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Friday, April 21, 2017

New Ronny Bailey Artwork of Old Key West

Ronny Bailey dropped by my office the other day to show me his newest wood carving depicting a Key West cigar maker's cottage of long ago. Frequent Readers of my blog will remember I first learned of Ronny several years ago when he stopped by Preferred Properties Key West to show a new wood installation he had created. Ronny is a Conch, a native Key Wester. He was a general contractor by trade. When he retired he began the second phase of his life as a folk artist. I don't think he started out to be an artist as much as he used his skills as a carpenter to create replicate miniature versions of the facades of homes that used to dot much of our Old Town area. Later he did larger homes and then added some commercial buildings. (CLICK any photo to enlarge it.)
I photographed the above piece in front of the actual house to demonstrate the attention to detail and historical correctness. Ronny used reclaimed Dade County Pine lumber which he cut, planed, sanded, painted to create this remembrance of a time that is now a memory. As our heritage gets "restored" or "renovated" Ronny's works are becoming the last memory of what Key West of years ago once looked like - before everything was decreed by the do-gooders on HARC to become perfect and as contractors took months and months to fix the old old houses at the cost of hundred of thousands of dollars to fix houses that originally only cost a few hundred dollars.
The new wood carving is number five in what may become a series of  many. Ronny told me he joined two boards together with biscuits, stained all sides, and then began to carve the detailed images. The dark stain accentuates the carving. The carving below exhibits the same whimsy, attention to detail as his more elaborate installations.  There are always little touches such as chickens, cats, a hanging light bulb, a mailbox, a broom. Here a clothes line and a stick prop open a window with a propensity to obey Newton's Law of Gravity and a man feeding the chickens in his front yard. I have never seen or heard of locals who eat their chickens. But it wouldn't surprise me. Finally note the three watchwords appearing on each of Ronny's are: Love, Joy, and Peace.
I noticed the address over the door - 522. I asked Ronny the address of the house. He said it was the spirit of our houses, not a particular house, then added the number refers to Galatians 5:22 (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,).  He is a man of faith and those are the guiding spirit of his life.

Locals and returning visitors to Key West can tell the time of year depicted - sometime between May and June when the Royal Poinciana Tree (red tree on the left) is is full bloom. The original home was so minimal in size and construction. It would have cost only a few hundred dollars to build. Today contractors take months and months to restore these homes at the cost of thousands upon thousands of dollars. Of course the red rooster, mama hen, and baby chicks are evermore on this their island home.

It may come to pass that Ronny Bailey's artwork may become the only remaining remnant of historic Key West.


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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.