Athens artist, musician Vernon Thornsberry shows painting of Classic City on Saturday
We printed all of Vernon's prints for his show, which made a great story in the Athens Banner-Herald! We were thrilled to donate and help his endeavors. Go support him — and come make prints with us for your own show!
Vernon Thornsberry has made his way around Athens in his 30 years here.
He’s held many service jobs, including working as a manager at Jittery Joe’s and dishwasher and server at The Grit. He’s also performed his jazz music in many Athens venues.
In all his time in the city, he still stops on certain corners and thinks, “Well, that’s a pretty house.”
That’s what the artist said last weekend standing on the corner of Pope and Hill streets, near Old Firehall No. 2 where his paintings are hanging ready for a show from 6 to 9 p.m tonight.
“What I’ll do is I look at this building, and I paint it like it is. Then, I think, ‘Oh, it needs people in it. Wouldn’t be nice if there was someone outside or people sitting at the dinner table inside?’ So, it’s real but it’s also imaginary,” Thornsberry said.
The New Orleans-native has always painted, ever since he can remember.
“It’s in me,” Thornsberry said.
Back in New Orleans he used to go to art museums and sit for hours looking at one painting, burning the images into his memory so well he can still recall them, especially one of a beautiful woman.
His own art recreates this habit. He paints things he sees daily, things he’s had decades to stare at.
For instance, one image shows the backside of The Grit with people flowing out of its doors and standing in its windows, featuring himself holding a mop.
The art show intends to raise money for Thornsberry so he can afford a home big enough to include a painting studio. Now he lives in an Athens Land Trust home, as he could no longer afford the rent of his Normaltown house.
“It just keeps going up and up. You can’t get a good enough job to pay that rent. I could do better by moving to New York, really,” Thornsberry said.
He cites the Great Recession and increased student housing as instigators for increasing rent prices, making it hard for him to make the payments even with his three gigs as a restaurant worker, painter and musician.
Thornsberry recently released his album “Jazz, Jazz, Jazz and More Jazz.” He started learning music while he was living in New Orleans.
“I was playing the saxophone in the street, when someone shouted out ‘Play that tune far away, Vernon’ — that means I’m terrible,” Thornsberry said.
He said his skills have improved, and now people would likely ask him to play closer.
The art show features 27 paintings and more than 70 prints of his work. Print shop Pixel & Ink printed the copies of his paintings to be sold at the show.