Roger Halligan 2022
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Artfields experience changed Lake City sculptor's life

ArtFields experience changed Lake City sculptor's life

Roger Halligan is a sculptor from Lake City who is in his fourth year participating in ArtFields. Greg Halligan/P

LAKE CITY — For artist Roger Halligan, ArtFields has been a life-changing event in more ways than one.
After attending the 2019 iteration of the art festival, the sculptor and his wife pulled up roots and moved to Lake City, inspired by the budding artist community in northeastern South Carolina.
A native of upstate New York, Halligan has lived in the Southeast since he attended the University of Georgia in the 1970s. He has called Asheboro, N.C., Chattanooga, Tenn., and now Lake City home.

Halligan said he works most often in concrete and stone. His pieces are influenced by neolithic standing stones that can be seen in parts of Europe.
"The idea of borders and boundaries has always been interesting in terms of how we approach them, whether they're physical boundaries or whether they're psychological boundaries," he said. "Which ones do we keep? Which ones do we try to avoid? Which ones do we try to overcome?"
Halligan operates Chenoweth-Halligan Studios with his wife, the artist Jan Chenoweth. His ArtFields piece, "Eros & Thanatos," can be seen at Thomlinson & McWhite, Inc.
The Post and Courier talked with Halligan during ArtFields about his art and what it's like to live in Lake City.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Why have you chosen to live in the Southeast?
Answer: When I left Syracuse (New York) to go to graduate school at UGA, it was January. They were closing the New York State thruway behind me as I was heading east and south. 
I hadn't seen the sun in weeks, and I got to Athens and it was 70 degrees and sunny. Does that answer your question?
Q: Is it just weather, or is there something more than that?
A: The South is affordable if you're an artist, too. Originally when I was headed down to graduate school, I thought, Well, I'll get my degree and I'll go back to New York. But the South kind of grabs you, you know? There's something about it. And this is the fourth Southern state that I've lived in, so yeah, it has an addictive quality, I think

Roger Halligan's sculpture "Eros & Thanatos" is composed of steel, Portland concrete products, paints, stains and sealers. Roger Halligan/Provided

Q: How has living in the South influenced your work?
A: The piece that's in ArtFields (is) "Eros & Thanatos," the Greek gods of life and love and sleep and death.
My take on Eros and Thanatos (is) much more vegetative and rock-like, geologic. So Eros, to me, is influenced heavily by all the vines that I keep trying to fight in my yard, especially greenbrier. How greenbrier shoots out of the ground in April — and by the end of April it's 20 feet tall — just absolutely blows me away, and it's this incredible sense of regeneration and life. Its tendrils attaching to whatever it can is something that I never encountered in upstate New York, for sure.
So, yeah, the amount of growth and nature. Where I live now, my street dead ends into the Lake Swamp, so there's lots of wildlife. It was much more urban, I think, even in Chattanooga. The South has a way of taking you back to nature, where in upstate New York it was much more urban.

Q: What is the experience of ArtFields like for you as an artist?

A: It's a pretty amazing experience just to see how it transforms a community. I mean, the first year I brought artwork in, it was to go in an outfitters shop. So it was basically T-shirts and fishing gear. And I had this two-dimensional wall piece, and I'm thinking, 'These people aren't going to want this. This has glaring colors and it references pinball and they're just not going to want this.' And when I got here, I realized they said 'Yes, we want this in our store.' And I'm going, 'Wow, that's amazing.' And it dawned on me that this little community has gotten very sophisticated in the arts.
Q: What is the role of public art in the community?
A: The idea of public art where it's in your environment every day — you walk by it or you drive by it on a daily basis — changes how you react to things. Some people may see a piece and not like it at first or just totally ignore it. But over time, the dialogue begins, I think. If the people are open, a dialogue will begin between the artwork and their own personal psyche, and it will ask questions of them and make them make associations as to what it means and stuff like that. And it's just an enrichment in human daily life.

Q: Do you have any tips for how visitors to ArtFields should engage with ArtFields or public art?

A: It's my same advice that I give to people when they're going through a museum. You're not there to look at every piece and read every description. You're not doing inventory. What you want to do is go through, and when something grabs you, you stop and you look at it, you interact with it, and then you move on to the next thing. It shouldn't be a chore. It should be a joy of discovery!