Alvin Jones 12.09.17


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“Portrait of Alvin,” (16×35″)

Around 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 10, my wife, Lynn, called into the living room from her office, “What is Wonder Woman doing in my lair?” “Alvin gave that to me,” I replied, “and you are Wonder Woman.” That dude was always so kind and generous. He saw that I liked the old plastic Halloween mask of the superhero and he handed it to me as I left his store, “Country Boy Antiques,” back in September. I had it in my car until the 10th, when I brought it inside.

Not even ten minutes after I answered Lynn, I read a text from a friend informing me that Alvin had died in his sleep the night before. He was only 48.

He was a brilliant and astute businessman who saw value in rustic objects – things that he would salvage from houses and businesses before they were knocked down. He and I shared this aesthetic.

After a few conversations over the years, he remembered that I was a scrap artist, always looking for interesting objects to include in my assemblages. He would tell me as I approached, “I’ve got some robot heads in there you might like.” They were cool alarm boxes with bells for eyes.

Mostly, though, I’d bring an armload of cool stuff out to the front where he held court on Granby Street, and he would discount everything and give me a bargain price. Lots of my artwork on this site is made of objects found at his store.

The last time I saw Alvin, I told him that the label “antiques” didn’t accurately describe his place. “It’s more of an emporium of wonderments,” I said. He laughed and agreed.

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A couple days after he died, I heard from Ryan Murphy, a talented reporter at The Virginian-Pilot, who had seen my comments on Facebook and wanted to write a post-mortem of this amazing man. He wondered if I’d be up to creating a portrait for the paper. Of course, I wanted to with all my heart, but my last day was coming up fast — I was retiring after Dec. 1 — and wasn’t sure there was enough time. But as my final weeks played out, I was able to get away on my lunch hours and complete this portrait, using a lot of things purchased from the subject himself, including the staircase banister (his head and neck), a metal curling iron heater (his mouth) and the house numbers, ruler, faucet and wooden keg tap. This turned out to be my final artwork produced for a newspaper after a 39-yr career, and I’m so grateful to Ryan for including me in his project and The Pilot for allowing me the real estate to pay tribute to Alvin. At left: Alvin on March 29, 2016.

Here is the wonderful profile of Alvin by Virginian-Pilot reporter, Ryan Murphy: https://pilotonline.com/news/local/obituaries/remembering-the-norfolk-scrapman-who-gave-everything-a-chance/article_e32cce65-10ca-5170-9d84-70401c756409.html

Here’s a video of the work in progress: https://www.instagram.com/p/BbpU-t5hhtN/?taken-by=hundleysam

Videos taken at Country Boy after Alvin died: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bbh1OjyhJJ1/?taken-by=hundleysam and https://www.instagram.com/p/Bbh08jeBht4/?taken-by=hundleysam

(Click on images to enlarge)