Through the month of July, the Central Utah Art Center is displaying an exhibition entitled Open Secret:Undisclosed Works of Kent Wing, Alex Bigney, Frank McEntire. In this month’s edition of 15 Bytes, Frank McEntire spotlights his fellow exhibitors.
Alex Bigney was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Both of Bigney’s parents were first-generation U.S. citizens. His father grew up in a small village in Nova Scotia, Canada, and his mother was the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants. Both parents brought to the family the folklore and culture of their native homelands. The Celtic and Slavic traditions of his parents have had a commanding influence on the person, and artist, he has become.
Bigney’s New England home also had a great power over him. The thickly wooded landscape, the lush plant life, and the powerful ocean filled his mind with their earthly living energy. The legacy of generations of Native American and colonizing Europeans developed in Bigney a similar love for the human energy of the area.
These influences combined to develop Bigney’s inspiration for his early years of painting. In 1970, Bigney enrolled at Brigham Young University and moved to Utah. The open spaces and naked landscape of Utah were new experiences for him. Gone were the preformed images that had carried him through the creative process. Now Bigney was faced with an empty stage waiting for him to formulate and develop his own images.
In 1971, Bigney took two years to serve as a missionary in Italy. He returned again to Italy in 1974 and many times thereafter. Through his experiences there he incorporated its culture, language, and history into his artworks. In 1976, Bigney moved permanently to Utah, where its desert landscape helps him focus on the visions and dreams that inhabit his pictures.
All of the influences that formed what is at present Bigney’s inspiration do not completely explain why he paints. That can best be explained by a childhood experience he had while growing up in New England. He was visiting a countryside park in a meadow surrounded by thick New England trees. Around the perimeter of the meadow were paintings of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, a Catholic tradition. The paintings themselves have long escaped Bigney’s memory; however, the way each painting marked the route of park visitors who paused briefly at each one has left an indelible mark upon him. His own paintings serve a similar function. They are markers for the path of his own life and also remain as what he calls a “healing residue,” a by-product of self-discovery.
Frank McEntire is a sculptor, independent curator, and arts administrator and former executive director of the Utah Arts Council and art critic for The Salt Lake Tribune.
Categories: Artist Profiles | Visual Arts
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