Collector at heart

Collector at heart

Rising Fawn folk-art dealer brings his work home

May 9th, 2009 by Holly Leber in Entertainment

Jimmy Hedges could tell a thousand stories about the art that fills his home. A folk-art dealer, Mr. Hedges has a small gallery of his clients' work in Rising Fawn, Ga. His house, down the road, could be a gallery as well. Consisting of an entryway, main room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, the abode is stuffed with creative works.

Mr. Hedges often deals in works by mentally ill and disabled people, as well as prison artists. For years, he has taken clients' work to the Outsider Art Fair in New York City.

"A lot of the time they were doing this art to nurture themselves or to take away some sort of pain," he said.

Mr. Hedges was in real estate a lifetime ago, but when he showed some of his cedar carvings to a gallery in Memphis, he was told that he ought to examine folk art, and thus a new career was born.

That was more than 20 years ago. Since then, Mr. Hedges has collected art and stories from about 25 artists. Many of his favorites, including Danny "The Bucket Man" Hoskinson, Minnie Evans, Howard Finster and J.B. Murray, have since died. In the crammed hallway, he has a pair of walking crutches with rooster heads that Mr. Hoskinson made from melted buckets.

"(Many of the) artists I worked with are dead, and these new ones make me want to (gag)," he said of a number of second-generation folk artists whom he called "copycat little (artists)."

Two of the contemporary folk artists he works with are Red Bank native Wayne "Haint" Bradley, who creates colorful shadow boxes, and self-taught artist Purvis Young.

The larger spaces of the house are free-flowing and crammed with all sorts of art, while some of the smaller spaces have more thematic elements. The bathroom features erotic art, including a three-dimensional movable wall sculpture that - well, you wouldn't put in the kids' room.

The galley kitchen has colorful glasses, mugs carved with faces, paintings on wood and handmade ceramic dishware.

Outside, a stone porch and steps made from six large rocks lead down to a path.

A small, man-made lake is across from the house, with a screened-in gazebo over the water.

"Women don't like bugs, so I screened it in," said Mr. Hedges, 67 ("but say I'm 57 so I can get a date").

Married twice for 10 years each, Mr. Hedges has lived in his Rising Fawn house for 30 years, adding more art and more stories to his home. He said he would like to write journals about the art and its creators. Everything has its story, and he loves to tell them.

The biggest challenge is keeping everything clean.

"I have a problem with dusting," he said. "I usually dust with a leaf blower."