Attorney Patti Pearlberg’s art collection is as personal as the stories that go with it.
A diverse mix of artwork from around the world is set impressively against the backdrop of the historic home she shares with her husband, Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Van Pearlberg. The pieces of art are displayed throughout the house that was built in 1907.
Vice president and partner at Coro Realty Advisors, Patti says her passion for art runs in the family. Her siblings, Michael Lacey and Nancy Grieve, are artists and yet Patti claims she has no artistic talent, preferring dance shoes to paint brushes when she was growing up. To hear her tell it, her collection is much more about happenstance than calculated finds. She discovered most of the pieces through artist friends, through travels or even as part of a barter deal.
The Daily Report enjoyed a private tour through the Pearlbergs’ home as Patti described the couple’s collection and the stories behind it.
Tell me about the art in your house.
Everything that is here we just saw and we liked it. So there is art that is really expensive and there are things that are really inexpensive. There are pieces from all over the world, but almost everything here has some kind of a story.
Can you walk me through some of your stories?
Peter Max: I was always a huge Peter Max fan when I was in high school. I often go to Las Vegas for the shopping center conference, and I’m not a gambler. Most people don’t realize that Las Vegas has tons of art galleries so I wander the galleries when I’m there.
I happened to be sticking my nose into a window and Peter Max was there. He came out and got me and took me into this private showing that they were doing, so I got to talk to him. I didn’t buy the painting that night because I was so intimidated. I saw this one later and was like, "OK, I have to have this."
Jabba: This piece is probably one of my all-time favorites. We were up in Watkinsville, which is this little town outside of Athens that became an artist enclave in the ’70s when all these artists were dropping out of [the University of] Georgia and setting up in the farms.
We went into this little art gallery. This is painted by a young man who is an autistic savant. He paints under the name Jabba, like Jabba the Hutt [from Star Wars] … it’s painted on a blue bedsheet. It’s the bike race in Athens that they have every year.
Eric Waugh: We were at a fundraiser for the symphony and there was an artist there, Eric Waugh. He’s out of Canada and was painting while this fundraiser was going on. But what was so ironic is that the young man that was the piano player for the ensemble at this event [and depicted in the painting] happened to be a dear friend of my brother’s. He was a concert pianist who fell and had a head injury when he was roller blading. He lost all memory, lost many of his functions, and what actually brought him back was one day he sat down at a piano and started playing again. He was playing there and [I decided] I have to have this painting that [Waugh] was doing of our friend.
LeRoy Neiman: These are LeRoy Neimans. Van actually took those as collateral as a legal fee many years ago and the person never came back to pay their bill. So he got to keep the art, which is worth a whole lot more since Neiman died.
Charles Stephens: Charles Stephens’ work is actually in the Smithsonian now, and you can see all of his paintings have a little bit of a religious overtone to them so you can kind of see the three wise men in this one. He got tired of the commercialism of the U.S., and he moved to this little city in Mexico called Todo Santos.
Todo Santos is all dirt roads. It’s about an hour-and-a-half outside of Cabo San Lucas. We had driven there and found his studio. He was in his 80s and I really wanted to buy one of his paintings, but he was such a dirty old man. He said you can’t buy one of my paintings unless you’ll sit in my lap. So, of course, I did!
But then he said he only sells his paintings for cash. I don’t travel with that much cash on me. He said there’s a money machine in this little town. He told us where it was and we went there. Well, the money machine was broken. So, I went back and said look, I’m really sorry. I want one of your paintings, but I have no way to buy it. He said oh, you look like a trustworthy person. Just take it and when you get home mail a check to my banker in the U.S. The minute I got home, I wrote that check because this man trusted me.
Can you name one piece that is your very favorite?
It really changes because it just depends on where my mind is at any point and time. I walk around and sometimes think that one is my favorite. Then I go, well no, no, this one over here is really my favorite. It’s because of different reasons, like the story of Charles Stephens. It just makes that one really special … but then, there’s other stuff that just makes me smile.
It’s like a little art gallery in your house.
Yes, that’s what people say. It’s kind of sensory overload and it’s everywhere.
You’ve obviously traveled a lot.
Yes, that’s where so much of this came from. A lot of people buy trinkets and things when they travel, and I’m not a buyer of a lot of stuff. I’d rather buy one thing that really makes me remember the trip and that’s part of where a lot of the art came from.
When you’re looking for art, what do you look for?
It absolutely has to make me smile and that’s what really matters first. And then you have to figure out whether you can afford it. That’s why I said there are pieces that are really expensive around here and pieces that are real inexpensive.
Do you ever go out looking for art or do you wait for it to come to you?
We’ve never gone out and searched for anything. A lot of times the big decision we have is if we buy this, where the heck are we going to put it? Because as you can see, it’s kind of floor-to-ceiling here.
Have you ever sold any of your pieces?
No, because they’re all pieces of the heart.