Patty Berkovitz fills her family home with decades of thoughtful collecting
Patty Berkovitz was described in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Private Quarters feature as a “color junkie” after her house was renovated in 2005.
Patty used Harrison Design and interior decorator Leigh Nunnery to widen the doorways, go from Cape Cod to Country Craftsman, and envelop her bounty of folk art and photography. She has such an extensive collection that she often lends artists’ works back to them for their shows.
From a purse made out of an intact armadillo, Eskimo art and biblical depictions to the soapstone African carvings seen at our airport, Patty said she “has enjoyed a lifetime of collecting and wants to share.”
Instead of Europe, Patty collects from Jamaica, Barbados Alaska, Russia, Canada and the South. Where else could you find Noah’s Ark composed of coconut shells?
Patty is the founder and a board member of the Watershed Alliance of Sandy Springs, where she interfaces with the city on zoning, variances and regulations that may affect streams and creeks.
A coterie of Irish wolfhounds, horses and Pokey the donkey greeted us.
Photos by Duane Stork
Jaffe: Elaborate on the history of this acreage inside 285.
Berkovitz: When my parents acquired the land in the early 1960s, there were gravel roads, no 285 and certainly no Jews. This is the family home in which I grew up with my father’s piano. Lots of memories here.
Jaffe: Featured in the book “Flashes of Memory,” you are recognized as one of the major collectors of Linda Anderson (of Clarkesville). What’s her appeal?
Berkovitz: Linda is a master of memory painting, much of which is autobiographical. The 1985 “Tending to Baby, Fannie Mae Scott Midwife” depicts Linda giving birth. “Gathering Down” shows her as a youngster collecting feathers from the family geese used to make a comforter, which she still owns today.
I recall going to one of her shows and buying practically the entire collection. Linda’s father ran moonshine, and she painted the still blowing up. Also, I have one of her paintings of Frida Kahlo.
The Linda Anderson in the bathroom shows Eve entangled by the snake. Linda’s Eves are almost always black and do not have navels, as Eve was created from Adam’s rib.
Jaffe: You had a relationship with old Atlanta, Jewish, Coca-Cola royalty, Judith Alexander.
Berkovitz: She actually got me started when she discovered Linda Anderson and Nellie Mae Rowe (known for her bubble-gum dolls). You can see how Nellie decorated these frames. Nellie used crayons until Judith supplied more sophisticated materials.
The Alexanders inhabited a white antebellum mansion on the land Phipps Plaza now occupies.
Jaffe: The steep stairway boasts some dramatic photography. What is the most impressive to you?
Berkovitz: O’Keeffe’s “Mother Teresa” and one currently in MOMA, “Man and Community — Birth to Death,” with a gripping story by Richard Harrington, 1950’s “The Family of Man” book, organized by Edward Steichen. Photographer Richard Harrington was visiting the Northwest Territories, only to find that reindeer had migrated, and the Eskimos were starving. His photos were headlines that sparked food drops before winter settled in. Come spring, the dead tribe was found with scattered boxes of food. Meaning well, they had supplies airlifted. Tragically, the food contained dairy ingredients, which were fatal to the unexposed native diets. This changed the way aid was seen.
Great photography should challenge you to figure out what is happening.
At the top of the steps is goat art by local artist Helen Duran.
Jaffe: How would you describe your master wing?
Berkovitz: The bathroom was designed around the stand-alone step-in tub. This is the ladies room with two Lorenzo Scott portraits, Linda Anderson’s “Eve in the Jungle” and “David and Bathsheba.” Janice Kennedy, Nellie Mae Rowe and other artists’ portraits of ladies are hung about.
I carried the persimmon color theme into the bedroom. Over the bed is the whimsical “Blue Cow” Russian folk art … between a pair of whimsical paintings by French-Canadian Mo Harvey.
I like how the bedroom view overlooks the porch and land.
Jaffe: Your porch oozes authenticity and charm.
Berkovitz: The ceiling on the porch and the bathroom were crafted to have a rustic country feel. The footstool is by Barbara Winkel. The porch was photographed by John Farm III, featured in this table book “Porches.”
Jaffe: Do you collect any Jewish artists?
Berkovitz: Indeed. Strauser is over the living room fireplace between the wood-carved angels from Budapest. I have a Paul Muldawer, Harvey Lieberman and many biblical-themed pieces. My father had a fine collection of photography, which became his passion later in life; he encouraged me and introduced me to Judith Alexander.
Jaffe: What are the most unusual things you have?
Berkovitz: This pair by Kamante Gatura, who was the character in “Out of Africa” with the bad leg. When he moved to New York, he began making these memory pieces, done in crayon. Judith found him and purchased all his work for resale. Also Benny Carter’s collage depicting the Twin Towers and the decline of Piedmont Airlines is pretty outrageous. I have several signed just “JAY,” a homeless man who depicted charming scenes on boards with house paint. In his painting are the eyes of the Abominable Snowman. … Go figure.
The Russian painting of Adam and Eve portraying an evil Stalin in the background controlling reproduction is pretty scary.
Jaffe: What’s with the critters? These dogs are like ponies.
Berkovitz: I grew up around horses. It evolved. The horse got lonely, and we acquired a donkey friend. Then the neighbors brought over horses ready for retirement. We are actually looking for another wolfhound puppy.
Jaffe: Will you ever stop collecting? The closets are full!
Berkovitz: My mother is urging me to let go. I buy things because I like them, plus I inherited my father’s collections. I have passed my addiction to my daughter. So if this is my addiction, it’s all good.