Remembering Artist Leroy Baxter

In our February exhibit at the NC Room we featured a mixed media collage by Asheville artist Leroy Neal Baxter. When he passed away in 2011 at the age of 85, his obituary stated simply, “He had a special artistic skill and would display artwork using a variety of materials.”

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I am the proud owner of a Leroy Baxter original. It’s a collage made of hearts, diamonds, birds, and flowers, reminiscent of the Pennsylvania Dutch, and signed simply “Leroy.”

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When I looked for more information about the artist, I found a Mountain X-Press article (4/30/2003) that brought Leroy Baxter back to vibrant life. Author Mickey Mahaffey wrote about a morning ride on Asheville city bus #18. He wrote, When Leroy Baxter climbs aboard at Oakland and Hibernia, the sleepy passengers become more animated. [bus driver Jim] Valentine says it’s Baxter’s job to wake everybody up in the mornings, so they don’t miss their stops. Reminiscing about the old days, Baxter entertains us with lively vignettes of life on The Block, back before all the homes were razed. Trolley rides cost 10 cents, and 75 cents bought a big fish sandwich at Breeley’s Cafe. Baxter exits at The Mediterranean on College Street. ‘If the sun shines again, I’ll see you then,’ he promises Valentine, hustling into the restaurant before commencing the day’s list of odd jobs for assorted downtown residents and business owners.”

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In 2008 Mr. Baxter showed eighteen of his paintings at UNCA Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery. Publicity for the exhibit stated, “Baxter began making his art a few years ago between jobs as a handyman. Originally he gave away his pieces but began selling them after interest in his work grew around Asheville and the local art scene. Mr. Baxter combines cut-out shapes, glitter, foil and paint to create pictures that make him happy. He is proud of the pictures depicting churches ‘from his mind’.”

His paintings make me happy too, and it makes me happy to remember this colorful Asheville character.

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posted by Betsy Murray

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