Braxton natives contribute artistic skills to complete works
By Shirley Shuman
Two works of art relating to history of the Town of Gassaway and to Henry Gassaway Davis, for whom the town was named, are currently in view on Elk Street. One, a mural painted by Braxton native Jesse Corlis based on a drawing by student Emily Garrett, graces one side of the Gassaway Post office. The second, a sculpture of Davis created by Andy Thorne, another Braxton native, sits in the window of Sports Connection. It will be placed in the Gassaway Depot once it is open and supervised.
Both are results of the enthusiasm which members of the Gassaway Area Improvement Council have shown since the organization began. Lori Dittman, a vice-president of the GAIC, explained the origin of the mural. In a meeting, attendees discussed how to further their work. And someone said, “That big blank wall on the post office building is just screaming for a mural.” Everyone agreed, and the process began.
One step was having a countywide contest in which entrants would submit drawings for the proposed mural. That culminated in Garrett’s drawing being chosen. The next step was finding someone to paint the mural. The late Shorty Rader, at that time president of GAIC, contacted Corlis. The muralist noted that he “was [seemingly] contacted out of the blue,” but he assumes that Rader’s connection to the Museum of American Glass in Weston led to the contact. “Apparently Shorty, a board member for the museum, saw the mural I had painted there and liked it,” he said.
Corlis continued to explain that Rader had mentioned some of what should be in the historical mural and told him about Garrett’s drawing. The muralist noted, “Emily had a really nice design, but I still took the privilege to put my fingerprints on it. I needed to adjust the proportions to cover the whole wall, to base the design on Emily’s concept but stretch it.”
He also explained that Rader asked him to include the Valley Hotel and also gave him an image of an old motor carriage and a driver. Corlis liked the images and included them. “They helped me stretch the proportions,” he noted. Here Corlis explained that the locomotive on the left worked but he moved the depot “more to the background allowing [him] to include the other images that were requested.” The mural also features Davis and his favorite horse, Kentucky,
Corlis “tied it all together with trees and flora, which [he] used to make transitions.” He added, “Everything shows some sky and in the background is the ridgeline from my view there in the city park.” Here he pointed out that anyone who takes a closer look “may find something else’” and said, “I want them to see the passion I have for my work.” His work as a muralist actually began while he was an art student at West Virginia Wesleyan