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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Affrilachia: The Artists

William  A. Fields
William A. Fields
Additional photos below »

By Angela Wampler | May 27, 2008

Meet the artists featured in A! Magazine's June cover story.

— - William Fields was born and raised in Chilhowie, Va. prior to, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement. After graduation from Chilhowie High School, he attended the Virginia Art Institute in Charlottesville, Va. Today he works as Student Government Advisor / Leadership Coordinator at the Blue Ridge Job Corps Center in Marion, Va., where he has been employed for 23 years.

— - Nancy Johnson is an artist-in-residence at The Arts Depot in Abingdon, Va. Since retiring from a career in nursing, she has unleashed her creative potential through painting, drawing and writing. Through her colorful folk paintings, Johnson depicts ethnic pride and a loving look at black American culture. Her lively artwork is both playful and serious, utilizing a palette of brilliant, fresh colors.

— - Amythyst Phillips is a 21-year-old guitarist, singer and songwriter who was initially self-taught, except for one classical guitar class in high school. Most recently, she studied Bluegrass Acoustic Guitar under Jack Tottle, founder of the Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Program at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in Johnson City. She has performed twice at ETSU as a solo artist.

— - Lydia Wilson is a mixed-media textile artist from Johnson City, Tenn., whose work may take the form of an art doll, a piece of wearable art, an art quilt, a book/journal, or a collage — though she is best known for her figurative sculptures and the ways in which she embellishes her pieces.

Her newest endeavor is bead embroidery as wall jewelry. Wilson uses the same techniques and stitches as in general embroidery: feather, running, herringbone and chevron. She combines semi-precious jewels with natural objects and metals, such as jade, bone and bronze, to create the jewelry's focal point, and adds glass beads and lampwork beads to provide another "point of interest."

Regardless of the materials or techniques used, each piece has a message or purpose. They are meant to spark a smile, invite a debate, or evoke a tear without a single word spoken — a visual voice. Her work has been displayed locally as well as in national exhibitions. Home and Garden TV and magazines such as Somerset Studio, Quilting Arts, Cloth Paper Scissors, and Art Doll Quarterly have showcased her work as well.

For the past two years, Wilson has led workshops for the Arts Council of Greater Kingsport's Arts4Kids program. Most recently, Wilson's "What Lies Within: Children of Fiber" incorporated character traits and African history into a fiber arts project. In February 2007, Wilson led Arts4Kids participants on a journey from slavery to freedom, "The Fiber of Freedom: Pass It On." Through a short narrative, youth learned how fiber art quilts aided in the Underground Railroad's quest to free the slaves, then the children created their own fiber art quilt square.

Affrilachia: Q&A with the Artists
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"Old Faithful" by William A. Fields of Marion, Va. recently won third place in an art show in Richmond, Va.

Through her colorful folk paintings, Nancy Johnson depicts ethnic pride and a loving look at black American culture. (Photo by Mike Pierry, Jr.)

Below, a detail from Johnson's "Mount Zion Baptist Church." (Photo by Bob Cassell)

Amythyst Phillips' music has a "me vs. the world" theme. She says, "My songs are generally about trying to come to grips with my ambivalence in a world that has no straight answers."

For the past two years, fiber artist Lydia Wilson has led workshops for the Arts Countil of Greater Kingsport's Arts4Kids program.

Youth created quilt squares after Wilson told them how quilts were used in the Underground Railroad.