The Key West Art & Historical Society announced today the donation of six woodcarvings created by distinguished Cuban American folk artist Mario Sanchez. Joining another 200 Sanchez works already part of its permanent collection, the Society holds the largest assemblage of the artist’s works ranging from paper bag sketches to handcrafted paper kites and intricate woodcarvings.
A gift from the estate of Charles and Barbara Martin, winter residents of Key West for several decades, the six woodcarvings were purchased directly from the artist by the Martins in the 1960s and were proudly displayed in Michigan until early 2022 when they returned to Key West.
Sanchez, a Key West native, is among this country’s finest and most recognized folk artists. The self-taught artist was born in Key West in 1908, the grandson of Cuban immigrants. In the 1940s, at the urging of his mother-in-law, he began creating intricate carvings depicting life in Key West as he remembered from his childhood. Of his work, Sanchez adopted as his motto: “Se que mi modesto arte no es bueno, pero gusta,” or “I know my modest art isn’t good, but it pleases.”
“This is a substantial gift to the Society,” says Cori Convertito, curator. “With the addition of these works, the Society will be able to offer a much richer representation of the art and history of the island, one that includes enhanced perspectives of our past and skillfully embodies our diverse culture and heritage.”
In addition to the works, a series of letters exchanged between the Martins and Sanchez accompany the gift affording information on artwork purchase dates, insurance values and backgrounds on the various individuals that appear in the carvings.
“The handwritten letters form an integral part of the donation,” says Convertito. “Having contextual information such as this allows the museum to tell a more complete story of who Mario was as an artist and about the recurring characters he deftly included in his intaglios.”
The woodcarvings have been digitized and are available for viewing on the Society’s website, www.kwahs.org/collections. For more information about the donation, or to discuss possible donations to the Society, contact Cori Convertito at 305-295-6616 x112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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