Cottey College is pleased to host an exhibit of the art of the late Lester Gene Hatfield (1925-2017) from May 9 to August 31. The exhibit, titled “Beyond All Borders,” will be on display in the P.E.O. Foundation Art Gallery inside the Haidee and Allen Wild Center for the Arts, located on the northeast corner of Austin Boulevard and Tower Street in Nevada, Missouri. The exhibit will be open for viewing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 9-19. Thereafter, the exhibit may be viewed by appointment only by calling Linda Russell at 417-667-8181, ext. 2122.
Lester Gene Hatfield, known as Gene, was a lifetime artist and distinguished professor emeritus of art at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway, Arkansas. Hatfield was a recipient of the Arkansas Arts Council Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an Arkansas Senate Citation, and a Purple Heart. Among his many accomplishments, he received top prize in 1967 and 1969 in La Palette Française – Grand Prix de Peinture de la Cote d’Opale, Le Touquet, France, and his sculptures and paintings were featured in the Arkansas Art Center Annual Delta Exhibitions. Much of Hatfield’s work made a statement about his feelings toward the wastefulness of contemporary society. Several of his pieces are registered with the Smithsonian Institution’s Save Outdoor Sculpture program.
In 2013, he was featured by AETN in their documentary series: Arkansas Men and Women of Distinction.
Hatfield earned a B.S. in education in speech and English from the Arkansas State Teacher’s College (now UCA) in 1948, followed by a master’s degree in art education from Colorado State College of Education (now University of Northern Colorado). That same year, he began teaching art at the Arkansas State Teacher’s College (UCA) until his retirement in 1985. During his tenure, Hatfield taught classes in drawing, painting, sculpture, crafts, design, art history and art appreciation. He traveled frequently to Europe in the summer, where he worked on his art and studied with Henri Goetz and Leo Marchutz in France and at the Fuller Art Studio in Saint Ives, England.
Hatfield worked primarily in watercolor, oil, acrylic, pottery, stage sets, and various types of sculpture. He was perhaps best known in Conway for his unique yard filled with sculptures made from various found objects ranging from bicycles, to soda cans, to mops, to tin foil, and more. His famous eclectic outdoor art environment was a result of over forty years of working with materials that most people call “junk” or “trash” and turning it into works of art. Hatfield incorporated aspects of surrealism and folk art into his unique sculptures while more traditional late-nineteenth-century artists such as Paul Cézanne influenced his paintings.
Gene Hatfield was the father of Mathilda Hatfield, former chair of the Cottey College Board of Trustees, and board member from 2011-2018. The College extends appreciation to Mathilda, Hadrian, and Marc Hatfield for sharing their father’s art for this exhibit.
Some information was taken from the UCA website at uca.edu/artcollection/gene-hatfield/.