Former UCA art professor Gene Hatfield died Saturday, Feb. 18 from a short illness, but his energy and art live on in Conway.
According to arkansasonline, Hatfield graduated from UCA, where he was then an art professor until 1985, and named Professor Emeritus in 1995.
A decorated army veteran, Hatfield was drafted at 18 to serve in World War II, his daughter and UCA Assistant Director for Assessment Initiatives Mathilda Hatfield said.
In the AETN film “Men and Women of Distinction: Gene Hatfield,” Hatfield said he and some other men were walking toward Berlin when a grenade went off near him, sending shrapnel under his left eye.
Hatfield was saved and later awarded the Purple Heart and a bronze star for his service, and his experiences continued his anti-war beliefs.
College of Fine Arts and Communication Dean Terry Wright said after being honorably discharged, Hatfield became an art professor at UCA, helping to lay down the foundation of what would become the UCA art program.
Wright was associate dean of the college of fine arts and communication when he met Hatfield, and said Hatfield was donating pieces that became known as the Hatfield Collection.
“Gene was a character, that’s all I can say,” Wright said.
Wright said Hatfield would drive up with his pickup truck filled with paintings made by him and his students, all of which he knew the history of.
Though some know Hatfield for his paintings or the strange sculptures in his yard, Wright said he dabbled in everything from painting to dancing.
“He was a Renaissance man,” Wright said. “He explored every art form you can think of.”
In the AETN video, Hatfield talks about his yard, which drew complaints from some Conway residents who felt his sculptures were trash, but Hatfield refused to remove them, saying he had used the objects for a purpose.
“Oh, oh no, found objects,” Hatfield said. “Not trash; they’re found objects.”
Wright said Hatfield was truthful and could be blunt, and was always full of energy.
“You couldn’t have a close encounter with him and not know it,” Wright said. “He was so full of life.”
Mathilda said Hatfield enjoyed telling stories and was good at wordplay, often naming his paintings with word puns.
Image Courtesy of thecabin.net