less conducive to conjuring works of “sprightly dance” (Daffodils, William Wordsworth, 1804 http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Poetry/WordsworthDaffodils.htm

THE WORK

rel·i·quar·ies containers in which sacred objects are kept.
quer·ies inquiries about obscure or challenging issues.
rel·i·quer·ies containers for obscure or challenging inquiries.

Discarded religious objects become “stand-ins” for social values in my work. These juxtapositions and configurations exploit the imagery of world religions as commentary on contemporary issues, often with subtle humor. Although my assemblages and other works are personal explorations of societal issues and spirituality, they nonetheless challenge a viewer’s own beliefs and assumptions. In the process, they, too, become participants in creative practice.

“reli ▪ QUERIES,” my exhibition at Nox Contemporary in Salt Lake City, opening June 15th through August 6th, is a collection of recent works based on the idea of reliquaries as containers in which sacred, as well as secular, objects are kept.

This cross-cultural notion of providing a dedicated space for placing the most venerated items of a people has been one of my long-term fascinations. I find the making of reliquaries, a term I’m using in a general sense, an interesting aspect of human behavior and catalyst for spiritual imagination.

Our impulse to preserve—even revere—something precious, antique, or rare by capturing and containing it crosses many cultures, although the term is derived from mid-1600s Medieval Latin, reliquiarium. It is not the sole domain of religion, either. Consider China cabinets in many western homes in which owners place family heirlooms and some of the family’s most precious objects, trophy cases that line high school hallways filled with gleaming awards collected over decades, government buildings that house statues and memorabilia of founders of nations, and museums that collect and display natural history specimens or the creative products of cultures’ most agile minds through the centuries.

reli ▪ QUERIES explores the questions behind that impulse to hold something so sacred or venerable that people try to capture and contain its power, whether in a glass box or glass building. That’s the ‘query’ part of this body of work, the political, the moral, the numinous.

15 Bytes, Utah’s premier arts e-zine, released their June 2011 issue in the early hours of June 3rd. In it was an exhibition preview of “reli ▪ QUERIES” by Geoff Wichert. It can be found here: http://artistsofutah.org/15bytes/11june/page3.html and below. 15 Bytes also published a few images of works in the exhibition.

15 Bytes
Exhibition Preview: Salt Lake
reliQueries

Frank McEntire at Nox Contemporary
by Geoff Wichert

http://artistsofutah.org/15bytes/11june/page3.html

Frank McEntire is the rare courageous artist for whose aesthetic mill everything is grist. He overlooks nothing, even the clouds of language, abstract words, that trail his artwork until they eventually burn off under the heat of gallery lights. Left behind are exquisite objects originally encountered as discards. McEntire transforms this raw material, its former meaning dissipated like vapor, into talismans: reinvigorated vessels filled by, and with, his faith. And his faith is uncompromising, encompassing the recognition that we humans spend too much time living by symbols, arguing over symbols, fighting on what we think is behalf of symbols, and not nearly enough time in touch with the transcendental facts these symbols set out to represent.

reliQueries, the title of his upcoming show at Nox Contemporary, is an example of Frank McEntire’s hunger to refashion whatever he finds, not just lending it a new purpose, but refurbishing it, using his skill to bring out the craftsmanship that went into its original construction. Reliquaries are sturdy, albeit precious vessels that derive a transient value from the rich materials and skill employed in their making, but acquire their lasting value from their originally mundane, carnal contents: a fragment of skeleton, a scrap of textile, something left behind. In his assemblages, McEntire seeks to find and set forth the limit of exchange between sacred value and secular price. In an overwhelmingly materialistic age, when the street corner preacher is as likely as a broker to advocate material goals, when investment and accumulation are considered equivalent to prayer, Frank McEntire challenges us to distinguish price from value.

To do this requires courage because no object, least of all one of veneration, ever entirely loses its power over holder and beholder alike. In an age of insecurity, no one is allowed to disrespect anything that someone, somewhere, once respected. We decline to throw out the bath for fear of accidentally discarding the baby, and so our world of discourse has gradually filled up with bathwater. Abraham Lincoln said, “As our situation is new, so we must think anew and act anew, and then we shall save our nation.” But it often seems we cannot do anything anew, so crowded is our public space with mental furniture we cannot use, but lack the clear judgment and decisiveness to move aside and stride past.

The service that McEntire performs is to burn away the excesses of piousness, especially where they cross the line into material expression that lend themselves to misunderstanding, that tend to stick around beyond their useful life, in order to let the real experience emerge. His works function on two levels simultaneously, at once representing objects on which reverence can be focused, and at the same time calling the attention of the reverent to the transfer. “Be aware that this memento is not the experience it memorializes, any more than a photograph of a loved one is what one loves.” At their best, the mechanism by which Frank McEntire’s art accomplishes this double duty, connects this double awareness, is laughter.

reli*QUERIES, an exhibition of new work by Frank McEntire opens at Nox Contemporary in Salt Lake on June 17. A reception for a second installation of the exhibit will happen Friday, July 15. Through August 6.

15 Bytes also published an article I wrote about Ursula Brodhauf, who died in May 2011. The e-zione’s chief editor, Shawn Rossiter, once told me that I’ve become somewhat of a eulogist, since many of the artists I’ve written about in the past are now passing on. Those older pieces get dusted off, updated a bit, and find their way into 15 Bytes on occasion. Read this piece at, http://artistsofutah.org/15bytes/11june/page5.html

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June 2010

In March, I mentioned that I’ve designed a new look for the portfolio section of this website and been working with Shawn Rossiter to implement those changes. With tremendous effort, time, and skill Shawn made it happen. Please check out the new “Portfolio,” “Galleries,” and “Written Work” layouts, browse through the “News” postings, and take a quick glance at the updated “Resume” in the “Bio” section. Even though there are a few small upgrades yet to be made, you’ll get a full sense of the site.

In other news:

• These two new pieces—”Whisper to Krishna’s Listening Stone” and “Blue Angel, Guardian of the Host Box”— were accepted into the Springville Museum of Art’s 86th Annual Spring Salon.

Whisper to Krishna's Listening Stone

Blue Angel, Guardian of the Host Box

• The project I’m managing with a great team of partners to honor the late V. Douglas Snow is taking shape. It has four components:

– Endowed scholarship as an investment in new generations of talented University of Utah art students.

– Retrospective exhibition and catalog to increase appreciation for one of the West’s most talented painters through personal encounters with original works of art installed simultaneously in September 2011at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and Salt Lake Art Center.

– Elegant, fully-illustrated hardcover fine art book published by the University of Utah Press that will delight and inform Doug’s many admirers and introduce new audiences to his work and to the natural, cultural, and aesthetic qualities of the Colorado Plateau that inspired it.

– Raising $75,000 to ensure the above three parts of the project are fully realized.

•A new body of work is getting underway, one that has been on the back burner for many years. It’s a photographic documentation of site-specific miniature pieces: “Sacred Spaces in Found Urban Places,” to be exhibited with similar altars installed in the gallery space and, hopefully, published in book form.

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April 2011

My friend, Tony Smith, and I meet every Thursday night at the Rio Grande Restaurant. Tony is a former University of Utah art department faculty member I got to know several years back when reviewing an exhibition of his works at the Salt Lake Art Center. We, and a few other regulars, sit at a round table, sip drinks, and swap on-the-spot drawings back and forth, making changes to each others’ work until ordering dinner.

Tony is also a well-know painter throughout the Intermountain West, especially in Utah. Since retiring several years ago, he’s hardly done any painting, spending regular hours daily at his studio, making nimble drawings of whatever strikes his fancy, quite often playful commentary on contemporary society, especially goofy politicians and greedy corporations. Drawing, he said, invites immediate and spontaneous engagement of mind, hand, and paper with whatever media he’s using at the time–pen, pencil, or marker. Some of these works are quite large — others are brief gestures caught on castaway fragments of acid-free paper.

Today I read a Wall Street Journal piece by Ellen Gamerman about an exhibition of Richard Serra’s drawings that just opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Serra’s comments about his practice of drawing reminded me of Tony and his abandonment of painting for drawing, at least for now.

Drawing is “a place where I can get lost and a place where I can throw out work and a place where I don’t have to worry about what it is I’m up to,” Serra said to Gamerman during their interview. Their discussion included a reference to 9/11 and the terrorist attacks. Serra lives by the World Trade Center — the collapse of the Twin Towers and the death of thousands of people so close to his doorstep gave him a sharp perspective on life with “an expectancy,” he said, that “could be snuffed out at any minute. One’s lifespan”, he said, “is a nanosecond, and if you have a contribution to make, you better make it now.”

What better way to spend that nanosecond than with friends, finishing each others’ drawings that we pass around a circular table loaded with chips, salsa, and black bean burritos.

Speaking of circular shapes, “spiraling” is happening at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Curator Jill Dawsey organized an exceptional exhibition, The Smithson Effect, including “sculpture, video, photography, installation, and sound art” by twenty-three contemporary artists influenced by the works and writings of Robert Smithson, best known here for his Spiral Jetty landart piece in the Great Salt Lake. Seeing the exhibition caused me to blow dust off an article I wrote for Sundance several years ago about the Spiral Jetty, found here.

The next exhibition of my work, “HOLY MOLY,” will be in June-July at the Nox Gallery in Salt Lake City. More on it next month.

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February 2009

I’ve been reading a couple of opposite-end-of-the-spectrum books the last few weeks. One is an interview –rant –discussion–style book by Gordon Burn on Damien Hirst (On the Way to Work—Amazon and other book stores) and the other, a dream journal/mystical adventure/art processing introspection by friend and painter, Alex Bigney (Talking to Tesla: The Mirror is the Door—purchase through talkingtotesla.com). Both are thoroughly self-disclosing, more so than I’d ever have the courage to reveal. By chance (if there is such a thing), I came upon a box set in three volumes of the Sotheby’s auction catalog in the Springville Museum’s bookstore for $14 the same week Hirst’s recent works went for bid—$200 million in a down-turn economy. That’s as much a mystery to me as Bigney’s multi-year dream visits with Nikola Tesla.

If you’ve visited this website before, you know it’s been out-of-date for two years. Thanks to Shawn Rossiter for helping me get it back on track and to Mike Anderson and Bryan McEntire who made it happen in the first place

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February/March 2011

2011 is shaping up to be a busy year for the studio with solo exhibitions with Nox Contemporary in June and Springville in September. Also, “Final Light: V. Douglas Snow in Retrospect,” an exhibition I’m curating opens simultaneously at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and Salt Lake Art Center on September 1st.

A friend, Kenvin Lyman, died February 6th. My article on him, Kenvin Lyman: Jammin’ Over the Rainbow (19xx – 2011), is provided here and an abbreviated version was published as a blog for 15 Bytes, and the full article coming in the March.

The studio open house this spring will, hopefully, be in my expanded space at the end of the industrial warehouse I’ve occupied for 10 years—doubled in size to about 2,000 square feet, with the semi-trailer by the back loading dock still loaded. Chaos rules!

In January at the Terra Nova Gallery in Provo, Utah, I installed “The Fifth Glorious Mystery.”

 

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January 2010

To start the new year off with the illusion of an organized manner, I tidied the studio—as much as is possible—and provided photographic evidence of the attempt. The semi-trailer in the back of the studio off the loading dock that I use for storage is not, however, included; it’s somewhat of chaotic disarray since I had to consolidate two trailers into one just before Utah’s “greatest snow on earth” hit. (See other studio photos in my May 2009 posting below and a photographic essay by Kimberly Silcox at 15 Bytes. )

I was fortunate to have been included in six exhibits during 2009 (see below), two being solo, and trust continued activity in 2010.

· Spontaneous Memorial, Gallery 208, Provo, Utah, September – October, 2009 (solo).
· Spring Salon, Springville Museum of Art, Springville, Utah, April – May, 2009.
· Of Silence and Shadow, Pleasant Valley Branch Library, Ogden, Utah, April -July, 2009
· ReAppropriated Passion, Gallery 303, BYU Harris Fine Arts Center, Provo, Utah, June – July, 2009 (solo).
· Off the Shelf: Urban Artifacts, Art Access Gallery, Salt Lake City, Utah, June – July, 2009.
· The Truth of Abstraction, Patrick Moore Gallery, Salt Lake City, Utah, April – May, 2009.

As for upcoming writing ventures, there are two at my door, one in support of a probable retrospective exhibit of works by V. Douglas Snow that I’ve been asked curate: an exhibit catalog and an art book. The other is an article for 15 Bytes about being a small business art studio owner and receipt of an audit invitation (summons) from the Internal Revenue Service.

 

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December 2010

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September/October 2010

com·mem·o·ra·tion

noun
1. The act of honoring the memory of or serving as a memorial to someone or something.
2. Something that honors or preserves the memory of another.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Commemorations, we have many in U.S. history, such as:

  • July 4, 1776 – Declaration of Independence.
  • May 6, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln declares a state of insurrection in the southern states, the beginning of the Civil War, ending April 9, 1865.
  • June 1865 – Juneteenth, a nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery.
  • December 24, 1814 – United States and Britain sign the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.
  • February 2, 1848 – Mexico and the United States sign the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican-American War, with the U.S. gaining what are now California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
  • April 6, 1917 – The United States enters World War I on the side of the Allies, ending November 11, 1918.
  • October 29, 1929 – The New York Stock Market crashes signaling the start of the Great Depression.
  • December 7, 1941 – Japanese forces attack the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor bringing the U.S. into World War II, ending September 2, 1945 after the first atomic weapons were used by the U.S. on Japanese civilian populations a month earlier.
  • June 25, 1950 – North Korea invades South Korea, starting the Korean War.
  • November 1, 1955 – A Cold War conflict begins in Vietnam, the war ends on January 27 with a peace treaty.
  • February 1, 1992 – Cold War officially ends when the United States and Russia sign a treaty.
  • April 19, 1995 – The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is bombed by domestic terrorists.
  • September 11, 2001 – Four airliners are hijacked and used as weapons as they are flown into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashes in southern Pennsylvania before reaching its presumed White House target in Washington, D.C.
  • October 7, 2001 – Airstrikes begin in Afghanistan as part of a global War on Terrorism.
  • March 20, 2003 – Iraq is invaded.
  • August 29, 2005 – Hurricanes Katrina strikes the Louisiana coast region.
  • And so many more leading to the present.

These events, of course, are but a few that receive some sort of national commemorative notice. More personal commemorations include Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, birthdays and wedding anniversaries, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Cinco de Mayo, Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, and Kwanzaa. Some commemorations may be more whimsical, such as special days set aside for New Year’s (Chinese or otherwise), Groundhog’s Day, the super bowl, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Oscar night, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day, and National Fruitcake Day.

Artists have always commemorated events—some offer accolades while others criticize our cultural preoccupation with conformity. September 11th now provides a platform for artistic expression. Sculptors have erected heroic-sized bronze statues, musicians have written and performed symphonies, and other artists have created plays, movies, novels, and poems, all inspired by the event.

A friend of mine recently said that after nine years, she has tired of the ubiquitous commemorative activities and fanfare that surround 9/11, although sympathetic to the victims and outraged by the warring aftermath. Although not a national holiday, it may in the next generation or two diminish into a historical date on the calendar without much emotional attachment, perhaps like the Ides of March or May Day are to most of today’s twenty-somethings.

Just as 9/11 has staked a claim in American history, other events will emerge to claim our attention and emotions. Several may be jubilant, like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech during the Civil Rights era, and others will be tragic, like the wars and natural disasters noted above.

“Spontaneous Memorial,” the progressive 9/11 commemorative installation I began assembling in 2004 and exhibited annually since then, is shown this year at Gallery 54. The gallery is in my Kearns, Utah, studio building, itself a relic of World War II—a warehouse staging area. The works I chose to present are sparse and intimate in scale, in contrast to next year when the entire work with its many components will be, for the last time, installed at the Springville Museum of Art.

Below are a few examples of works on display: some are new and not yet professionally photographed for the “Portfolio” section of this website.

For more 9/11 images and information, please refer to my posts for March 2010 and September 2009 and to the “Portfolio” section where “Spontaneous Memorial” is featured.

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