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13 Sep 2017

Terrible Treasures: A One-Night 'Tales From the Trash' Show of Discarded Art Comes to Joshua Tree

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"Floyd's Lightbulb Moment." "Floyd's Lightbulb Moment."

Collectors Steve Purdy and Mark Bloom have a passion for discarded art, and have been doing shows called Tales From the Trash, where the works of art are cheap and often have humorous titles that give new perspectives to these … uh, unique works.

The recently opened La Matadora Gallery will be hosting a one-night-only exhibition on Saturday, Sept. 23. I spoke with Bloom while he was in the area to rummage for more treasures at a Yucca Valley swap meet.

How did Tales From the Trash get started?

Going to thrift stores, yard sales, swap meets and all of that stuff is something I’ve always loved doing. I’m attracted to artwork that I find interesting, in any way shape or form, that is almost always done by someone completely anonymous. I just started buying these paintings for myself until I met another guy in Tucson, Ariz., who had a similar habit. He did a show in Tucson about 12 years ago where he took some of his paintings and hung them in a space, in a house, for one night, and he called it Tales From the Trash. He had no intention of selling them. He did it just for fun, and he had given them titles that were wonderfully appropriate. A couple of years later, I bumped into him and said, “Remember that show you did with the trashy art? I’ve got a ton of this stuff in my house. We need to do a show together.”

So you did a combined show with his collection and your collection?

We basically did. We found a space in downtown Tucson that would have us. We had a one-night show. We probably had about 150 or so paintings between the two of us; we just threw them up on the wall, in no particular order. If it fits in a space, it goes there.

It was an amazingly great time, For me, it’s so much fun finding this stuff, sharing it with a load of people and watching their reactions. Everyone had a really good time. People came to the show really not knowing what the heck it was. It was just a bunch of random paintings put together. It’s all for sale at really not much more than we paid for it. People came to hang out, have some fun and buy some random art. That’s how it all started.

You decided this had to be a regular thing?

The first thing I said afterward was, “That was way too much fun. I don’t want to wait another year to do that again.” I found a place in Bisbee, Ariz., to do it, and it was a huge hit again. At last year’s Tucson show, we had a line to the end of the block.

When did this all begin?

In 2014. Basically, we now do a fall show in Tucson and a spring show in Bisbee. … People come up to me and tell me that it was so much fun. … We’re not mocking the art, but it’s so wonderfully bad.

Would you ever consider having some of your work in a permanent space?

We actually do: It’s in a bathroom in a restaurant in Bisbee. It’s called the “Loovre.” It’s got as much art as we could fit in there.

Have your tastes changed since you started curating this kind of art?

Yes, they have. We’ve both realized that we’re getting better stuff. What I’m getting now is quite different: It needs to have an “it” factor to it. You can take it home and regret it later. When you do sober up the next morning and wonder, “What on Earth did I do last night?” (remember that) it didn’t cost you much. This is a complete smorgasbord of tasteless, tasteful—all kinds of stuff. It doesn’t matter what your personal preferences may be, and there’s no disrespect to any artist, because people have accused us of disrespecting art: “Why are you calling the art trash?” We’re not; we’re calling it from the trash. That’s the term we use to describe where we find it.

Have you ever met one of the original artists?

At our show in Bisbee, an older gentleman was there (who had three of his paintings in the show). His wife was very upset, because she thought we were mocking him, but he totally understood it, and he loved it, and has been to every show since. He actually ended up doing a painting for me, which is now part of my collection.

What are your expectations for the show in Joshua Tree?

It will appeal to anybody. It doesn’t matter what you like; I’ve got something that you’ll love. I would like people to come to this gallery and enjoy themselves for a night. Get here early, because stuff flies off the walls.

Tales From the Trash will take place at 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, at La Matadora Gallery, 61857 Highway 62, in Joshua Tree. Admission is free. For more information, visit talesfromthetrash.com.

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