It’s a place where people from everyplace and anyplace on earth can celebrate their individuality—where art, music, food and nature exist in heavenly harmony. Having been represented by the Stone Soup Gallery on White Street here for a few years, this is my third trip down for the opening of my annual solo exhibit. Two years ago Doug and I brought the kids on St. Patricks Day weekend. THAT was a crazy good time.
Now that I have some friends here and know my way around, (by foot, by bike, by Sean’s Jeep) I take time to focus on the local color when I visit. This weekend I spent some time thinking about the kind of people who follow their journey to the Southernmost point of the US and wondered if an extreme of geography goes hand-in-hand with an “extreme” of lifestyle.
Perception vs Reality
The night after my art show opening, I had a fantastic dinner with my photographer husband Douglas Nelson, my watercolor artist friend Sean Callahan, and my Gyotaku artist friend Chuck Seaman. Early in the evening Sean said something that resonated with me. He mused “You know, your perception of who you are is TOTALLY different than how other people see you. For example, I used to describe myself as a very laid back person, but one of the first times I met Terry he told me that I was in fact one of the MOST INTENSE people he had ever met!” We both laughed, and Sean wondered how he could have been such a poor judge of his own character. How do you perceive yourself, are you traditional or non? Did you follow the “plan” that your friends and family expected of you, or are you skipping to your own music? Here in Key West, non traditional IS traditional. It’s kind of like the Island of Misfit Toys, I think Sean may have made that reference too. People come from all over the world to be accepted and not be judged as they become part of this One Human Family.
There’s something for everyone in terms of art here in Key West. From tropical photography, to tourist geared paintings, to the gay focused galleries at the end of Duvall Street, you can get a Key West Art Guide and spend the entire day art exploring. Doug and I took in a Peter Max exhibit just to experience his crazy use of color. Birds of a feather? We lingered in some galleries and popped in and out of others. I find inspiration in the creativity of others, no matter if the art is something I’d hang on my wall (and we all know I have NO wall space) or not. Doug and I marveled at the technical aspects of some artwork involving poured resin, some photography of Havana, Cuba utilizing silver paper, and some things neither of us even dabble in like pottery, jewelry (oh you can never have too much jewelry or too many pairs of shoes) and glass. I really enjoyed the work at Cocco and Salem on the far end of Duvall St. where Sean works and shows his watercolors. How did I meet Sean in the first place? He took a workshop with me six years ago (“OMG has it really been SIX years?” I ask. “Yes! you say that EVERY time.” Sean replies) He was, in fact, in the very FIRST class I ever taught (and yet he still admires me). Read about how I got started teaching (and see six year old photos of Sean) here.
Many of the local restaurants and bars offer live music this time of year, my favorite treat was folk artist Leah Orlikowski who’s CD Decide & Conquer I purchased because not only was I impressed with her sound, but I loved the fact that she wrote all her own songs and wasn’t just playing covers. Doug and I were impressed with how hard she worked at her career as a musician, creating her own CD packaging, hand writing her “thank-yous” tucked inside. We know a little bit about that kind of work since Doug filmed and edited my instructional Collage Process DVD and my daughter trims and collates the inserts. Furthermore, hats off to anyone who goes barefoot in 60 degree weather.
Watch your step Leah, remember the roosters.
While waiting for our table at the infamous Blue Heaven Restaurant, we enjoyed a Bloody Mary and a Screwdriver at the bar. A few minutes of listening to the bartender speak and I knew he was from Massachusetts (my home state). Turns out he was from the Boston area but attended U-Mass Amherst, which is in my neck of the woods, in fact two of my three siblings attended U-Mass. Our friendly server told us that he comes down for the season to work at Blue Heaven and this was his third year doing so. The season here runs January through May, so this Bostonian is getting out of Dodge at the best time of the year. How cool would it be to be able to split your time tending bar between New England and the Keys? Nontraditionally perfect.
When we finally got to our table, we were greeted by a cheerful woman with an accent I didn’t recognize. Being someone who will talk to anyone (thanks to my Dad for that skill) I just asked her where she was from, how she got here, if she had seen any other areas of the US, and if I could take her picture. She told us she was from Minsk, the capitol city of Belarus (say Bella-Roos) a small country between Russia and Poland. She smiled and said that she and her husband had indeed seen much of the US from Maine to California and plenty of places in between. They settled on Key West to raise their two young children because this was a community of diversity and acceptance, and she could not imagine a better place.
Key West is known for it’s free range roosters and chickens, they are everywhere. Last trip I did a lot of running in the early mornings and I found myself dodging them at almost every turn. It’s odd for this New England girl to see barnyard friends running along the beach, but it just goes to show you that even nature has exceptions to the rule of “normal.” I painted a couple of roosters for my show and the gallery owner at Stone Soup warned me “Don’t put your roosters in weathered wood frames or in show them in front of red barns, that won’t fly here. What we need is for them to have a tropical feel.” the gallery owner at Stone Soup advised me. Roosters on the beach, too funny.
One Human Family, you see it on the bumper stickers of locals, stuck to traffic signs and in shop windows. Albert Einstein said “A human being is part of the whole universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Embrace individuality. Widen your circle of compassion. Love a misfit toy.
Thank you for being a part of my
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