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Barkley’s love affair with art is as dynamic and interesting as ever

Walking through Lenore Barkley’s home is a celebration of her artwork, her colorful artwork.  

She jokes about not liking blank walls, blank spaces and over the years has worked meticulously to make sure that no wall, no space, and now no floor, is left untouched, unloved and without color.

For Barkley, who retired in 2003 from the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau as director, the past 17 years have been spent falling back in love with art, a passion she developed more than 50 years ago.

“I had done art 50 years ago and then I had this marvelous job promoting Vicksubrg for 28 years and there was no time. I mean I worked weekends and nights,” Barkley said.

Just before Barkley retired from the VCVB, her mother, Irene, moved in and brought with her a longtime passion for pottery. Lenore added on to her home to make space for a small room to house Irene’s kiln, slab roller and pottery materials.

“She lived with me for the final three years of her life,” Barkley said. “So in order for my mother to have something to do while I was still working, I added on to the house so she could still play with clay while I was at work.

“While she was here, we would play every night. She would do pottery and I would do art,” she said. “Then, when I left the bureau in 2003, art is all I do. I am very prolific.”

Barkley describes her work as Bohemian and rarely spends time in the same type of artwork or project.

There are paintings she has worked that appear in each room, bookmarks and decorated matchboxes on display in the dining room and an entryway has a “stick bouquet,” a creation by Barkley that uses sticks picked up from the yard that are then painted, decorated and arranged in a colorful display in a vase.

“Isn’t this just fun,” she said.

And that love of art has moved to furniture and an interesting run in the kitchen.

“I went crazy a few years ago with pennies,” Barkley said. “I was on a penny kick. I saw in a magazine an entire floor covered in pennies and I thought to myself ‘OK, Lenore, you’re not going to tear up your floors to put pennies down as badly as I wanted to.’”

So instead of an entire floor, Barkley went to Home Depot for some basic materials to create a penny rug. She then needed the main material — the pennies.

“When I knew I wanted to do this particular pattern, I went to the bank and said ‘I need $5 of shiny, spanking-clean pennies, and I want some dirty pennies, too.’ They would look at me and wonder what I was doing,” she said. “I would just keep going back to the bank because I did not know how many pennies I needed initially.”

Barkley said in the end, the rug that is now displayed in her kitchen is a loving sitting spot for her cat, Merlot, and is made of $26 in pennies layered in a creative pattern. And, for those at the bank who might have had questions about what she was doing with the “spanking-new and dirty” pennies, she did go back and show them pictures of the finished product.

There is also a small table that now features a top covered in pennies and a mirror whose frame is covered with pennies.

There’s also furniture Barkley has repurposed. One such piece is a large chair in her bedroom that was purchased at River City Rescue Mission, a place where she finds many of the materials and items that she then alters.

“I started painting it with one color then another, and just loved the drips of color,” she said looking at the piece, which is an anchor to a room already dazzling in color.

But again, her projects changed and will change again, but it is not the project that is the most important for Barkley, but rather the doing and then the doing again.

“It is such Tremendous therapy,” Barkley said of her creating art. “It’s good for the soul. You’ll forget your worries completely.

“I was going to vacuum today and do this that or the other, but I would much rather do art,” she said. “I guess I would do art every day, all day long if I could, and I just about can.”

She also said she finds the influences of both of her parents in her artwork and how she focuses on each piece.

Barkley’s father, Bill, was a dentist before moving on to become a lawyer and then a stockbroker. He later picked up pottery with his wife but was far more detailed.

“I wish I could be more like my mother in that she just threw things together. Then my dad, when he was doing pottery it was like he was varnishing a crown. I mean it had to be absolutely perfect,” she said. “I have a tendency to want to do big and broad things, then the next thing you know, I am spending time on the little details.”

Some of her works are available for purchase at Latitudes in Jackson, as well as in Vicksburg at The Turquoise Chandelier, Biedenharn Coke Museum, Lorelei Books, Main Street Market, Old Courthouse Museum and Dragonfly.

“I do art that makes me happy when I look at it. I love the bright colors,” she said. “I do the art for me and if someone happens to like it and wants to buy it, that’s great.

“You can tell by what I do that I am not even thinking about selling it, I am having fun. I am just doing something that fulfills me, the mood, the moment,” she said. “And if I put it out there and someone buys it, that’s great.”