From the Studio: Dale McEntire

A native of Western North Carolina, Dale McEntire has been involved in the visual arts since his training at Mercer University. He has continued to evolve as an artist through private studies in Europe and the United States, including training at the nationally-renowned Penland School of Crafts. Dale produces both oil and pastel paintings, as well as sculpture out of his studio in Saluda, NC.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Dale about what inspires him creatively and about the body of work he will be presenting at Grovewood Gallery this August.

Interview with Dale McEntire

As a child, did you experiment with painting?

DM: Throughout my childhood, I was always interested in drawing and making things with my hands. In the 5th grade, my teacher (Mrs. Feagan) noticed my creativity and encouraged me to use my skills. I recall my first art class in high school where we copied a Monet of a misty bridge scene, which helped me see that art was something more than copying what you see…there’s also emotion and interpretation.

“The Little Grove” oil painting and Dale McEntire in his Saluda studio.

How has growing up in Western North Carolina benefited you as an artist?

DM: I feel very fortunate to have grown up in WNC where we have such a rich craft heritage and appreciation for the fine arts. The local art institutions and galleries have been supportive of my efforts, and our community has helped organizations and artists working in many mediums. Not every area in the country offers this kind of opportunity, and I am very grateful. Of course, the people and the landscape itself is a place of inspiration and wonder, which presents an abundance of subject matter.

Are there any particular artists or designers that have influenced you?

DM: I have been influenced by several art movements, and specific styles, which have been positive and motivating for me. Initially, I was interested in Native American culture – Charles Russell and Fredrick Remington were painters I admired. As I began to work on location the Impressionists were the biggest influence, with Camille Pissarro being my favorite. His laborious technique combined with the celebration of nature was a big influence.

Post-Impressionist Van Gogh and Maurice Vlaminck are two painters that were also influential. As the years progressed, I experimented with abstract symbolism in nature and admired the artists Arthur Dove, Charles Burchfield, Will Henry Stevens, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Arshile Gorky. I appreciate artists who not only study nature but interpret its spirit and energy.

In the world of sculpture, Isamu Noguchi has been my greatest influence.

"In Wonder" (oil painting) and "Emerging" (sculpture) by artist Dale McEntire.
“In Wonder” (oil painting) and “Emerging” (sculpture) by Dale McEntire.

You say you experiment with abstract symbolism in nature. Can you expand on this?

From the turn of the century through the 1970s, a group of artists that have influenced me are sometimes referred to as Nature Symbolists. These painters were closely observing the landscape and natural forces around them. Through their exploration and study, they developed a very personal interpretation of their vision of the essence of nature. This has been my goal as a painter for many years and offers a limitless range of subjects and opportunities. This symbolism can be interpreted in many ways, from the use of color, form, and movement to more representational examples like letters, numbers, and geometric patterns. 

Although inspired by these earlier artists, I have tried to follow my own intuition while exploring the harmony of nature and create work that is reflective of that. I believe intellectually we all understand our interconnectedness with one another and nature. Spiritually and emotionally this is more difficult for us to absorb and live accordingly. We all have egos, desires, and identities of self that are sometimes obstacles that prevent us from connecting with this more universal understanding. I attempt to make that connection, realizing I do not have answers or solutions, but I try to allow my work to be a vehicle, no matter how limited.

“Autumn Relations” by Dale McEntire

Tell us about the body of work you will be presenting at Grovewood Gallery in August. What can viewers expect to see?

DM: The work I will be bringing to Grovewood will be an overview of my efforts during the past several years. My work has gradually moved into an abstract style that usually begins with a pastel made on location, then a larger oil painting that is an interpretation of that plein air work. I will also feature a couple of my mixed media sculptures, which include cast glass, wood, steel, and stone. It is abstract in style but is also closely connected to my symbolism of nature.

Is there something about your work or creative process that would surprise most people?

I sometimes find people are curious that I do both painting and sculpture and often ask which I spend the most time on and which do I enjoy the most. I like them equally, and I find they really relate to one another. Being in a community of artists I admire keeps me trying to improve and expand on my process.

"Uprise" (sculpture) and "Foothills Revisited" (oil painting) by Dale McEntire.
“Uprise” (sculpture) and “Foothills Revisited” (oil painting) by Dale McEntire.

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