Mitchell, who attended high school in Alabama and art school in Georgia, said LaRock's pieces reminded her of the metal yard sculptures she would see while driving back roads in the rural South. That work was made by "outsider artists who are doing it because they have this innate passion for making," she said.
"You don't see a lot of that kind of thing around here," Mitchell added. "So I thought, ‘I want to give this guy a shot.’"
Evidently, she wasn't the only one taken with LaRock's sculptures. His first year at Art Hop, in 2016, he immediately sold four pieces for $1,200 to a local art collector. This year, LaRock said, he brought 18 pieces to the annual event and came home with just three.
He likely would have sold them all, he noted, had he been able to accept credit cards---or disassemble his sculptures. Four college girls really wanted his large metal giraffe, LaRock said, until they realized it wouldn't fit in the elevator of their dorm.
For now, LaRock's work may be affordable to the average art consumer---his smaller pieces often sell for less than $250---but his prices are starting to climb. He's currently converting an old salvaged motorboat into a restaurant-style booth, complete with a ladder on the side, nautical running lights and a radio. One downtown Burlington restaurateur has already expressed interest in the work in progress. As LaRock said of his art career, "It's just blowing up right now."
But LaRock isn't ready to give up auto body repair work yet. After all, the dual businesses have a symbiotic relationship.
"When he's selling his artwork, he's also talking to people about working on their cars," Mitchell noted. "So he's picked up new customers for rust repair while he's at Art Hop, and vice versa."
"Everyone's kind of amazed, because I only made it through the ninth grade," said LaRock. "But some people can't even change their oil, know what I mean?"