The following article appeared in the July/August issue of
The Middlesex Beat,
a local arts and entertainment publication
(reproduced here with permission).
"The imagination holds millions of wonderfully complex and simple spirits who are always ready and willing to help us learn about who we really are," declares Ashby artist Lucretia Hatfield. "I honor these spirits by giving them clothes, faces, and bodies to move around in." Hatfield, a painter, poet, dancer, costume-maker, and 3-D artist professionally known simply as "Lucretia," employs her versatile talents to excavate and invigorate the diverse societies of her rich imagination.
"I’m kind of an inner world archeologist," she explains. "When I bring something back from my inner world into this world, it’s like recreating scenes, history, and objects from a different place." Drawing upon such disparate influences as surrealism, abstract expressionism, Native American art, and experimental photography, Lucretia imbues the spirits of her imagination with a creative energy that brings them strikingly to life.
Lucretia’s passion for art bloomed early. "Before I learned how to read," she remembers, "I would ask my mom to pick out the ‘P’ encyclopedia for me, then I would find the section for the paintings and study them." Yet, during her North Carolina girlhood, this enthusiasm for art frequently was thwarted. "When I was growing up in the heart of the Bible belt," she explains, "a vivid imagination was often seen as a form of mental illness or even sin. I remember the little lecture I got from the town librarian when I checked out a book about Salvador Dali." The local schools proved just as discouraging. "My high school art teacher didn’t know what surrealism was, and our projects consisted of learning how to crochet and knit." Despite these obstacles, however, she read every art book she could find and in 1983 graduated from college with a specialtyin painting.
Throughout the 1980’s, Lucretia continued to pursue an education in the arts. From the works of Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, she learned about the symbolism in colors and shapes. The works of Frantisek Kupka showed her she wasn’t the only artist who loved painting inner worlds. Jackson Pollock’s work taught her to use her own inner experience as a way to make art. Then, around 1990, she discovered Native American kachina dolls, and the lessons she had absorbed from some of the greatest artists of the century began to click into place like the pieces of an elaborate jigsaw puzzle.
"I felt connected to these little dolls," she recalls. "These small dolls made to represent different Hopi and Navajo spirits inspired me to find my own friendly guiding spirits." She sculpted her first "seed spirit" about one year later. "It was a little being about an inch tall," she fondly remembers. More soon followed. "My seed spirits usually held a seed or something from nature in their arms. Each time I sculpted one, I felt like I had made a new friend."
Over time, Lucretia began sculpting her spirits on a larger scale. "One day I got the idea to use a mannequin as a substrate," she explains. "I found a place to buy inex-pensive mannequin parts and discovered a good air-dry clay that would adhere to them. That is how Illianna and Butterfly Boy came to be." Two of her most emblematic pieces, Illianna and Butterfly Boy both capture the bold edginess of expressionism tempered by a sweet, lyrical innocence that is Lucretia’s hallmark. Illianna the Flying Mermaid is a 50" by 39" work in 3 pieces: the mannequin head and torso, the humped curve of the tail, and the tail’s upturned end. With the realistically painted face of a young beauty, Illianna is an arresting sight; from the vivid feathers of her hair to the kaleidoscopic greens, blues, reds, and purples of her skin and scales, she is a creature of the fantastic. In Butterfly Boy, Lucretia more overtly reveals the kachina influence. With translucent red wings and imperial purple sleeves, Butterfly Boy is painted in assertive, swirling strokes of blue and red, yellow and purple and stands a full 60 inches tall.
"When my seed spirits had grown to life size, I realized I wanted to make them actually come to life," Lucretia observes. "Then I saw Cindy Sherman’s work. She inspired me to turn myself into a seed spirit. Thus began my mask and costume work." Sherman, a photographer whose self-portraits have expressed a wide variety of personas, has inspired such creations as Salamander Warrior, in which the center piece is a striking mask of creamy aqua and lavender decorated with serpentine lines of white and green. A green salamander figure, a child’s toy, rests in the center of the forehead; and a halo of pale violet feathers frames the face.
Recently, Lucretia has branched out yet again. This time she has donned mask and costume and turned to interpretive dance to transform herself into the living, breathing seed spirits of her imagination. With computer artist Matthew Blais, her partner both in life and art, she has begun exploring the creative possibilities of video. "We’re a great team," Lucretia observes. "I think I was waiting for years to meet someone who could help me bring my incredible inner world to life."
Regardless of the medium, Lucretia offers up the same message to all who experience her work: "Allow your dreams to unfold to you as rich, mythological stories," she says. "Our god-self lives in our ability to create." Lucretia’s art may be viewed at www.yummage.com
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