WAPWALLOPEN, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — When local artist Ivan Hoyt was asked to restore the artwork of Johnny Ott, a late professor of hexology, it was a dream come true.
“That was like wow. You know I really… I guess I felt like I had arrived as a folk artist at this late date. You know I’m doing Johnny’s work and I did a pretty good job of it,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt is a hex sign painter and Pennsylvania Dutch folk artist. He was originally inspired by Ott’s art in 1972. Hoyt’s parents had visited Pennsylvania Dutch country and came back with a pamphlet that included pictures of Ott and his work. They asked Hoyt to paint a hex sign.
Eventually his hobby became his profession. Hoyt tells Eyewitness News hex signs were put on barns by the Pennsylvania Dutch.
“They were geometric designs put on the barns. Nobody knows why they did it,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt says there are many theories as to why they were put on the barns. Ott owned a hotel and a restaurant in Lenhartsville called Dietsch Ek, and sold his artwork from there. The pieces are still there, but three had been damaged by water. The current owner asked Hoyt to step in and restore them. One of the pieces was extremely damaged.
“Fortunately my wife went back to the family archives and found an old hard drive that had a picture that we took back in 1982, prior to any damage it took from the water,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt used those pictures to help him with the restoration. He says it was challenging to do.
“He never did anything. It seems like he never did anything twice. He was a true folk artist. He started around one border of the sign and didn’t repeat anything,” Hoyt said.
The restored pieces are now on the walls of the restaurant, a feat Hoyt calls an accomplishment. He has advice for aspiring artists.
“I never felt that I had a specific skill of anything like that that was extraordinary. It was just, you know how they say practice practice practice? And I would tell the kids no matter what they do, whether it’s athletic, whether it’s music, whether it’s art, stick with it. You’ll never know what you’ll achieve,” Hoyt said.