HFAC display invited BYU community to reflect on their environmental footprint

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Environmental stewardship is a hot topic that is being discussed on various stages. Public protests have taken place across the nation, a U.N. conference addressing the matter was held and initiatives set by the Provo community in favor of public transportation have been put in place to minimize environmental impact.

One man’s message is being told not through words, but through sculpture.

Frank McEntire, a sculptor and former art critic for the Salt Lake Tribune, set up an art gallery in the Harris Fine Arts Center with a message of environmental stewardship for the BYU community which was featured in early October.

Frank McEntire’s sculpture Through a Narrow Window was on display in the Harris Fine Arts Center. In it, the Earth is captured in a rescue litter, hanging in the balance waiting to be saved. (Makenna Romeril)

“I’ve been arranging displays since I was a little kid. One of my languages is visual art,” McEntire said. “There are plenty of people more eloquent with writing and words than I to share this message, but nobody I’ve met has ever, that I know of, tried to share an environmental message through sculptures.”

After reading the book “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, McEntire was motivated to design sculptures with the intent of encouraging viewers to ponder what kind of steward they are for the world. Many of his sculptures mix natural elements with industrial inventions.

“I would hope that a show like this would keep us a little bit more aware of what we are entrusted with,” McEntire said. “We are a part of the world, but we have the capacity to alter it and threaten it.”

McEntire said it is important to remember that we are all beneficiaries of the Earth, and we need to be more present in nature.

For one piece in the exhibit, McEntire invited environmental specialists from across Utah to place something in a mason jar that made them think about man’s impact on the world. There was variety in what each person thought of: some professors filled their jar with junk mail and others with objects specific to their field.

Frank McEntire’s sculpture Needless Havoc depicts nature as trapped by the impact of industrial technology. (Makenna Romeril)

Byron Adams, a BYU biology professor, was one of the participating specialists. Adams said he wasn’t sure what McEntire would do with his contribution but was pleasantly surprised when he found the exhibit.

“All of the works in there are thought-provoking,” Adams said. “As a scientist, I find it interesting because he’s pushing it up against ethical and religious framework. It gave me an appreciation of science as a way to interpret and measure what he’s portraying.”

When asked what people can do to become better stewards, Adams said he thought it was very clear from teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Our sacred texts are replete with scriptural passages to call upon us to be wise stewards,” Adams said. “Everything we have been given has been granted to us to help other people. It shouldn’t be politicized; it should be based on morals which have been taught to us.”

Ben Abbott, a BYU assistant professor of ecosystem ecology, was another contributor to the reflection jar piece. To Abbott, the impact humans have made on the Earth is very clear.

“As the scriptures say, there is enough and to spare if we act in the Lord’s way,” Abbott said. “There is a way that God wants us to interact with creation. The Earth should be used to elevate the human family.”

Abbott said there are two effective ways BYU students can make changes to improve their environmental footprint: follow the Word of Wisdom, and use human power to get around.

“The individual and communal choices we make now … can make a big difference,” Abbott said. “It’s a sobering message, but also a hopeful one. What we do now really does matter.”

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