Manassas’ first distillery, KO Distilling, recently unveiled a commissioned work by local artist Nathan Loda during a private reception in its tasting room, according to a news release.
Historic Manassas Inc. assisted with the event, which was held Aug. 27, the 153rd anniversary of the Feast at Manassas Junction. The unveiling drew local dignitaries, historians and representatives from George Mason University, where Loda earned his master’s in fine arts.
KO Distilling co-owner Bill Karlson also earned his graduate degree from Mason. To foster a strong relationship between his alma mater and the distillery, Karlson approached Jim Wolfe, professor of entrepreneurship and business at Mason, with having artwork created for KO’s tasting room. Wolfe suggested hosting a student art contest for the distillery. Wolfe put Karlson in touch with William Reeder, then-dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. However, Reeder said no contest was necessary: “There’s only one person for the job: Nathan Loda.”
Loda met with Karlson and distillery co-owner John O’Mara to discuss concepts for the painting and the trio agreed that it should commemorate the historical location of the distillery. After three months of research and execution, Loda’s work was complete. Titled “KO at Manassas Junction,” the painting is a non-historical representation of the Feast at Manassas Junction that took place on Aug. 27, 1862, just days before the Battle of Second Manassas.
After having circled to the rear of Gen. John Pope’s Union forces, Stonewall Jackson’s “foot cavalry” ransacked the huge Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. Confederate soldiers then gorged themselves on the vast bounty they found, the release stated.
Much to the dismay of his troops, Jackson ordered barrels of whiskey poured to the ground. Some soldiers were seen on their hands and knees trying to save the spirits. After the feast, the Confederates burned the supply trains and the depot. From there, Jackson and his men marched to Bull Run, where they faced Pope’s forces Aug. 28-30 in the Battle of Second Manassas.
Loda used “artistic license to create a sense of factual ambiguity in the painting,” according to the release. There is no distinction between Confederate and Union soldiers, which creates a sense of unity instead of conflict. The painting has a celebratory feel, which aligns with the distillery and its spirits.
“KO obviously wasn’t around in 1862, but there were soldiers drinking whiskey. Part of the beauty of painting is that you can recreate your own version of history,” Loda said. “By painting in KO whiskey barrels and their Virginia Moon whiskey bottle, I was able to create a new narrative and put KO on the map.”
The 7-foot by 4-foot oil on panel painting now hangs in the tasting room of the distillery.
Karlson could not be happier with the end result. “Nathan greatly exceeded our expectations. His talent as an artist is matched by his personality and humor. We are honored to have his work hanging on our walls,” he said.
KO Distilling, 10381 Central Park Drive, Manassas, will host its grand opening noon to 7 p.m. Sept. 12 with distillery tours; tastings of their Battle Standard 142 Gin and Virginia Moon White Whiskey; live rock, country, and bluegrass music; children’s activities; Cured Food Truck; and local beer and wine for purchase.
KO will also be open from 1-6 p.m. Sept. 13 with tours, tastings, music, and the Bone BBQ Food Truck.