Covered Bridge art has a patriotic theme; folder includes names of local WWII veterans

By Rozella Hardin

   Banner Elk artist Don Iverson has been showing his art at the Covered Bridge Festival for 12 years. Featured works have included paintings of the Covered Bridge, The Carter Mansion, Tweetsie, porches of historic homes in Elizabethton, and even a Johnson City Fire Station.
   This year's featured painting will be Iverson's fourth of the Covered Bridge -- a summer scene with a patriotic theme. "It will probably be the last painting of the Covered Bridge that I will do for a while. This will finish the seasons," Iverson said. Past prints have included winter, spring and fall scenes of the historic bridge.
   "I was asked by the Chamber 12 years ago on the 25th anniversary of the festival to do a painting as an anniversary momento or collectible. And, I've been coming back ever since," he said.
   Iverson decided on a patriotic theme for this year's painting after the September 11 event. "Patriotism has been at a high, and I wanted to capture that spirit. After much thought and research, I decided to use World War II as my theme," he explained.
   The painting features the Covered Bridge with a patch-work quilt in the foreground. Beside the quilt is a soldier's boots and socks. On the quilt is a picnic basket and the soldier's cap. "The idea is that the soldier has come home on leave, and he and his girlfriend are enjoying a picnic at the Covered Bridge. He has removed his shoes and socks and they have gone to wade in the river," Iverson explained. Also, laying on the quilt is an Elizabethton STAR newspaper with the headline "GERMANY SURRENDERS."
   "It is still a very tense time as this is mid-August. The war is not over. Japan would not surrender until sometime in the fall," Iverson said.
   The headline is the actual STAR headline of that date, as Iverson researched it on the STAR microfilm.
   Much research and thought went into the painting. "I was impressed to find that some 5,000 men and women from Carter County served during World War II. Carter County did more than its share of sending its men and women to war," Iverson exclaimed.
   "The 5,000 number equaled to one out of every seven Carter Countians serving in the war. I also read that Carter County ranked 21st statewide in population, but ranked eighth, percentage-wise in the number of men and women who served during World War II. This was really impressive to me," the artist said.
   The folder for the painting includes a ghost image of the Covered Bridge and the 5,000 names of the men and women from Carter County who served during World War II. "This was one way to honor them," Iverson shared.
   "My wife spent days getting the names. As long as Carter County books are right, we're right," he said.
   "This war had a great impact on the family. But, it was either fight or speak German," Iverson exclaimed.
   "I can imagine that many of these men who went off to war were just boys who perhaps had never been out of the county or no farther than Johnson City. They were whisked away from home and sent off to Europe to such places as France and Belgium. In the painting, I tried to capture one memorable moment -- a serene moment -- of a soldier home on leave and sharing some special moments with his girl. I have to believe that every Carter County soldier who was away at war on foreign soil, when he laid down at night thought of home," Iverson said.
   "In so many ways the Covered Bridge reminds us of home, and represents the American spirit and what is good about Carter County. It represents values, determination and strength. When I think of the Covered Bridge, I think of sentimental things like Grandma, t-models, and kids playing baseball. I love that old bridge," Iverson exclaimed.
   In fact, the artist said the Covered Bridge piece may be his only piece of art work this year as he and his wife are very involved in mission work in India. The Iversons just recently returned from India, where he works with 12 schools and where the Church of Christ has started a home for girls. A Church of Christ minister, Iverson with the help of the church started the home less than a year ago.
   Iverson and his wife, Cathy, live in Banner Elk, N.C. Their home sits atop a peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains called Pigeon Roost. On the same ridge, you will find the Iverson Studio. It is in the early hours in this studio that Iverson prefers to paint.
   He enjoys painting scenes of nature as well as trains and scenes from the past. "Sometimes, they're a bit nostalgic," he said.
   "I have made a number of friends in the area since I have been coming to the Covered Bridge Festival, and I really look forward to it each year and renewing these friendships," he said.
   Iverson will be at the Covered Bridge Arts & Crafts Festival Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
   This year's print will sell for $65.