Telling stories: Local artist, and history, featured

Beth Sergent

October 23, 2013

OHIO VALLEY — Jan Haddox is first and foremost, a storyteller.

Haddox’s stories on canvas will be featured at a special reception held from 6-9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26 at Gallery at 409 on Main St. in Point Pleasant. There will also be a special prize drawing to win one of Haddox’s pieces, which primarily feature scenes from his favorite time period and place — the Ohio Valley in the 1700s.

Haddox, who lives in Point Pleasant and is a retired school teacher who was employed in both Mason County and Meigs County, Ohio, said he didn’t start painting until he retired. For the last four years, he has been creating a body of work, most of which (46 pieces) will be featured at the Gallery at 409 for the next couple of months.

Haddox said he’s fascinated by the 1700s in the Ohio Valley because it was a time of diverse characters who were all gathered in that place for different reasons — most of these reasons falling under the banner of manifest destiny. This manifest destiny pushed the Native Americans aside, and for Haddox, who roots for the underdog, that felt wrong.

Many of his paintings feature Native Americans struggling against the tide of history. Other paintings feature cultural snapshots of life in Appalachia — these snapshots still featuring the underdogs, such as the couple who lost a child in the piece “The Circuit Rider.” With this piece and many others, Haddox has added text alongside the actual painting to explain it and enhance it. For example, the poem “Mountain Sarvis” by Muriel Miller Dressler is featured with “The Circuit Rider” and “Logan’s Lament” is featured alongside a painting of Chief Logan. Again, all of it is meant to add texture and layers to the work.

In Haddox’s piece, “The Coal Miner,” he added actual coal dust to the painting to give it some grit and emotion.

“Art is playing with light and emotion,” Haddox explained.

Haddox’s emotion is definitely with the storytelling aspect of being an “illustrator, not an artist” as he puts it. He invites commentary from local people, including many local reenactors who travel to Point Pleasant to recreate its history for insight into the details of his paintings. Many of these reenactors and locals have found their way into Haddox’s paintings.

Many of his paintings also have creative titles, such as, “There Goes the Neighborhood,” featuring Native Americans witnessing the French landing at Gallipolis, Ohio.

Again, Haddox’s main objective is a tell a story, and he invites the public to, not only come to see the stories, but hear them during Saturday’s reception.