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.
Kent Wing was born close to the Mexican border in the small southwest desert town of Douglas, Arizona, a place not known for high-art culture. From this place, however, would come one of the region’s most gifted painters.
As the youngest of seven children, Wing’s parents were more the age of his peer’s grandparents. His father was born the year Cezanne died (1906) and he was born the year Matisse died (1954) – a span that progressed through most of the 20th century. Although neither parent had much formal education, they were heavily invested in learning through reading, with a personal library of over 2,000 books that spanned such subjects as history, philosophy and religion.
When Wing was very young, he began to explore the richness of the family library and spent a lot of time looking at and copying pictures from the Italian Renaissance and later reading a lot of Greek and Norse mythology. He has since been able to make trips to Italy that has allowed him to see how relevant and timely early Western painting, sculpture, and architecture are to contemporary culture, “not as artifacts,” he says, “but as living dialogues of human experience.” The seemingly impossibility of the Italian works he’s been able to experience first hand, he says, leaves him “breathless and in wonderment as to where this devotion and understanding come from.”
Wing occasionally took trips with his father deep into the desert with a Papago or Pima Indian cohort to look for some legendary treasure or follow a mythic tale that interested him. They would also venture into the local dump pick up tin cans and scrap metal for resale. “On one occasion I remember holding a small plastic model of a male figure. It was made of clear plastic so as to be able to see into its inner anatomy with its network of organs, muscles, and blood vessels. At once I was fascinated by the feeling that I was holding something extremely valuable because of its ability to allow a closer look at something which is always present but hidden from normal view. I questioned why it had seemingly lost its value and ended up in the trash.”
For Wing, who has an MFA in painting, has a lifelong habit of taking trips into nature. Such excursions provide “a kind of textbook for learning about its mystery and our relationship with it. The substances of nature are like mirrors, they let us see things about ourselves that we don’t completely understand. I often try to present some of this in my paintings. Hopefully, these works help us see things about ourselves that we don’t normally understand unless they are reflected back to us.”
Frank McEntire, former executive director of the Utah Arts Council, is a sculptor, independent curator, and arts administrator and was the art critic for The Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake City magazine.