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Mayfield artist brings tornado-inspired piece to Lexington

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – The December 2021 tornadoes cut deep into so many western Kentucky communities. In Mayfield, the scars are still visible as the rebuild continues.

“We know people that completely lost their homes, some are still rebuilding as we go into winter again,” said Justine Riley, an artist and Mayfield native.

Riley says the EF-4 twister went just north of her farm, downing trees and damaging her roof. Yet she considers her encounter with the storms as no more than a scratch.

“I think this tornado made a lot of people realize how lucky they were because they still had their lives, and they still had their home,” Riley said.

Seeing the damage dealt to so many others caused her to reconsider the career path she’d come to be so passionate about.

“It just totally shifted gears,” said Riley. “I wasn’t even thinking about art. I was thinking this is terrifying! Should I even stay here? Is art even important?”

But she realized that she could use her profession to highlight some of those things we almost lost. For Riley, that meant capturing the nature she’d come to know and love.

“I know other people experienced losing their homes and their family members, but these places where I walked and collected things – that was the loss I experienced,” Riley said.

Riley noted her fallen trees can provide new habitats and breathe new life into her farmland. She hopes that in the same vein, towns like Mayfield which have been pulled apart at the seams are, slowly but surely, sewing themselves back together.

“It will be different but as long as people are there building things, and hopefully planting trees, it just evolves,” said Riley.

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