For over thirty years, Frances Hairfield has dedicated her artistic career to the time honored traditions of oil painting and drawing. She makes her home in Western North Carolina, where she divides her creative life between her family’s mountain homestead and her idyllic Victorian home and studio in the foothills. Whether painting the region’s majestic natural attractions through Plein air painting or referencing local textiles and crafts in still life painting, Hairfield’s art mirrors her local environment and its diverse culture and heritage.
Hairfield pursued a foundation in Fine Arts at Ringling School of Art and Design, in Sarasota, Florida. Upon graduation, she returned to Linville, North Carolina for a year and continued her studies in drawing and oil painting with noted Southern artist, William McCullough. During this time, McCullough introduced her to master Fresco painter Ben Long IV. By their example, Hairfield was encouraged to continue her arts education and training at the distinguished Art Students League of New York.
Frances moved to New York City and took up residence in the famed Barbizon Hotel for Women on 63rd and Lexington Ave. Hairfield enrolled at the world’s largest and best known independent art school. At the Art Students League Hairfield studied portrait painting with renowned artist Daniel E Greene NA, and anatomy with Dr Robert Beverly Hale. Each summer, she attended Greene’s portrait classes in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Not long after, Greene opened his own school in North Salem, New York, and employed Hairfield as studio monitor, to help manage his Studio Hill Farm classes while he painted portraits of industry and corporate leaders. For over 8 years, Hairfield assisted Greene in North Salem, NY, and in various locations across the US, including the 1st annual American Portrait Society held in New York City.
After years away, Hairfield returned to Linville to hone her skills and to add to her port folio more formal examples of portraits, and would soon establish gallery representation with leading portrait agencies. However, through word of mouth, Hairfield become a sought after portrait painter in the high country resorts and to this day maintains a waiting list for commissioned portraits, as well as landscape paintings of the mountain views around Linville.
Hairfield moved her teaching studio to the upstairs of a building overlooking the historic downtown Morganton’s main street. She sought to fill the void of creative individuals around her by opening community studios and galleries and creating artist opportunities. Among these undertakings include Signature Studio and Gallery and Alsans Studio and Gallery, both teaching studios with exhibition spaces. During this time, she represented regional artists and promoted the sales of their work, conducted themed invitational shows, hosted lively receptions and taught community art classes. Hairfield’s efforts served as a catalyst for the arts movement in Morganton and the surrounding area.
After construction of a north facing studio, Hairfield receded once again into a private space to paint and draw modern life in the Western North Carolina. Tapping into the local vernacular, her works came to reflect Morganton’s wide diversity of culture through the series of portraits, which were not the result of her typical more formal commissioned portrait. Recognized for her painting’s social importance to raise awareness and embrace diversity, Hairfield received a solo exhibition and gave an artist presentation at the Hickory Museum of Art, Hickory, North Carolina. Her series “Embracing Diversity in a Small Town” traveled to several non-profit and civic organizations, colleges and art venues throughout Western North Carolina. As the paintings hung in the Morganton City Hall, the News Herald reported on the show in 25 issues and a controversial portrait possibly showing “gang symbols” but mainly interpreted as “Hang-Loose” hand gestures, was featured on several front pages. The community rallied in support for the paintings and wrote letters to both the editor and Morganton Mayor, Mel Cohen. Whatever the interpretation, the painting objectively captures a local youth in a moment in time.
Hairfield’s desire for the camaraderie of other artists placed her on a towering scaffold assisting Ben Long with his team of artists in the production of two frescoes. After four months of painting, the City of Morganton’s Municipal Auditorium’s ceiling received “The Sacred Dance of the Muses” fresco completed in April 2004. In spring of 2006, she was again part of Long’s team, completing the fresco, “Suffer the Children, Come unto Me” in the Sloop Chapel at the Crossnore School, Crossnore, North Carolina.
Today, Hairfield continues her work as an artist, painting and drawing commissioned portraits and teaching. She supports the community through charitable causes such as “The Art of Chocolate”, an art auction for Options of Burke County, a domestic violence, rape and sexual assault shelter. She devotes her time and energy to support The Burke County Arts Council, Morganton Day School, Crossnore School and several more charitable causes, through donations of her works, and sharing her expertise.
Above all else, Hairfield is a passionate teacher. In the shadows of Grandfather Mountain, you may find her on the trails hosting summer Plein Air Painting Workshops or at the Collett Street Recreation Center in Morganton where she shares a teaching studio with Miguel Pico, a classical guitarist. As her brush moves to the sound of music and student chatter, she continues working in a diverse community setting and spreading her love of art and extensive knowledge.
In the future, she will teach a Plein Air Painting Workshop in Orvieto, Italy in September of 2015 with her friends, Bill and Kristin Steiner’s Adventures in Italy.