Randolph Arts Guild showcases Bledsoe's art collection
Jerry Bledsoe, who’s known for his works of literature — but not for his collection of art — has a simple philosophy when it comes to collecting.
“Always try to buy originals,” the acclaimed Randolph County journalist says, “and always spend less than $40.”
Not your typical art collector’s modus operandi, to be sure, but it does make for a decidedly eclectic collection of paintings.
“It is by far the most eclectic collection we’ve ever featured,” says Derrick Sides, executive director of the Randolph Arts Guild, which this month is hosting an exhibit of about 45 selected paintings from Bledsoe’s collection. “There are some really nice pieces, some stunning work, which is amazing when you consider he purchased it all in thrift shops and Goodwills around the area.”
Not surprisingly, Bledsoe — ever the investigative journalist — has researched many of the pieces in his collection.
“While there aren’t any that appear to be of great value, there are some with some very interesting stories to tell, including one that has special significance to him because of its connection to Ernest Hemingway,” Sides says.
According to Sides, the painting is by Italian artist Mario Berrino, who was born in 1920 and died in 2011. Berrino’s father owned an eatery in Alassio, Italy called the Café Roma, a famous gathering spot for writers, artists and performers in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Berrino and his brothers inherited the café, and he became friends with Hemingway, a regular at the café. A famous portrait of Hemingway with a parrot on his arm was painted at the café by another artist in 1951.
That same year, Berrino and Hemingway came up with the idea of creating a wall at the Liberte Piazza near the café, with colorful tiles bearing the signatures of the famous people who came to Café Roma. Hemingway’s tile was the first. Today, the wall is known as Muretto and is one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions.
“The pieces are very eclectic,” Sides says. “There are some works that were obviously student work, and some by what would be folk artists, but then there are some that are definitely by very well-trained, very skilled artists. And I think that’s part of the beauty of the exhibition — they all command the same respect in different ways.”
Bledsoe, the author of “Bitter Blood,” “Blood Games” and numerous other books, spoke at the exhibition’s opening reception Tuesday evening and will participate in a “Lunch and Learn” gallery talk on Jan. 29.
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Want to go?
“Orphaned Art,” featuring artwork collected by Jerry Bledsoe, will remain on display through Jan. 29 in the Sara Smith Self Gallery of the Randolph Arts Guild, located at 1232 Sunset Ave., Asheboro.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
Admission is free.
Bledsoe will participate in a “Lunch and Learn” session at the guild on Jan. 29, at noon, during which he’ll discuss how he got started collecting art and tell about some of the pieces he has researched. Participants are encouraged to bring a bag lunch for the free, hourlong program.
For more information, call the guild at (336) 629-0399.