Tracy Frenzel

plate 1. “I’m obsessed with deer,” notes White River Country wildlife artist Tracy Frenzel.

Tracy Frenzel

by Joshua Heston

There was a time when the Ozarks were a center of craftsmanship and artwork. Local guilds flourished. Talent young and old seemed limitless. Traditional Ozark crafts mingled with classic art, often mixed up alongside big hunks of blue glass and fresh-picked peaches alongside Highway 65. It was this strength of art and craftsmanship which gave impetus to festivals like the War Eagle Craft Fair (surrounding that historic Northwest Arkansas mill) and the venerable Ozark Craft Fair on the banks of the Finley.

Then something changed. Perhaps it was the introduction of the internet. Maybe too many video games. Maybe our society just ran out of time to appreciate art, becoming too busy with work and shopping and posting every inane facet of our lives on social media. For whatever reason, it is harder to find good artists and even harder to find good young artists.

And then there’s Tracy Frenzel.

Tracy Frenzel

plate 2.

I first met Tracy Frenzel at a Hollister, Missouri-based art show and while he was a bit more interested in talking about whitetails and fishing than the process of creating art, his passion and style spoke volumes. Often working exclusively with graphite, Tracy crafts the whitetails of his dreams, accurate down to the folds of skin — heavy with velour-like fur and pulsing muscles in in perfect flight.

He also has an uncanny knowledge of when to end the creative process, typically leaving glorious Ozark wildlife framed against a stark, uncluttered background. The results are impressive.

Currently living in rural Taney County near Kirbyville, Frenzel grew up “across from Grant’s Farm in St. Louis.” He has been drawing pretty much his entire life. “My grandmother was in craft fairs all over. When I went to her house, it was art time. I have two younger sisters so either I went down to the creek or I drew. I didn’t wrestle or that sort of thing. So I was drawing from kindergarten all the way through.”

In the 1990s, Frenzel attended College of the Ozarks, majoring in art, graphic design and art education. “I was really excited about graphic design until it became apparent all I would be doing was sitting in front of a computer,” he notes. “I loved to hunt. I loved to fish. I was about 20 hours away from my degree and started working full-time as a bartender, got married to Molly. Started having kids. Got my guide license.”

Frenzel works as recreational director and fishing guide at The Cliffs at Long Creek, a local resort on the shores of Table Rock Lake.

Tracy Frenzel

plate 3.

Frenzel’s art receives considerable attention, often due to his understanding of wildlife anatomy — knowledge earned the old-fashioned way. “I worked in my dad’s butcher shop and skinned all the deer. Knowing why and where the tendons are, the folds and the shape of the muscles, all that really helps.”

Tracy Frenzel

plate 4.

One particular piece — a whitetail painted in acrylic upon a large stretch of leather hung from an old cedar branch — won first place at the Ozark Empire Fair. As is typical, Frenzel has a relaxed attitude toward the work. “It was all surplus leather and it just seemed like the right color. I worked the tree limbs from the natural leather grain. My goal was to paint the whitetail of my dreams. I started with oil, which didn’t work as it kept soaking into the leather and sort of staining it, so I used acrylic.

“The cedar at the top is scrap wood I found. It had worm holes all through it which made a weird pattern. I found the cedarwood out on Pine Mountain on J Highway.”

The results are stunning. But, more than that, Frenzel’s work is refreshing. A young Missouri artist passionate about creating solid Ozark art — while pursuing work as a guide fisherman and working in the tourism business of the White River Country. It is a good story.

It bodes well for the future of Ozark craftsmanship.

July 30, 2012

Tracy Frenzel: State of the Ozarks

PLATES 1-4: Art Show, Dewey Short Conservation Center, Branson, Missouri; June 22, 2013 (photos by Joshua Heston).

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