Stanley Papio saw art where others saw junk. The rebellious welder-turned-metal-artist transformed the metal collection piled high in his yard into extraordinary works of art, many of them comical and caustic commentary on neighbors and naysayers who wanted him to conform to their imposed zoning laws.
34 years after his death, Key West Art & Historical Society is proud to present the permanent exhibit of the pioneering Florida Keys folk artist. Stanley Papio: Junkyard Rebel opens Saturday, May 14th with a special reception from 5:30pm-7:00pm at Fort East Martello Museum, 3501 S. Roosevelt Blvd in conjunction with that afternoon’s inaugural Papio Kinetic Sculpture Parade.
“Papio and his artwork embody the Florida Keys,” says Society Curator Cori Convertito, PhD. “When confronted repeatedly, he began using his artwork to fight back; to oppose the environmental defilers and neighbors that tried pushing him out of Key Largo.
“It’s that spirit that earns him the title of ‘Rebel’,” she continues. “He had passion for his artwork, for what he offered the community. The Society is harnessing that passion in the exhibition, and I am chuffed to be involved in bringing overdue attention and respect to one of the Florida Keys’ pioneering folk artists.”
Though Papio gained some acknowledgement of his work by a handful of museum professionals, like many folk artists, he was not truly recognized for his remarkable artistic abilities until after his death. When Papio passed suddenly in 1982, the Society acquired his collection— more than 100 sculptural objects and three-dimensional constructions, which will now live permanently in the Fort museum’s newly renovated, climate-controlled gallery.
“His family in Canada was keen on the collection staying together, ideally in the Florida Keys,” says Convertito. “Since the Key West Art & Historical Society was the principal historical institution in the region, it was fitting that The Society received the donation of artwork from Papio’s family.”
For many years the collection was given little attention due to management shifts from within the organization, but when The Society came under the curatorial direction of Convertito and the executive direction of Michael Gieda, it was recognized for its significance and plans were laid out to help put Papio in his proper place.
“Having such a comprehensive body of Papio’s work is central to the Society’s mission of preserving the art of the Florida Keys,” says Convertito. “We are elated to be able to honor his legacy with the Kinetic Parade and give visitors the opportunity to appreciate his brilliant mind and remarkable skills with our new gallery of his work.”
The exhibit is sponsored in part by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. For more information, contact Cori Convertito, PhD at 305.295.6616 x 112. Your Museums. Your Community. It takes an Island.