March 27, 2023 – (KEY WEST, FL). The Key West Art & Historical Society announced today the donation of two 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 Jean B. Stearns, a resident of Key West for several decades, the two woodcarvings were most likely purchased directly from the artist by Stearns in the late 1960s and were displayed in her Key West home. Her husband, Marshall Stearns, was a renowned American jazz critic and musicologist who once accompanied the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra when they toured the Far East on the behest of the U.S. State Department. As such, both donated Sanchez woodcarvings showcase Key West’s music heritage—one depicts comparsa dancers on Front Street while the other illustrates a Black funeral procession passing the Key West Lighthouse.
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 meaningful gift to the Society,” says curator Dr. Cori Convertito. “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.”
Following the donation made in mid-2022, the intaglios were sent to ArtCare Conservation in Miami for surface cleaning and reinforcement of the wood panels. The works have also been digitized and are available for viewing on the Society’s website, www.kwahs.org/collections. For more information about the Stearns donation, or to discuss possible artwork donations to the Society’s permanent collection, contact Cori Convertito at 305-295-6616 x507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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