By: Madison Fugate
A renowned and widely admired Kentucky artist claims that the Red River Gorge has been an important foundation in his artwork, insisting that the naturally gorgeous area “has a way of casting an almost magical influence on you.” As a Powell County native, it’s easy for most to acknowledge that the wilderness around us draws in many frequenters who come to admire the blissful and mesmerizing scenery of the Natural Bridge and Red River Gorge areas. However, what many often fail to realize is the talented artists and individuals who come to appreciate these types of landscapes that the citizens here are oh so familiar with. Previously referenced artist, Jon Gaddis, proudly admits that although his roots are in Knox County, he is all too familiar with Powell County. Gaddis is a largely recognized artist who often finds his muse within these rural and mountainous landscapes bathed in golden sunsets here in Powell County.
If you have visited Natural Bridge lately, you may have even wondered across some of his own masterpieces throughout local businesses here in the county. Artwork of Jon Gaddis is also available at Sticks, Stones and Stitches, an Appalachian gift shop located in Stanton, Kentucky. Additionally, his work is available for purchase in the form of a postcard in several other local businesses such as the Daniel Boone Coffee Shop, La Cabana, the Sky Bridge Gift Shop, The Red River Rockhouse and Gaddis confessed hopefully soon at Miguel’s. Prints of his art are also displayed inside of the Powell County Tourism Director’s office at the Slade Welcome Center. Powell County most definitely isn’t the only area to be fortunate enough to have this artwork spread so widely. Gaddis states that in the past he has given his sought after artwork to family and friends as gifts. He has also done some commission work and sold some pieces. His paintings have been displayed in galleries throughout the state, have been featured extensively online in websites and blogs and many of Gaddis’ works have been sold through gallery appearances. One piece of Gaddis’ artwork showcasing Creation Falls in Wolfe County has been featured inside the State Capitol Building in Frankfort, Kentucky as part of the first installment of the Team Kentucky gallery. Though several seem to want to display or offer this artwork inside their businesses or homes, Gaddis relays that he has been holding on to many of his original pieces lately in order to later showcase them in a future exhibit inside of a prestigious gallery. “I find it difficult when I sell my work, as if I’m selling part of my own soul, but I find tremendous joy knowing it is displayed on a wall for others to enjoy,” states Gaddis. Most recently, Ale8-One has requested Gaddis’ permission to feature his artwork featuring an Ale8 bottle in front of a local restaurant, Miguel’s, in their yearly calendar for the upcoming year.
Jon Gaddis is an interesting Kentucky artist in more ways than one. He is a non-traditional art student who has always had a passion for art for as long as he can remember. What few who are familiar with Gaddis and his work may not realize is that he is actually legally blind. Instead of allowing that trait to hinder his talents or abilities whatsoever, Gaddis claimed that it almost fueled his passion for the art world, “Because I was nearsighted, I spent a great deal of time drawing the things I saw around me, or what I found interesting in books. I think that had a lot of influence in my development as an artist from as early as I can remember.” Gaddis is skilled in both portrait work and of course, landscapes as well. Another interesting fact about Gaddis is his job title as a paramedic and pursuit as a student studying nursing. Though he now works in Lexington, he even spent a large portion of his earlier career having served here in Powell County as a paramedic with Powell County Emergency Medical Services. “I have volunteered as a wilderness paramedic with RedSTAR Wilderness EMS, and look forward to volunteering in the Red River Gorge, when I free up some time in my busy schedule,” he goes on to say.
It seems as if this bold and respected artist only allows for tragedy to influence his success. Gaddis chooses to use his talents as an escape from his harsh realities often times. “Each piece I complete has an emotional tie different than its predecessors,” he relayed, later adding that his recent work of Auxier Ridge depicts some of his favorite things in life such as marvelous and therapeutic skyscapes. Gaddis insists that many times in his life he has retreated to artwork to escape stress or grief, “I took to the canvas after I lost my mother. The stressors elicited from the pandemic as a worker on the front lines have influenced my work, sharpened my focus.” Jon Gaddis describes his artwork as being so much more than a pleasant image, “It provokes every sense and idea straight from the human soul right onto the canvas.” He later described artwork as having the power of intervention to move mountains or change the course of human history. Just the same, Gaddis is able to recall several blissful moments that have led him to the canvas as well. Throughout his interview, he was able to reflect on the journey of falling in love with his wife, claiming, “I fell in love with my wife there (the Red River Gorge), taking her on dates and exploring the area.”
Today, Jon Gaddis states he has “fallen away” from commission work or custom artistry, “I think and express best from my own heart, and am not motivated by profit. I found that I like to express myself and my own vision most, and found commission work to sharply deviate from that.” He later adds that he favors landscapes, as all societal barriers are dissolved and the elements are more “timeless and true.” Gaddis is currently in the process of constructing a website where you can more closely follow his artwork at JonGaddis.com, his work can also be followed on social media platforms at Facebook.com/JonGaddisArt and on Instagram at Instagram.com/JonGaddisArt. Be sure to join the large following so that you too can have an understanding of where all the admiration for Jon Gaddis’ many incredible pieces derives from!