Steve Purdy and Mark Bloom stand in front of an east-side storage locker. Purdy opens the rolling metal door to reveal a room jammed with art of every color, style and size.
This is not just any kind of art; it’s thrift-store art, discovered at second-hand stores around the country. Paintings range from the creepy to the fantastic to the downright awful.
“It really is the most fun you can have looking at art,” Bloom says. “It’s not a serious gallery show in any way shape or form.”
Bloom and Purdy are finishing preparations for their Tales from the Trash gallery show Saturday, Sept. 10. The show will feature about 200 pieces of art of questionable taste at prices that range from $5 to $35.
The business partners spend their free time scouring estate sales, thrift stores, dumpsters and yard sales to snag the weirdest and most amusing pieces of art they can find.
“Lots of people go to thrift stores and have an idea of what thrift-store art is but it’s not that,” Bloom says. “We leave the stuff you’ve usually seen behind. We get the weird stuff.”
Among the works stuffed into that locker is a green, motorcycle-riding monster zooming out of a vortex, a Dalí inspired, surrealist desert landscape, and a grossly proportioned dance couple.
The idea for this show started around six years ago when Purdy was traveling for his record label business, Lysergic Sound Distributors, sometimes referred to as L.S.D. Records.
“I’m shuffling through records in a thrift store when my wife comes up to me with this picture of this really fat-cheeked, horrible looking baby,” Purdy says. “That’s when I got the idea. I said, ‘Hey, you know what? I’m going to see how many weird pictures I can find as we go across the country.’”
When he returned home, he had accumulated about a dozen paintings from thrift stores and estate sales he found along the way. He decided to continue gathering strange and unique pieces of art and put together a show at a combination record store and art gallery owned by a friend. To Purdy’s surprise, 200 people showed up, all of them eager to get their own piece of the collection.
On that night, Mark Bloom walked into the art show and soon joined the project.
“More than anything, for me, it’s so much fun to do this thing,” Bloom says. “It is fun finding it, but it’s even more fun actually doing this show. Everyone who comes to it has this huge smile on their face. They really seem to get a kick out of it.”
The pair hold the Trash gallery shows approximately every six months, alternating locations in Bisbee and Tucson.
Typically, the shows display between 200 and 300 pieces of art, hung gallery style. A few hundred come to gaze, gawk and buy. The partners cram as many paintings as they can on the walls. While there is no rhyme or reason to the way they hang the pictures, the men are always pleased with the way it looks, Purdy says.
“You cannot go around the show one time and catch everything because you can’t process everything that’s there,” Purdy says. “You have got to go around there three or four times to go ‘Oh, I didn’t see that before.’”
He marvels at how much art is out there for his style of collecting.
“It has expanded way beyond what we ever thought it would be already and I think we are just scratching the surface.” Purdy says.
The assemblage continues to grow and, though the partners live with remarkably tolerant women, as Bloom puts it, they would love to expand their schedule of events to include more frequent art shows to give them an opportunity to sell the art.
Ideally, Purdy and Bloom want to turn the project into a traveling thrift store art show. Bloom already took a piece of the collection to Los Angeles for a show in April of this year. The two have also been contacted about doing shows in San Francisco, New York and even London.
Bloom even fantasizes about doing nothing but these shows. Bad art, he believes, hopes, can be in demand around the world.