August/September 1982 | Volume 33, Issue 5
A contemporary artist re-creates two and a half centuries of the life of a North Carolina county
Last March a letter arrived at AMERICAN HERITAGE from Barry G. Huffman of Hickory, North Carolina, a subscriber who had some kind words to say about the most recent issue of the magazine. But more important, she wanted to share with us a set of paintings she had been working on for the last four years. Her paintings, small oils on canvases about twelve by sixteen inches in size, are visual narratives of local history, and taken together they form a sequence that she calls “Catawba Journey.” She intends the group to be illustrations for a children’s book to be used in the local schools. We think they deserve a wider audience.
As a painter Huffman is a primitive in the sturdy tradition of American folk art. As a historical researcher she is a perfectionist. Consequently, horses in her pictures are appropriately harnessed, the hardware on a door is correct, clothes, guns, and tools are all just as Catawba residents of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries knew them.
Huffman started painting about ten years ago, and she works at home, wherever she can find space for her easel. But her fascination with history predates her painting. Nowadays her two interests have coalesced. “Art and history,” she says, “speak the same language.”