It's ten bucks to get in, with a whole ten percent discount for local ID, better than nothing I suppose, and there he is, at it again, Seward Johnson:It looks like nothing more than a copy of the Mona Lisa, the enigmatic smile and all, but walking along side the picture it becomes apparent this sculpture has its own story to tell. Playing on the obscure origin of this painting Johnson made a sculpture following the theory that La Gioconda (as she is known in Italy) was actually a version of the artist's male lover and "her" legs have been sculpted to reflect that notion:Elsewhere in the room we have women with pearl earrings and skirts flying, all familiar images rendered in three dimensions. Last year Johnson had an exhibit of impressionist art in similar style and it had quite an unexpected effect on me walking among the life sized diners I'd seen for years and taken for granted in two dimensions.The History part of the museum is preoccupied with one incident in particular, the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898. The battleship blew up in spectacular fashion and the US took this as a sign of Spanish hostile intentions and promptly went to the assistance of Cuban rebels, ending up in possession of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.Speculation is that possibly the coal in the Maine's bunkers got wet and produced explosive gases, as coal will, and the less gullible take it upon themselves to suggest the US may have been responsible for the explosion that took the lives of US sailors. Rather in the manner of people nowadays who suggest the US government was behind the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Be that as it may the killed and injured were transported to Key West, the dead buried in a plot of land famous in photographs of the city cemetery, the injured cared for at the Navy hospital. The museum got a bunch of artifacts after it was all over:The other big deal in Key West history was the arrival of Ernest Hemingway and there is a fair bit of him in here:Killing fish, slaying babes......drinking, traveling and killing more animals. Fighting in World War One, as well:He wrote a few books in Key West and one about Key West, he drank with Sloppy Joe Russell, at Captain Tony's, and was fairly miserable at home by all accounts. In the above photograph there are souvenirs of his time in Italy and a picture of his first and (they say) only love. All terribly romantic but from what I can figure he fled Key West when the highway arrived and spent many years at his favorite home which was in Cuba, Finca Vigia ("Lookout Farm") which from what I have heard has been perfectly preserved by the general fossilization that has taken place in Cuba over the past 50 years.
A case in point: the police department recently lost its chief to an unpleasant scandal. In the bad old days they apparently voted for chief, according to a reproduction of the old San Carlos Theater at the museum:
And it gets better. We have a row of photographs documenting past police chiefs on the wall outside the chief's office in the police station. And there he is, Cleveland Niles in 1926:"Your most honest..." ? No worse than today at least.
And to close the obligatory alligator photo:
There was a man who lived on Key Largo who collected junk and turned it into Art. Stanley Papio got into trouble with his neighbors for bringing down thequality of the neighborhood. Where they saw junkin front of his house, he saw Art. He has a few pieces now on display at this museum and also the East Martello Tower the other venue for art and history in Key West. Or he used to. I'll have to go to the Martello Tower and check. Luckily I like small town museums.