Since quitting her corporate job some 13 years ago to focus completely on her painting, Oxford resident Margaret Warfield said she's been on "an exciting journey."
During that time, the self-taught artist has seen her vibrant work displayed in a variety of venues, including exhibits, galleries and on magazine and textbook covers. But it wasn't until she altered her subject matter that the art world began to take notice.
"I started painting in oils, but I wound up working in acrylics due to drying times," she said. "And I started out painting landscapes and old homes, but transitioned into painting dancers. (Noted artist) Frank Frazier saw my work at a gallery and told the people there he liked it, but it needed to be more fluid. That advice made me do what I'm doing now. His one comment pushed me in the direction I'm now going."
Warfield's Web site (www.margaretwarfield.com) describes her work as "art that touches the soul" and she's called her style "abstract realism," which features faceless dancing women adorned in colorful flowing garments.
"I can't dance myself, but I like dance," Warfield quipped. "I was inspired to paint dancers when I saw a group dance at a church I attended. It was amazing all the spiritual energy that came out. That's what I want to put on canvas - the movement of the spirit. People say they can almost feel my pieces moving with the spirit coming off it. I want people to find joy - art should make people think of happy, peaceful things."
Her work is currently exhibited for sale at four Georgia galleries (including the Southern Heartland Gallery in Covington) and in Hagerstown, Md., and Fort Myers, Fla. She also has a piece on display at Walt Disney World, has earned top awards from the Atlanta Dogwood Festival and Heritage Arts Festival and was even featured on an episode of "In the Heat of the Night" as an artist.
Most recently, Warfield has been the featured artist at the Atlanta Public Library's Martin Luther King Jr. Branch on John Wesley Dobbs Avenue. She's had six paintings hanging in the historic library for close to a year and recently sold the painting "Simple Treasures" to the library after branch manager Marquita Washington was able to secure a grant in February.
"Margaret's work adds visual interest and incredible energy to the library," said Washington in a prepared statement.
"The exhibit has been up since last July and toward the end of last year, I called the library to see if they wanted me to come take the paintings," said Warfield. "But Ms. Washington didn't want them to leave. She said she'd try to get a grant to buy one of the paintings. She said that the woman in 'Simple Treasures' is welcoming people into the library."
Warfield said she was "overwhelmed" to learn her painting would hang permanently at the library.
"With grants, people tend to give money for projects that society deems more important than art," she said. "I know there are many worthy causes out there, so for someone to select my painting because they were moved by it is quite an honor, especially in these times."
The Tennessee native is adamant that art fulfills a vital service to society.
"Art touches your life every day," she said. "People should think about how important and influential art and artists are in this world, and should appreciate them more."
Since her mother died last year, Warfield said she's "pulled back" from art, but she's looking forward to seeing how the year unfolds for her.
"My mother passed away in July - she'd been living with us for 10 years and I was her main caregiver," said Warfield, who has been married to Harry Allen since 1993 and has lived in Oxford for seven years. "I was still painting, but I'd pulled back from the art world, but God has blessed me anyway with exciting things happening."