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Monday, October 6, 2014

The Small World of Ronny Bailey - New Exhibit at Key West Customs House

 Have you ever wondered what the history and architecture of Key West looks like through the eyes of a native?  Ronny Bailey, a 5th generation Conch, recreates local landmarks and houses from locally salvaged materials and adds whimsical details that help bring old Key West to life.
If you are in Key West of Friday, October 10th you are invited to the Opening reception at the Key West Customs House, 281 Front Street at 6:00 PM. The exhibit will run through February 4, 2015.

I have written about Ronny Bailey in several blogs. You gotta see his work up close and personal to take in all the detail.
The house below at 900 Frances Street was shrunk to fit on the counter in our real estate office. This was the very first time I saw any of Ronny Bailey's work. I was captivated. Ronny always models his works on recreating miniature versions of real buildings. He then adds a bit of whimsy that reflects his love of life and his love of Key West.

The next time I ran in to Ronny he brought me his then recently completed piece on 113 Petronia Street which is an old cigar maker cottage in the Bahama Village section of Key West. The piece included an old fashioned Maytag wringer washer (my mom had one when I was growing up - that shows you how old I am), a dog house on the front porch, and a rusted roof. Ronny told me he fashioned and painted wood pieces to create the illusion of rusted metal.
Ronny brought over his depiction of the Northwest Passage Lighthouse in the back of his truck. Look carefully you'll see sharks and other sea creatures in the water below. 
One of my favorite pieces Ronny did was 718 Eaton Street. I had a friend who lived in a second floor apartment at the rear of this beautiful home about fifteen years ago. I never got to go inside the main part of the house which was featured in the Cuba Gooding Jr. movie "A Murder of Crows". The house has got to be one of the most photographed homes on the Island of Key West. The gingerbread trim of the real house is replicated in Ronny's rendition where he includes details like the old metal mailbox and the family pet sleeping on the second floor front balcony.On each of Ronny's pieces you will see three words which are the watchwords of his life: Joy, Peace, and Love.
One day Ronny showed up at my office with his depiction of the Old Town Bakery in the back of his pickup truck. That's gotta be one of my favorite places in town. The building is so old and beat down. The food inside is incredible. There is always a small line of people waiting for a danish or a sandwich. They make the best of of both. However, the little old baker and interior is not related to the current day reality of the actual bakery.
Ronny was a contractor for years. Today instead of building new houses or repairing old house, he tinkers with pieces of wood and creates small art installations that depict miniature versions of real Key West cottages, homes, and commercial businesses. He has also done paintings and now offers lithographs of some pieces.
In April 2013 Ronny dropped by my office with a special commissioned piece of the house at 513 Fleming Street. It is located adjacent to the Faustos Food Palace next door to the west. The house was previously part of the Louise Maloney Hospital - hence the nurses on the second floor front balcony. Note the watchwords under the skylight in the entry hall. 
Ronny paid artistic tribute to the one story house at 608 William Street. That place was recently completely renovated and expanded. Thank goodness Ronny captured the house before it got redone I love the new place.  Don't get me wrong. But the old place and Ronny's rendition have a special place in my old heart.
In September 2013 Ronny parked his pickup truck across the street from our office. He had his then newest piece, a depiction of the Ernest Hemingway House, in the back of the truck. He posed with the piece which is shown just below. The little figure on the front porch is Papa himself complete with fishing pole at his side. When you look through the screen door into the house you'll see a dog resting on the floor. Dogs, cats, and chickens are found is most of Ronny's pieces. They are everywhere on the Island. They might as well be in the artwork as well.
In February 2014 Ronny and I drove his pickup truck over to 207 Julia Street so I could photograph the miniature house with the real house in the background. Ronny went to the front door where he knocked on the door to ask permission to take photos of the house whereupon I perched the miniature house atop a Waste Management trash can to create a stable base for photographing the two houses. I moved the camera around and caught a side view as if photographing the house looking west on Julia Street.
CLICK HERE  to view the Ronny Bailey Collection as photographed at the Customs House in October 2014.  Owners of various pieces lent their miniature homes for the event.

I have taken several pictures of Ronny over the past few years. This guy always has a smile on his face. If you are in town this weekend or later during the year, drop by the Customs House and take a look at the art this man has created. He is a one-of-a-kind folk artist.  I can only think the pieces he has created of old Key West will continue to appreciate in value over the years. You may not be able to afford an actual cigar makers cottage, but I am sure a lot of my readers can afford one that Ronny Bailey has created.

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.