Her Natural Habitat

Heidi Mayfield talks about the “endless potential and versatility” of encaustic. Photo by Matt Rose

Heidi Mayfield talks about the “endless potential and versatility” of encaustic. Photo by Matt Rose

If there’s such a thing as an artist-omnivore, that’s Heidi Mayfield. Over the years, the Hendersonville painter has worked in batik, oils, acrylics, charcoal, encaustic, pastel, even wire, and there’s more to come. “It could be the Gemini in me, but I thrive on learning and experiencing new things,” says Mayfield. “The only thing I’ve not tried is stone sculpture, glass blowing, blacksmithing, and welding … oh, and turning wood on a lathe. Yet.”

Known for her deeply layered encaustic landscapes, ethereal charcoal drawings and acrylic abstractions, Mayfield is advancing further into new territory with an exhibition later this summer of art made from recycled plastic, cardboard and metal, not to mention an environmental installation set to open late this month incorporating wood, mosses and rock. And, yes, a small woodturning lathe will soon be taking up residence in her studio.



Her childhood in the Virginia foothills of the Blue Ridge was fertile ground for such a wide-ranging career in the arts. Mayfield’s German-born father played classical piano. Her mother (born in the U.S. but raised in Sweden) expressed her own creativity in wax and oils. “My mother really was my first teacher,” Mayfield recalls. “My earliest memory of the artistic process was when she would set her oils out on the radiator on early, cold fall mornings to warm them enough to paint with. Watching her paint the fall colors of the mountains across the street and smelling the aromas of linseed oils and turpentine really had an impact on me.” By the age of four, Mayfield was already drawing geometric figures and retreating with school friends to a makeshift studio in the attic.

Since a potter’s wheel and an electric kiln were also part of the home environment, Mayfield chose to study ceramics and pottery in college and had her first juried exhibition by the time she was 19, by which time her family had moved to Florida. Graduating with top honors from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, she spent the next 15 years working with interior designers needing artwork and murals for their clients, which allowed her not only to make a living but also to explore a variety of media.

She arrived in Hendersonville nearly seven years ago, after visiting a former student she had taught at an art school in Florida. “She took me to the Boys and Girls Club and I was impressed to the point of tears,” Mayfield says. “I really missed the mountains that I had loved in my youth, and entertained the idea of living in the mountains again.” A teaching opportunity at the Boys and Girls Club made the whim official in January, 2010. Currently, she hosts shows at her own Hendersonville gallery, Art On 4th, and is also represented by Desert Moon Design Studio in Asheville’s River Arts District.

Whatever medium draws her attention, the inspiration flows from Mayfield’s deep attachment to the natural world. Birds, for example — particularly crows and ravens —figure in many of her canvases. “They’re independent, intelligent and have a strong sense of community,” she says. “I find encouragement and am inspired by their determination to exist in an environment that is void of natural habitat. Phone and power lines instead of tree branches. Gutters and window sills for nests instead of shrubs and trees. French fries and scraps instead of worms and seeds.”

And although her landscapes tend toward the abstract, they record her emotions and perceptions of actual places, in Mayfield’s words, “to share what they have to say more than what they are.” These works in acrylic, pastels or encaustic present a primeval world of bands of color and suggestive shapes, as if caught in the act of creation. The thickly layered and lustrous encaustics, especially, seem to be rising from some deeper level of genesis. “The endless potential and versatility [of encaustic] is amazing,” Mayfield says. “It fascinates artists and art lovers alike, so it was a perfect match for me to paint and teach.”

But it’s the message, rather than the medium, that’s of prime importance to her. Each work is a marker on a journey with no definite destination. “It’s all about the memories and experiences that I honor and the ones that I leave behind,” Mayfield says. “But I believe the viewer should become involved with the art. It should take them to some place other than where they currently are. It’s a story that I tell, and I hope someone wants to listen.”

Examples of Heidi Mayfield’s work can be seen at heidimayfield.com or by visiting her gallery, Art On 4th (125 4th Avenue East in Hendersonville, arton4thave.com). On July 30, she plans an outdoor installation using natural vegetation, at a river location to be announced. 828-393-5755.

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