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Men and Women of Distinction: Gene Hatfield

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Born in 1925 in Conway, a short distance from his current home, Hatfield is one of the state's most prolific artists, with paintings and sculptures numbering in the thousands. His work is most closely compared to that of the post-impressionist masters. A true Renaissance man, Hatfield has tested his hand in nearly every form of artistic expression - acting, writing, song, dance, painting and sculpture - and continues to challenge preconceived ideas of what is and is not art.

Hatfield is also well known for the varied sculptures that fill his yard. Created from recycled materials, or "found objects," as he prefers to call them, the statues have been lightning rods for controversy in recent years. In 2002, a legal ruling in Hatfield's favor established the legitimacy of his art, and he continues to add to the collection.

Perhaps Gene Hatfield's greatest legacy is the indelible mark he made on art students during his 37-year tenure as a professor at the University of Central Arkansas. Helping to build the program from the ground up, he brought his extensive European training to the classroom. In 2010, he was honored with the award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts, presented by the Gov. Mike Beebe.

TRANSCRIPT

HE HAS BEEN CALLED A LOT OF THINGS OVER THE COURSE OF HIS LIFE AND HIS MOTHER AND ARTISTIC PRODIGY BY HIS TEACHERS AND A SCENE STEELER BY THOSE THAT SHARE THE 16 WITH HIM AND A MARKSMAN AND WAS IN WORLD WAR II AND A BRAVE SOLDIER AND AWARDED THE PURPLE HEART AND HIS TRUE LOVE FOR 37 YEARS AND AMERICAN ARTIST BY A FRENCH FATHER IN LAW AND STUDIES BY ART INSTRUCTORS AND INSPIRING THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS AND AN EASY READ FOR THOSE THAT DISCOVERED HIS POETRY AND WORKS, A LIFETIME AWARD WIN ARE BY THE GOVERNOR BUT ME?  I JUST CALL HIM POPS.

MANY OF A CERTAIN AGE COULD ONLY FIND THEIR PAST IN BOXES AND FADED SNOOP SHOTS.  OF COURSE I HAD THOSE TOO BUT I'M FORTUNATE TO FIND MINE IN THE WATERCOLOR AND PASTELS AND OILS AND RECORDED BY THE STROKES OF AN AMERICAN MASTER.  GENE HATFIELD IS A MAN OF DISTINCTION IN ARKANSAS AND I WOULD THINK SO.  I'M HIS ONLY DAUGHTER MATILDA AND FOR ME AND MY BROTHERS GROWING UP WITH POPS WAS A COLORFUL JOURNEY AND HOW MANY ARKANSAS KIDS SPEND THE SUMMER IN THE NORTH OF FRANCE? FOR US IT WAS FUN AND SPENDING TIME WITH COUSINS AND SEEING THE LIGHTS OF PARIS AND TRIPS TO THE BEACH BUT POPS WAS AT WORK AND TRAINED WITH THE GREATEST ARTISTS OF THE DAYS IN THE STUDIOS IN EUROPE.

NICOLE'S FATHER HAPPENED TO KNOW A MR. GOODS, A FRIEND OF PICASSO'S WHO WORKED WITH HIM HELPING TO GET ARTISTS OUT OF FRANCE DURING THE WAR, AND HE'S A WELL KNOWN FRENCH PAINTER WHO HAD SCHOOLS BOTH IN PARIS AND ANOTHER AREA AND I WENT BOTH PLACES WITH HIM TO SCHOOL AND THE METHOD OF TEACHING IN FRANCE IS QUITE DIFFERENT THAN HERE IN THE UNITED STATES IN THAT YOU GO INTO THE WORKSHOP AND SET UP YOUR EASEL AND GET YOUR PAINTS OUT AND THEY FURNISH A NUDE MODEL AND YOU PAINT BODIES. THERE IS NO CLASS DISCUSSION AT ALL.  IT'S YOU AND THE TEACHER AND LEARNING OF THE TECHNIQUES THAT THE TEACHER EXPECTS YOU TO ACQUIRE.  THE CLASS [INAUDIBLE] ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.  IT WAS THERE THAT I STUDY MORE ABOUT CEZANNE AND CUBISM.  I GOT A LOT OF FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE PAINTING THE PLACES THAT CEZANNE HAD PAINTED AND LEARNING MORE ABOUT HIM IN SAINT IVES, RIGHT THERE IN WESTERN ENGLAND IS VERY, VERY SPECIAL, AND I MUST SAY THAT MY PAINTINGS LOOKED BETTER -- MY WATERCOLORS AND OILS TOO, BUT THEY TOOK ON A SPECIAL QUALITY BECAUSE OF THE LIGHT THAT'S SHOWN ON THE FIGURES ON THE BUILDINGS. MR. FULLER WAS A TEACHER IN ENGLAND AND HIS FAVORITE WORD WAS "BEAUTIFUL"  SO I SATISFIED HIM AT LEAST AND DID SOME OF MY BEST WORK I THINK.  I FEEL THAT I PROFITED HIGHLY FROM THE CONTRAST AND FROM THE DIFFERENCE IN ATMOSPHERE IN STUDENTS AND TEACHERS.

STRING POOLING BY HIS FATHER IN LAW ALLOWED HIM TO TRAIN WITH THE GREAT MASTERS BUT THAT WAS THE SECOND GIFT HE GAVE  WORKED PERIOD OF TIME AND A LONG DISTANCE BETWEEN US.  WHEN I ASKED HER TO MARRY ME SHE WOULD SAY "GOSH I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE UNITED STATES.  NO, I WILL NEVER MARRY AN AMERICAN" AND WHEN SHE ACCEPTED I WAS FLABBERGASTED AND I GUESS WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT FIRST OH I HAVE TO GET HER A RING OVER THERE, SO I LOOKED ALL OVER LITTLE ROCK AND FINALLY FOUND A BEAUTIFUL WEDDING SET AND WROTE AND TOLD HER I HAVE YOUR ENGAGEMENT RING AND I AM SENDING IT IN A HAT AND YOU WILL GET IT SOON SO THAT'S WHAT I DID.

IT'S TRUE WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT THE BLINK OF AN EYE.  47 YEARS PASSED JUST LIKE THAT. TOGETHER THEY RAISED THREE CHILDREN.  IN 2004 CANCER  TOOK HER AND LEFT IN HER PLACE LONELINESS.

WHAT I MISS MOST IS HER SPEAK -- JUST SEEING HER EVERYDAY, HEARING HER VOICE AND FEELING HER TOUCH.  IT'S DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER WITH TIME.

MOTHER IS BURIED IN MOUNT VERNON, NOT FAR FROM THE HOME THEY BUILT AND NAMED IN HER HONOR NICKFIELD AND DON'T EXPECT HIM TO TALK TO HER THERE.  HE FINDS HER IN THE COINS.

MY BELIEF IS THAT THE SPIRITS ACTUALLY MOVE THINGS HERE ON EARTH.  I BELIEVE THAT NICOLE HAS BEEN GIVING ME COINS. ONE DAY MATILDA -- SHE DOESN'T WANT TO PICK UP ANYTHING ON THE STREETS AND "NO DADDY IT'S DIRTY"  AND I LOOKED DOWN AND SAW SILVER AND/OR GOOD I FOUND A DIME OR A NICKEL AND TOOK A STEP FORWARD AND I REACHED DOWN AND SHE WAS REACHING DOWN AND PICKING SOMETHING UP SILVER TOO AND I THOUGHT MINE WAS A NICKEL AND I HOPED HER'S WAS A DIME AND WHEN I STRAIGHTENED UP AND SHE WAS IN SHOCK AND I ASKED WHAT DID YOU FIND?  AND SHE SHOWED IT TO ME AND IT WAS A DANGEL FROM A BRACELET OF THE EIFFEL TOWER AND THAT MEANT HER MOTHER WAS WITH US GIVING ME A NICKEL AND HER DAUGHTER AN EIFFEL TOWER.  MY BELIEF IN MY INDIAN ANCESTRY BECOMES MORE PRONOUNCED ALL THE TIME BECAUSE I FEEL THE INFLUENCE OF THE UNSEEN WORLD ON WHAT I DO AND WHAT I THINK ABOUT, AND I THINK THE PROGRESS THAT I MADE TOWARD GETTING THE RESULTS THAT I WANT COMES FROM EXPERIENCES IN ANOTHER LIFE.  I NEVER EVER THOUGHT ABOUT WRITING A BOOK.  I WAS WALKING DOWN THE SIDEWALK IN FRONT OF THE FORTUNE TELLER ON COLLEGE AVENUE ONE DAY AND SHE ASKED ME "WOULD YOU LIKE TO WRITE A BOOK WITH ME?" "WHAT MAKES ME THINK I CAN."  I WAS TOLD IF THERE IS ANYONE IN CONWAY THAT CAN HELP YOU WRITE THE BOOK IS GENE HATFIELD. YES, I TOLD HER I WOULD BE WILLING TO TRY AND I MET WITH HER MOST OF A YEAR.  SHE GAVE ME MATERIALS TRUE AND FANTASTIC IDEAS THAT CAUSED ME TO WRITE TWO NOVELS WITH HER AS THE MAIN CHARACTER. I CALLED HER MADAM ZINCARO.

THE SAYING YOU WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW CERTAINLY APPLIES TO POPS NOVELS AND POETRIES.  THE CHARACTERS AND SETTINGS AND STORY LINES FIND KINSHIP TO PEOPLE AND PLACES IN HIS CHILDHOOD.  THE EARLY DAYS HAD PROFOUND IMPACT ON HIS ART.

I REMEMBER HAVING COLOR CRAYONS AND BLUNT SCISSORS AND PASTE AND ALL OF THAT STUFF AT HOME, SO I JUST THOUGHT IT WAS NATURAL SINCE MY SISTER WAS A PAINTER AND WE HAD PICTURES HANGING ALL OVER THE WALL SO TO ME ART WAS AN EVERYDAY OCCURRENCE.  I NEVER FELT THERE WAS ANYTHING SPECIAL ABOUT IT, AND THAT'S HOW AND WHY I GOT STARTED I GUESS.  I HAD A TRICYCLE AND TOYS OF ALL KINDS AND LOTS OF CHRISTMAS PRESENTS IN MY STOCKING AND BANANAS HANGING IN THE KITCHEN AND MIXING THINGS IN THE KITCHEN WITH MOMMA AND PASTING PAPER WHAT I WANTED TO AND GOING TO SCHOOL, THE TRAINING SCHOOL AND ALL OF THAT MONEY AND THEN THE DEPRESSION HIT, AND WE HAD NOTHING, AND IT WAS AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT WAY OF LIFE BECAUSE IT WAS HANDS TO MOUTH AND DADDY DIDN'T HAVE ANY MONEY, SO WE CAN TO MOVE  TO MOUNT VERNON WHERE GRANDMA HAD A HOUSE WE COULD LIVE IN.

THIS IS YOU AT FIVE YEARS OLD AND THERE.

I WAS IN FAVORITE POSITION OF DOING MY THING OF SLEEPING ON MY BACK.  OH BOY THIS IS SNAZZY, ISN'T IT?

YEAH.

EXPERIENCING LOST SHAPED HIS CHARACTER AND AS TRUE OF MANY IN THOSE DAYS MY POPS FRUGAL SENSIBILITY WHICH IS IN HIS SCULPTURES.  VISITORS ARE WELCOME AND LOOK TO YOUR HEART'S INTENT BUT NEVER USE THE "T" WORD.

[INAUDIBLE] FROM DEPRESSION DAYS I HAVE PICKED UP THIS TO MAKE THE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS AND TIN FOIL IN MOUNT VERNON DURING THE DEPRESSION TO PUT ON THE CHRISTMAS TREE, AND I HAVE BEEN FASCINATED BY THE THINGS THAT YOU CAN FIND THAT PEOPLE THROW OUT.  ONE DAY I FOUND A PERFECTLY GOOD CHAIR AND TOOK IT HOME AND THE NEXT DAY OR A DAY OR TWO AFTER I FOUND ANOTHER ONE.  PEOPLE JUST  THROW FURNITURE AWAY.  THAT IS WICKED AND WASTEFUL.  CAR PARTS REALLY APPEAL TO ME AND I HAVE ONE BIG STATUE WHICH I CALL [INAUDIBLE] REX AND IT'S A NAME OF A PLAY BUT IT LOOKS LIKE A WRECK AND IT'S BEEN WRECKED AND I ENJOY PUTTING THINGS TOGETHER THAT ORDINARILY WOULDN'T GO TOGETHER. IT MIGHT NOT BE ATTRACTIVE.  IT MIGHT BE UGLY OR WEIRD OR STRANGE OR FRIGHTENING TO CHILDREN BUT AS LONG AS IT HAS A MEANING AND IS SERVING A PURPOSE IT IS NOT TRASH; IT IS ART.

IRATE CITIZENS CONCERNED ABOUT PROFIT VALUES HAVE ARGUED WITH POPS ON THIS ONE.  IN 2002 COMPLAINTS ABOUT WHAT SOME CONSIDERED PILES OF JUNK IN HIS YARD LEAD TO LEGAL ACTION BY CITY OFFICIALS.  IN THE END THE LAW WAS ON HIS SIDE AND TO THIS DAY THE COLLECTION GROWS.

I DO NOT CARE ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE WHO SAY MY YARD IS FULL OF JUNK BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW, AND BESIDES THAT WHAT'S BEAUTIFUL TO SOME PEOPLE IS UGLY TO OTHER PEOPLE.  I THINK IT'S BEAUTIFUL AND I AM TURNING WHAT MIGHT BE CONSIDERED UGLY AND TRASHY MATERIAL INTO SOMETHING THAT IS MEANINGFUL.

MR. HATFIELD WHAT IS THIS STATUE?

THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE VERSION OF OSCAR.  I START TODAY LONG AGO.  I AM SORRY I PUT IT OFF SO LONG. IT'S DETERIORATING FROM THE LACK OF USE.

I THINK IT LOOKS GREAT.

OSCAR HOLDS A SPECIAL PLACE FOR POPS.  AFTER ALL HIS FIRST LOVE WAS THE STAGE.

MY THEATRICAL CAREER BEGAN AS A FRESHMAN I WAS GIVEN A ROLE IN THE OPRATTA THEY WERE DOING AND I WAS THE VILLAIN.  I SANG "YOU GOT A SNAPPY BASE AND SO LOW OF FACE.  WE'RE IN THIS FIGHT IN A QUIET PLACE."  THAT WAS MY PART AND THEN THE ANSWER TO IT WAS "BUT YOU SHALL BITE THE DUST BY A SINGLE COTTON THRUST"  AND WE MARCHED OFF THE STAGE AND THE LOG CABIN DEMOCRAT GAVE ME THIS. IT WAS THE START OF MY MY ACTING CAREER.  A GROUP OF US FORMED THE COLLEGE FORM PLAYERS AND THE ROMEO AND JULIET AND MACBETH PLAYS AND PERFORMED OVER ARKANSAS AND MADE NAMES FOR OURSELVES AND HAD A LOT OF FUN.

ACTING WAS A PASSION IN THE YEARS BUT POPS PUT MORE EFFORT INTO HIS SCULPTURE AND PARTICIPATING AND MANY SAY HIM AND HER BUILT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL ARKANSAS FROM THE GROUND UP.

SHE SAW THAT I COULD SKETCH IN BLACK AND WHITE AND DO PORTRAITS OF PEOPLE.  I TOOK THAT ON AS A MANTRA AND DECIDED I WOULD CONCENTRATE ON DOING FAST PORTRAITS OF PEOPLE WITH PASTEL COLORS.  IT WAS FASCINATING TO ME BECAUSE EACH OF THE PEOPLE THAT I PAINTED HAD SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT THEM. IN THE BACKGROUND I WOULD USE THE COLORS THAT SEEM TO EMANATE FROM THEM WHICH IS CALLED AN AURA.  SHE TOLD ME THAT SHE WOULD HAVE A JOB FOR ME IF I WAS IN MY MASTER'S DEGREE SO I WENT TO THE SAME SCHOOL MARIE HAD GOTTEN HER DEGREE IN IN IN COLORADO.  I LEARNED FROM A MOVIE THAT MY TEACHER IN COLORADO SHOWED ME THAT ANYONE THAT HAS ANY STRENGTH OF CHARACTER CAN SAY ANYTHING THINGS WITH WATERCOLOR, AND SO I TOOK THAT AS A CHALLENGE.  I THOUGHT WELL I'VE GOT SOME CHARACTERS SO I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT.  MY TEACHER TURNED OUT TO BE A VILLAIN BECAUSE SHE SOLD SOME OF -- SOME OF THE OPPORTUNITIES WATERCOLORS AND MINE WERE AMONG THOSE BUT WE COULDN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT OR WE WOULDN'T HAVE GRADUATED. NOW LOOK YOU NEED TO -- I FEEL THAT MY ADVANTAGE IN TEACHING CAME FROM THE FACT THAT I GOTTEN TO GO OVER THERE TO EUROPE AND SEE THE ORIGINALS IN THE MUSEUMS AND TO GO TO SCHOOL IN THE AREAS WHERE THE GREAT PAINTERS HAD BEEN PRODUCED AND WHEN I TALKED ABOUT IT I COULD CONVEY A LITTLE BIT BETTER MESSAGE I THINK. THE PAINT AND COVER UP SPACE, SEE. YOU'RE STILL TRYING TO DRAW AND MAKE THE LINES MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE STROKES.  PAINT WITH MORE LIQUID AND MORE PAINT.

SOMETIMES IN LIFE YOU FIND BLESSINGS IN THE DARKNESS OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE.  FOR POPS THE GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS A ARTIST MIGHT NOT HAVE HAPPENED IF NOT THE DUTY IN WORLD WAR II.

I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL A YEAR EARLY SO I GOT A START AND HAD ONLY A COUPLE OF YEARS BEFORE THE DRAFT GOT ME AT 18 IN THE ARMY.  I REMEMBER GOING TO THE SHOOTING RANGE -- I THINK IT'S WHAT THEY'RE CALLED -- AND WE WERE GIVEN OUR RIFLES AND WE EACH TOOK OUR TURN SHOOTING AT THE TARGETS AND I DON'T KNOW WHY I DIDN'T HAVE GUMMION ENOUGH TO FAKE THIS AND DO THIS EVERY TIME AND "LORD HE CAN'T SHOOT.  WE DON'T WANT HIM IN THE ARMY" BUT ANYWAY I DIDN'T GET ANY MAGGIE'S DRAWERRERS AND THAT MEAN I WAS A GOOD SHOT AND A MISTAKE.  WE GATHERED IN NEW JERSEY AND GOT ON THE BOAT, THE GEORGE WASHINGTON -- LATER WE TOLD PEOPLE WE WERE ON THE GEORGE WASHINGTON, THE SAME BOAT HE CROSSED THE DELAWARE IN, AND IT WAS AN OLD BOAT AND DANGEROUS TOO BUT WE DIDN'T KNOW IT BUT IT WAS A STORMY CROSSING AND THE GERMAN U BOATS COULD HAVE SUNK US ANYTIME.  WE HAD GOTTEN ACROSS THE REIGN RIVER ON A PON TUNE BOAT AND WERE WALKING TOWARDS BERLIN WHEN A TANK IN THE STREET, THE ROAD WAS FIRED UPON.  WE THOUGHT THE WAR WAS OVER AND EVERYTHING WAS PEACEFUL, BUT GRENADE EXPLODED IN A TREE NEAR ME AND I THINK THE MAN IN FRONT OF ME WAS KILLED AND I WAS INJURED IN MY LEFT EYE UNDER THIS EYE WITH SHRAPNEL  SER VERED THE MUSCLE.

HIS SERVICE EARNED HIS MANY AWARDS AND THE BRONZE STAR AND MANY MEMORIES EACHED YEARS LATER.

I ONLY SAW THEM REMOVED.  I DIDN'T SEE THEM FALL AND AN UNFORGIVING MEMORY AND I ALWAYS FELT THE WAY ABOUT WAR.  WAR IS SO STUPID.

HIS WARTIME INTRODUCTION TO FRANCE WOULD HELP SHAPE EVERY FACET OF HIS LIFE WITH NICOLE.

WHEN WE GOT MARRIED I INSISTED THAT CHILDREN SPEAK FRENCH WITH HER BECAUSE THAT MADE THEM MUCH MORE WORLDLY WISE AND I THINK THEY WOULD HAVE CONTACT.  I DIDN'T KNOW THEY WOULD HAVE AS MUCH AS THEY DID BECAUSE WE TOOK THEM WITH US IN THE SUM ARE TIME WHEN I STUDIED OVER THERE FOR WEEKS AND I CAN REMEMBER THE POOR THINGS WADDLING ALL OVER AND GETTING TIRED OUT AND STILL THEY WERE ABSORBING ALL OF THE GOOD FRENCH MATERIAL AND SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE WITH THEIR MOTHER, AND I REGRET I SHOULD HAVE LEARNED TO SPEAK BETTER MYSELF.  I DIDN'T WANT TO SPEAK FRENCH BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO CONVERSE WITH MY WIFE'S FATHER, MR. WABLE.  THE MOTHER I SHOULD HAVE AND SHE WANTED TO TALK WITH ME AND SHE WAS A WONDERFUL PERSON BUT MR. RAYMOND WABLE, A LAWYER IN FRANCE WAS NOT MY FAVORITE PERSON.  I TRIED TO BE A GOOD DAD BECAUSE MY FATHER, POOR THING.  I WAS BORN AT THE TIME THAT HIS SUCCESS FAILED AND THE DEPRESSION HIT AND HE WAS HEAVENLY MAIMED IN NOT HAVING THE ABILITY TO MAKE MONEY LIKE HE HAD EARLIER.  HE WAS A REALLY GOOD SMART ARCHITECT, AND THE DEPRESSION TOOK ALL OF HIS MONEY AWAY, ALL OF HIS POSSIBILITIES, AND JUST DEVASTATED HIM.  I HAVE FORGIVEN FOR A LOT OF THINGS THAT HE DIDN'T DO THAT I WOULD HAVE LIKED HIM TO DO, AND I THINK I MADE UP FOR IT WITH MY CHILDREN BECAUSE I HAD THE BAD MEMORIES OF OUR RELATIONSHIP.

POPS LEGACY IS EXPANSIVE. HIS BODY OF WORK IS PROLIFIC BUT PERHAPS HIS CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT IS THE 37 YEARS HE SPENT TEACHING AND ENCOURAGING AND NURTURING COUNTLESS YOUNG ARTISTS.  IN 2010 HE WAS HONORED WITH THE AWARD OF LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT OF THE ARTS PRESENTED BY THE GOVERNOR WHICH HE CHERISHES GREATLY AND NOW WE CAN ADD TO THE GROWING LIST OF ACHIEVEMENTS, HIS INCLUSION OF MEN AND WOMEN OF DISTINCTION.

WELL IF DISTINCTION MEANS DIFFERENT THAN NOTICEABLE OR I SUPPOSE I COULD BE CONSIDERED A DISTINCTIVE PERSONALITY BUT I JUST HOPE THEY REMEMBER ME AS BEING A GOOD PERSON.

ONE DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF A RENAISSANCE PERSON IS A PRESENT DAY MAN THAT HAS PROFICIENCY AND KNOWLEDGE IN MORE THAN ONE FIELD.  OF COURSE HE WOULDN'T CALL HIMSELF SUCH A THING AND JUST LIKE ART HE WANTS US TO DECIDE FOR OURSELVES.

OH LORD PLEASE DON'T LET BE NORMAL.

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