Margaret Warfield thought she lost her ability to paint when ‘life got in the way,’ but a combination of prayer and perseverance brought her skills back to the surface and provided her with the means through which to find her true calling.
by Michelle Floyd
A founding member of a prominent local art gallery sought divine intervention after she seemingly lost her creative abilities. Margaret Warfield’s prayers were answered.
During Warfield’s formative years, she enjoyed art and “dabbled” in painting. She attended college at Tennessee State University, where she studied art while majoring in clothing and textiles. “When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a fashion designer,” Warfield said, “and I’ve always loved fabric.” However, once she relocated to Florida to start her career in the clothing industry, she stopped painting. The reason: “Life got in the way.”
Warfield worked for several clothing boutiques and major companies before moving to Georgia, but her heart remained in the arts.
“I hope people will identify with the strength of my women. I hope my art will bring a smile to people’s faces because they are pleased and feel comfort and hope.”Margaret Warfield
“Every time somebody asked me what I did,” she said, “I always told them I was an artist.” After she put down roots in Macon, her desire to paint returned. Warfield gathered supplies but struggled to recapture the magic. Devastated, she asked God to restore her ability, and in time, it returned. A gallery in Lithonia was the first to carry her work in Georgia, and it eventually led to an opportunity in the film industry.
Someone from the popular television cop drama “In the Heat of the Night”—the series was filmed primarily in Covington and aired on NBC and CBS from March 6, 1988 to May 16, 1995—saw one of her pieces and recommended that it be used on the show. Warfield and her husband appeared in an episode, which featured her art in a gallery fundraiser.
“I decided then that I never could be an actress,” Warfield said. “I stood around forever for a few seconds on the show.”
Warfield and her husband, along with her mother and mother-in-law, settled in Oxford some two decades ago, and she eventually came into contact with local artists that would help shape her creative future. During a local art festival at Salem Campground, Warfield met Elise Hammond, who was director of the Southern Heartland Arts Festival at the time.
“Her color palette is pretty much the same as what she started with, mostly real vibrant colors and a lot of complimentary colors,” Hammond said. “She is a very creative person.”
Hammond was quick to point out her affinity for Warfield’s clothing, which the Oxford resident continues to design and use through her artwork, like her soft-sculptured dolls, polymer clay sculptures and jewelry. The two women later became part of the founding group that started the Southern Heartland Art Gallery on The Square in downtown Covington in 2004.
“We’re like a family, rather than like a business,” Warfield said.
Warfield also works with another art gallery on The Square: WildArt, where she helps decorate the store’s window displays. “She’s a powerhouse talent and is so generous with her advice,” said WildArt Owner Ann Wildmon, who has known Warfield for 15 years. “She makes us look so good.”
Warfield admits she enjoys painting women the most, although she does not consider herself a portrait artist. She described her work as peaceful, not shocking.
“Most of them are from my imagination, and every now and then, I’ll do somebody that I’ve met,” Warfield said. “I think I’m still a fashion designer because I paint women with beautiful clothing and jewelry.” She hopes people see movement in her art. Prior to his death in 2014, Warfield’s husband told her that he believed she was painting herself over and over again. “I hope people will identify with the strength of my women,” she said. “I hope my art will bring a smile to people’s faces because they are pleased and feel comfort and hope.”
Warfield now clings to the talent she once thought was gone forever. She concedes the death of her mother in 2007 and her husband seven years later affected the way she paints, but she nevertheless forged ahead with pushing her creative bounds. Painting allowed Warfield to escape the increased sense of isolation brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, insulated her from the fear that gripped much of the globe and afforded her the chance to sharpen her skills.
“I always say my house could burn down and I would be sitting there painting,” said Warfield, who still lives with her mother-in-law in Oxford. “I’m so focused on what I’m doing. I take on the weight of the world. I don’t want it to leave me and forget.”