The Lake City ArtFields Collective is a community arts non profit located in Lake City, South Carolina that was founded in 2013 with a mission to celebrate Southern art and revitalize a small, agricultural-hub town through the arts. Their flagship event, ArtFields, turns this town into a gallery as local businesses display hundreds of artworks and artists compete for $100,000 in prizes. During the year, the three galleries that call Lake City home feature rotating exhibitions to not only provide a place for artists to showcase their work, but also to create access to the arts for an underserved area.
ArtFields got its start in 2013 with a goal of honoring the artists of the Southeast with a week’s worth of celebration and competition in the heart of the traditional Southern small town of Lake City, SC. Over the last 10 years, this competition and exhibition has offered over $145,000 in cash prizes annually. The winners of two People’s Choice Awards are determined by the votes of people visiting ArtFields, this year held between April 19th – April 29th. A panel of art professionals select all the other awards, including the $50,000 Grand Prize and $25,000 Second Place award.
Out of the 1000+ submissions, up to 400 works of art will be on display in Lake City’s locally-owned venues, from renovated 1920s warehouses and professional art spaces such as Jones-Carter Gallery and TRAX Visual Art Center to the library, the history museum, the Ronald E. McNair Life History Center, restaurants, boutiques and other shops. During ArtFields, what was once one of South Carolina’s most prosperous agricultural communities becomes an art gallery that recognizes, celebrates and shares the artistic talent of the Southeast, including some of the Augusta River Regions very own visual artists.
The list for this year’s showcase is brimming with some of the Southeast’s best and brightest artistic talents. Including local artists such as Elizabeth Barnes of North Augusta, Logan Beasley of Aiken, Beth Droppleman of Augusta, Heather René Dunaway of Martinez, Leslie Hamrick of Evans, Betsy Hughes of Aiken, Joseph Kameen of Graniteville, and Diana Kirkpatrick of Aiken.
A few of these Augusta River Region artists agreed to be interviewed for this article.
Leslie Hamrick has been a member of the Greater Augusta Arts Council since 2020 and has been featured in our artist directory, one of our quarterly Private Views, and most recently in the Toi et Moi exhibition hosted by Drake White and funded through an NEA Grant awarded through the Arts Council.
Leslie earned her BFA from the University of Kansas and a MAster of Arts in Art Therapy from the School of Art Institute of Chicago. She practiced art therapy for several years before settling with her family in the Augusta area. After her children were grown and living lives of their own, Leslie delved back into creating art for herself. She quickly discovered how much she had missed being able to express herself through her artworks.
Looking through her old portfolios and artworks, she found inspiration. She was drawn to the rougher pieces, the misprints or unfinished works. She saw how those fragmented works could be repurposed or put back together in a new way. Utilizing strong lines, contour she was able to create exaggerated figures, taking inspiration from artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Botero and Modigliani.
Leslie first heard of ArtFields from fellow artists and friends who had participated in the past. After seeing ArtFields posts on social media, after some hesitation, she decided to give it a shot. Thinking: “if I don’t try, the answer is a definite no.”
The piece she chose to submit, titled The Nest is a 24″ by 29″ mixed media collage that incorporates black and white photographs, charcoal, ink and a variety of papers. Leslie views this works as one of her personal bests as it holds many layers of the past and present and tells the story of her current journey.
This piece, according to the artist, speaks to the duality of the nest being comforting, yet restricting, as well as the internal conflict that arises when leaving said nest. Leslie’s decision to spread her “art wings” in this next phase of life has proved to be a good one. Though, like many who choose art as a life path, it can expose a lot of vulnerability and self-doubt. The over-sized figure in The Nest appears to be pushing at the formal edges of her paper nest. She, like Leslie, is finding her place, awkward in parts, but settling in.
Leslie uses old photographs of her childhood bedroom, just before she was to head off to college. The scene in these photographs shows a mess with nothing packed or sorted. As an adult, and trained art therapist, Leslie can now look at these photographs and see the duality of her old self – ready to go but hesitant to leave. Nests can keep us safe, warm and tucked in but taking that much needed leap can lead to so many new and exciting adventures. With her artwork, Leslie is choosing to be bold. Bold in her lines. Bold in her forms and marks. Bold in her drive and pursuit of art.
After her artwork was submitted came the long wait to hear whether or not it would be accepted. She received the news in a public place. She was stunned and giddy all at once. Maintaining her composure, she was quick to text her family, friends and art heroes – a group of artists called The Well, which she is a proud member of.
You can find Leslie’s artworks in local places such as The Frame Shoppe, and West End Collective. You can also join her for Mono printing workshops at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art.
Heather René Dunaway is an artist born and raised in the Augusta River Region. She obtained her BFA from Augusta University in December 2012 and has exhibited works locally in Augusta University’s Mary S. Byrd Gallery, Morris Museum of Art’s Education Gallery, the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, Westobou Gallery, 600 Broad Gallery, 4P Studios Gallery, Augusta & Co. Gallery and the City Gallery as well as in local businesses, shops and restaurants.
She often sees her artwork as an unfolding experiment. Heather often delves into many different subjects that she “weaves” together conceptually and sometimes also physically. She utilizes many different mediums in her art. Her most recent body of works incorporates found, nostalgic materials such as her grandmother’s forgotten fabrics or her grandfather’s property maps into collaged, painted and sewn works.
Exploring family history and ancestry is essential in her newest works; collecting stories as she does materials to use as inspiration. The theme of feminine power is prevalent. She incorporates yonic imagery in her tapestries and fabric collages which are often seen as traditional woman-based crafts, as a way to connect and heal generational traumas that her ancestors endured and passed on.
Her interest in genetic memory and the passing down of traits both physical and meta-physical, resonates within her work as she explores her own inheritance. This inheritance is not only of material possessions, passed down from her ancestors, or stories gathered together through the generations, but her own genetic makeup and how these all reverberate and mix throughout her family, community, and eventually the universe.
In addition to this, she draws from patterns seen in nature that echo outward into the universe. The layers seen in her work can be seen as mountainous landscapes or layers of the cosmos, weaving in and out of one another. Heather feels that, in her search for truth through her artwork, the overlap of these “echos”, these repeated patterns, and the passing on genetic memories all have a hidden meaning or explanation.
The artwork Heather chose to submit into ArtFields incorporates some of these themes. Coloratura was the product of the Jessye Norman School of Art’s 2021 Window Project. Heather, along with 3 other artists, were selected to create works to be enlarged in a print and displayed in the window adjactent to the Ann & Ellis Johnson Gallery of Art’s entrance. At the end of the year, this piece, along with several of Heather’s works from her Generations series were shown in the “Moving Windows Exhibition” along with works by Daniella Cull, Sophia Byne and Ashton Maya.
The concept behind Coloratura was to create a portrait of the Operatic Singer, Jessye Norman. After some research into Norman’s life in and outside of Augusta and her career, Heather envisioned Norman as a rising star, the sun. A warm individual, as described by her peers, Norman had a special place in her heart for her hometown. Which is something Norman and Dunaway both have in common.
Coloratura can be defined as Coloratura is an elaborate melody with runs, trills, wide leaps, or similar virtuoso-like material, or a passage of such music. Operatic roles in which such music plays a prominent part, and singers of these roles, are also called coloratura. Its instrumental equivalent is ornamentation. Heather chose this title as the certain level of artistic ornatus in the flow of fabric and headwrap in this diptych as well as the relationship between Jessye Norman and her music.
After deciding the best way capture Jessye Norman was in collage, Heather planned to use upcycled materials from Augusta’s thrift stores, donated by the community that they both shared. After many hours of thrifting for arts supplies, Heather discovered a book of music that featured Aida, a role Norman often played as one of her favorite performances. So, it all came together. Fabrics were chosen specifically from Augusta’s secondhand stores, to wrap Norman in the essence of her home. Norman looks over her community, her passion in music; they almost flow from and to her all at once, becoming mountains but also waves. They become synonymous with her own person.
When she received her congratulatory email for ArtFields, Heather did “several fist pumps” and treated herself to a “tasty coffee from Inner Bean Cafe.” She was first made aware of the ArtFields competition through art friends who had shown in years prior but decided to apply when a representative from the organization made an unannounced visit to the Arts Council office to drop off some fliers. It had been on her mind and her social media sponsored ads for a while but that visit really sealed the deal in her mind. She thought it was serendipitous. This will be a rare showing of Heather’s works outside of her hometown, so she feels like this is a great opportunity for artistic growth. You can see more of Heathers work on Facebook or Instagram.
Joseph Kameen is a painter based in Aiken, SC. He also works as an Assistant Professor of Art at USC Aiken. His works were most recently shown in Augusta, Ga’s Westobou Gallery with his Alone Together exhibition after a yearlong residency with them in the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art.
In his paintings, he explores the ways that routine events play a role in self-awareness and identity. He envisions memories of benign objects, actions, and spaces—devoid of meaning on their own—can become entangled with the larger concerns that dominated our thoughts at that time. His paintings focus on domestic subjects, showing the moments just before or after an event, and the emotions that become saturated into a space.
Joseph’s work A Practiced Memory was accepted into the ArtFields competition. This work was created as part of his residency with Westobou Gallery in 2021. The studio space he had through Westobou at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art allowed him to work at a larger scale. The finished painting is about 8×12 feet.
A Practiced Memory is inspired by Joseph’s time at the historic Ware’s Folly building at the Gertrude Herbert, and the dreamlike feeling that this space can have, especially when painting alone late at night. The figures depicted move through a space that is both real and remembered. They are sorting through artifacts from past events and deciding what to keep and what to discard. Joseph invites his viewers to find reflections of their own thoughts and concerns in these scenes, similar to searching for meaning while recalling a dream.
Jospeh has been interested in showing his work in ArtFields since moving to the Augusta River Region. When accepted he was excited. He said: “It’s always nice to be accepted, and especially in this case; both because of the scale of the event, and because not many venues have the space to exhibit a painting this size.”
You can find Joseph Kameen’s work online at www.josephkameen.com, or on his Instagram. His work will also be featured at the Greenville Center for the Creative Arts until January 25th, and at the Dove Gallery at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC from March 13th until May 11th.