Frances Hatfield

Frances Hatfield

Born: Kelowna, 1924

Died: Vernon, BC, 2014

Mesa Women (and Her Familiars), Frances Hatfield, oil on canvas, 1994.09.01

Grandmother, sister, mentor, artist, she was a rare gem of a woman, inspiring others to explore their creative spirits and to follow their “bliss.”

Frances grew up on an orchard on the outskirts of Kelowna, creating a studio for herself in an old ice house on the property at the age of 12. Fifty years later, with true pioneer spirit, she built her own home and pottery studio in the bush near Naramata.

Frances was a channel for the universal creative spirit. She used every possible moment of her time to paint the images that were at the forefront of her mind, be it the orchards of her childhood, the brilliant meadow of sunflowers in a farmer’s field, the voluptuous bodies of the “divine feminine,” or the bold abstracts that encouraged her imagination to use radical colour schemes.

Freedom is what she exemplified in her work as an artist — freedom from restrictions and limitations.

Her’s was a path of discovery and over the more than 38 years I was blessed to have known her, she was equally passionate about the innocent splendour of an iris in full bloom as she was depicting the dark images of the Vietnam War. There was no limit to what she would endeavour to do.

Her longtime friend and fellow artist Mary Docksteader remembers Frances as a dedicated peace activist who assisted in the re-settlement of displaced people in Europe after the Second World War.

Landscape Plate, n.d., Frances Hatfield, ceramic, 33 1/2 cm diametre, 1995.01.06. Gift of the Okanagan Mainline Regional Arts Council.

“Frances was soulful, generous of heart and spirit,” said Mary. “She collected a variety of people around her with her quiet wisdom and sharp insights. She was a shining example of a life well-lived.

“Always a keen observer of life, she enjoyed teaching and mentoring many young artists with her gentle, wise but firm spirit.”

Following the war, Frances studied at the Ontario College of Art. She was also an accomplished potter who taught pottery in the Okanagan and the Kootenays.

And as another friend and fellow artist, Francis Hill, remarked, “She shone with goodness; she treated everyone equally. She worked at being a good person.”

Frances’ murals are an outstanding testimony to the broad scope of her talent and ability to manifest creatively what she had perceived mentally, engaging young people to be part of the projects, so that their imprint would be included.

Frances spent many winters in Mexico, in the small village of Ajijic, where she met and married her second husband, Robert Magenis. Together they enjoyed the ambience and colour of Mexico, while she continued to paint in her studio. Over the years, Robert often hand-made the frames for her many shows, both in Canada and Mexico. In the last years, Frances often spent winters in San Miguel de Allende.

Her daughter, Ann (from her first marriage to Hugh Hatfield) lives in Kingfisher on a farm, where she raises horses and mules.

Frances and Robert moved from Naramata in 1995, leaving her “handmade” house. She became a catalyst for the expansion of art to the North Okanagan, settling in Armstrong and giving her the opportunity to work in the large studio on her property.

One of my fondest memories of Frances is the occasion of her 80th birthday. I took her to Atlantis Waterslides outside of Vernon to celebrate. Neither of us had been there before, but we were game for the experience. For us, it was an opportunity to abandon all caution, fly down the waterslides laughing, and to finish up the day at home with a true celebration of her day of birth: with a bottled of chilled sparkling wine, egg sandwiches and birthday cake!

Frances was both a gentle soul and a fierce warrior, encompassing the full spectrum of a mature, wise woman.