Retrospective exhibit follows the development of Rodney Hatfield’s art and music
For those who had a pulse and an inclination toward live music in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, it would have been difficult to miss a performance by Rodney Hatfield, with one or all of his legendary Lexington bands. Starting with Jazzbo and then the Hatfield Clan, the Shysters and the Metropolitan Blues All-Stars and now with the newest musical ensemble, Tin Can Buddha, Hatfield has been jamming for decades all over the Bluegrass. With his harmonica and vocals steeped in soulful blues, Hatfield often leaves audiences clapping, whooping and screaming for more.
If you’re an art lover, you may likely be familiar with the artwork of Rodney Hatfield, or Art Snake, as he is better known in the art world. Hatfield adopted the pseudonym years ago as a play on the academic term “art for arts’ sake,” displaying the clever wit that fans often look for in his work.
As a well-known performer and visual artist, Hatfield is a figure woven into the fabric of Lexington’s art and music scene. Many Lexington homes boast an Art Snake or two on the walls, and many music lovers have great memories attached to years of nights out on the town spent rocking with Hatfield and the talented array of local musicians he has played with over the years.
Hatfield has taken his place among Kentucky’s most celebrated artists and has, as both a visual and musical artist, reached that milestone moment in a long and successful career — it’s time to look back. A retrospective of his work opens at New Editions Gallery in Chevy Chase on Nov. 16 and runs through late December.
As a child, Hatfield remembers always having been interested in drawing. He said he can’t remember a time when he didn’t draw, doodle and paint. His childhood in rural Pike County offered lots of time spent alone and out in nature, which proved to be the perfect incubator for an active imagination. Today he describes his ideas for paintings as coming from a place he can’t explain.
“An idea just comes, and it feels like it has always been there,” Hatfield said. “Art comes from a mysterious place. The creative process I use in painting is a lot the same as music. Performing a solo or being deep in a painting springs from the same place. Expressing and improvising musically has aided me with improvising on the canvas.”
Early on, Hatfield was reluctant to show his work outside his circle of friends. His girlfriend at the time strongly encouraged him to show his work to gallery owners and get some exposure and feedback. Not entirely comfortable with the idea, Hatfield agreed to show his work for the first time at the local restaurant Alfalfa with friend, local musician and artist Pat McNeese. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, inspiring Hatfield to jump into creating more art and immersing himself more deeply. The next thing he knew, there were shows in other places like Chicago and Santa Fe, N.M., he said.