Saturday, October 17, 2009

Art that glitters, at least for awhile

Roland Knox is an 80-year-old retiree in Atlanta who used to make artwork encrusted with jewelry pieces, some of which came from the wife of Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler. Knox's mother was a maid who worked for the Candlers. Mrs. Candler gave Mrs. Knox boxes of discarded jewelry, which years later became the raw material for her son's art — until recently, that is. Knox quit making art because he feels he got burned by a local dealer and by a couple who hold auctions. The dealer and Knox disagreed over compensation. The auctioneers last year convinced Knox to submit two pieces to a no-reserve sale. He received only $400, far below what he was expecting. For Knox, producing art in large quantities, which he began doing in the early 1990s, was always about generating income. His wife, Rosa, also had been a maid. She worked for a woman who was a neighbor of the dealer's mother. One day, Rosa showed her employer a jeweled piece her husband had made for fun. His inspiration? Button-covered artwork he had seen in Germany while serving in the military years earlier. The woman alerted the dealer's mother, who alerted her son. The son was impressed and urged Knox to ramp up production, and paid him several hundred dollars per piece — good money for someone who was mowing lawns and helping build stages to support himself. When Knox was hot, the House of Blues acquired his grander creations. At Knox's south Atlanta home today, just two streets removed from where he lived as a child, little remains of the distinctive art that dazzled admirers and earned the former IBM worker a modicum of fame. While Rosa watches soaps, Knox plays solitaire and speaks bitterly about art world professionals.


  1. I purchased two piece by roland knox in 1993 from the primitive art gallery. They were glitter encrusted guitars and the third one is owned by house of blues. I wonder if they are worth anythjng today

    1. Could check Slotin folk art auctions to see what Knox pieces have sold for. I don't think they'e shot up in value.