West Valley artist Frank McEntire is in Ephraim tonight as part of Snow College’s ongoing series of Art Talks. Students and visitors will have the opportunity to hear McEntire talk about his artistic practice, and they’ll be able to view that practice made flesh (or rather metal or plastic as is often the case) at the Snow College Art Gallery, which is hosting a 20-year retrospective of the artist’s work entitled Plurality. Curator Adam Larsen writes:

The iconic immediacy of Frank McEntire’s work implies blasphemous intentions—or does it? Employing the process of assemblage to alter the context of religious relics and reconfiguring the intended use of obsolete secular artifacts, McEntire creates commentary on social and spiritual issues. Through artistic disclosure, biographical background, and utilizing an educated approach, these complex works not only exists as tantalizing visual experiences but as sophisticated vestiges—void of sacrilege and holistically impartial to any singular religious affiliation.

selected installation views of Snow College’s Plurality, a 20-year retrospective of work by Frank McEntire, courtesy Adam Larsen.

In the pages of 15 Bytes we’ve been avid followers of McEntire’s work and have commented on it frequently. The plural pronoun “we” is appropriate because McEntire’s inventive and multi-layered assemblage work has attracted a number of our writers over the years, and on the occasion of this exhibition we thought we might excerpt from some of our articles.

In February of 2005, Alex Caldiero discussed McEntire’s work in conjunction with an exhibition at Utah State University. He had long watched McEntire incorporate the physical representation of various religious rituals in his assemblages, and wondered what role ritual played in McEntire’s process:

And so recently . . . I asked again: “What are the rituals that inform your work and do you perform them?” This time his response was simple and direct: the very act of going to garage sales, antique and junk shops, salvage yards, and dumps “gathering and bringing the objects together” for him is the ritual. People are often asked by him to offer an object of their own to an installation, or the way they are guided thru the space by the placing of the various pieces, for Frank constitute the ritual performance.

It is ritual free of dogma and is nondenominational; ritual brought back to its primal roots: the human need to respond to the ineffable.

Read the full article here.

Later that year, Caldiero, a language and performance artist,  performed at the opening night of another of McEntire’s exhibit, Small Acts of Devotion, at David Ericson Fine Art. Allen Bishop was attracted to the exhibit, and in a review in our November edition, analyzed a number of the pieces, including his favorite, “Seedling,” which makes an appearance in the Snow retrospective.

A personal favorite is “Seedling,” a hand-made European horse plow with steel spikes angling back from the blade. Placed on the ground between the blade and the wheel is a small Salt Lake Temple. With earthbound, environmental overtones, the piece suggests that religious forms are intended as outward symbols of a growing inner reality. Our seedling inner temple requires hard cultivation to become a selfless spirituality that honors the needs of future generations. The aggressive steel plow towers over the tiny ceramic temple, and evokes the realities of a tough mortality, rather than the easy platitudes of a trendy sermon.

Read the full article here.

In 2004 McEntire began exhibiting Spontaneous Memorial, an evolving installation that he continued amplifying and exhibiting through September 2011. For the third installation in 2006, Kasey Boone wrote:

The exhibit evokes more the process of memorialization itself than it does the memorialized. Most of the portraits are cut in such a way that the full text cannot be read, and many are obscured by McEntire’s paint drippings. The spontaneity happens in the moment when the patrons (different in every location, changed by every year) join the act of memorializing. The meaning of the event is not a fact to be read in a book or obituary; the meaning is the event itself, what each person brings to the remembering of the tragedy. This way it becomes an installation of the human spirit, constructed, yes, around a specific event, but, through its evocation of the process of memorializing, remembers all events of tragedy. Anything more personal, anything more memorialized of the locale and the people in New York and Washington would, considering the physical and emotional distance of being in the intermountain West, seem somehow opportunistic and detached.

Read the full article here.

When McEntire installed the exhibit for the final time Shawn Rossiter spoke with him about its evolution:

As he installed Spontaneous Memorial for the last time McEntire says he was conscious what coverage of the event has done to its memory. “Every time I’ve turned on news channels or read a newspaper or magazine this past few weeks, there’s been 9/11 coverage. An out-of-state art dealer friend told me a year ago that she was tired of such coverage.” So, saturation, McEntire, says, was of some concern. “My interest, however, has been to explore ‘memorial’ not only as a way to remember an historical event and honor the dead, but also as a form or artistic expression in itself.” With Spontaneous Memorial, he’s accomplished all three.

Read the full article here.

In addition to the annual exhibitions of Spontaneous Memorial, McEntire has been extremely active in exhibiting new works locally and nationally. Geoff Wichert wrote about his exhibit at BYU in 2009, and again on his exhibit at Nox Contemporary in June 2011:

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.

Read the full article here.

And Ann Poore said that in his most recent exhibit, at David Ericson in September 2012, McEntire “hit it out of the ballpark”:

You’ve been hearing “hit it out of the ballpark” a lot lately in the political arena so I hesitate to apply the phrase to an art show, but Frank McEntire really has done it with The God Particle at David Ericson Fine Art. It’s a gem of an exhibit in a jewel box of a setting and, even if you’ve seen Frank’s work before, you shouldn’t miss this. An old Victorian parlor proves, oddly, to be the perfect place to showcase his recent quirky and contemporary assemblage pieces orchestrated to a new and newsy scientific theme. It really took my breath away and I confess to being a friend who has seen and admired Frank’s work over a lot of years. This show is stellar.

Read the full article here.

So, over the years we’ve given you plenty of opinions on Frank McEntire’s work. See what you think about through February 15th at the Snow College Art Gallery.

Frank McEntire’s Art Talk is tonight, January 24 at 7 pm in the Karen Hunstman Library Auditorium of Snow College. The event is free and open to the public. Plurality, a 20-year retrospective of work by Frank McEntire is at the Snow College Art Gallery through February 15.