May 23, 2018 – (Key West, FL). Custom House Museum exhibit celebrates historic and contemporary folk artists of the Florida Keys 

Key West Art & Historical Society celebrates historic and contemporary folk artists of the Florida Keys and the islands’ influence on their work in “Islands, Imagination and Instance: Florida Keys Folk Art,” a new exhibitthat opens Friday, July 6, with a special reception held from 6:00pm-7:30pm in the Bryan Gallery at the Custom House Museum, 281 Front Street.

Discover how folk artists Stanley Papio, Makiki, Mario Sanchez, Ronny Bailey, Andy Thurber, Jack Baron, Papito Suarez, and others celebrated and expressed their cultural identity through community aesthetics, and view the paintings, sculptures, and wood carvings that reveal how the flora and fauna (islands), the originality (imagination), and atmosphere (instance) of the Florida Keys have shaped them artistically.

“Their work tells the story of everyday life, and they have a sense of local tradition,” says Curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D.

Visitors may be familiar with naïve artist Mario Sanchez and his intaglios and woodcarvings, but they can discover a Key West ‘school’ of artists he stimulated, including Suarez, Frank Balbontin and Tony Barcelo, who emerged with similar, yet unique, artistic styles inspired by Key West neighborhoods and the waters around the islands.

Prompted by his mother’s death, artist Makiki (Geraldo Alfonso) began creating an artistic ‘portal’ between the world of the living and the dead at his “Miracle Home” on Catherine Street to stay connected to her. Using pieces of glass, mirror, flowers, pictures, dolls, photographs, and painted surfaces, the 57-year-old artist created altars in her honor, and eventually made small paintings depicting the Key West of his decade.

Jack Baron took up painting when he relocated to Key West in 1977, with the people, places, and cats of Key West appearing brilliantly on canvases and tapestries as solid forms, interspersed with shapes filled with small dots of vibrant, contrasting colors.

And outsider artist Stanley Papio’s caustic commentary revealed by recycled metal sculptures gives us insight as to just how he felt about the people spearheading the development of the Key Largo island that he called home.

“Naïve art, or outsider art, gives visitors so much insight into the community,” says Convertito. “These are individuals that don’t necessarily create art for financial gains, they do it because their artwork allows them to discover their true being.”

Islands, Imagination and Instance: Florida Keys Folk Art” runs through Sunday, January 6. For more information, call Cori Convertito, Ph.D., at 305.295.6616 x 112 or visit kwahs.org.  Your Museums.  Your Community.  It Takes an Island. 

Image Caption:

“411 Catherine Street (Before),” created by the artist Makiki in the mid-1990’s, is one of the works that will be presented in “Islands, Imagination and Instance: Florida Keys Folk Art,” a new exhibitthat opens Friday, July 6, at the Custom House Museum. (Photo courtesy Key West Art & Historical Society)