Whimsical sculptures a popular photo stop for Key West cruise

Gigantic dancers twirl in front of the Key West Customs House.

Gigantic dancers twirl in front of the Key West Customs House.

KEY WEST – The gigantic man and woman seem to be twirling to some unseen music. Located in front of Key West’s Customs House Art and History Museum, the sculpture is a work of art to some, a travesty to others.

But it is undeniably one of the most photographed sights in this colorful Florida community. I’m sure not the only person standing here with my camera clicking away to capture the dancing image. And there are many more of these sculptures scattered around the Customs House and other places in Key West.

One of the first photo stops for passengers when our Carnival Magic ship docked in Key West was probably the huge statue of naked women cavorting not far from the ship dock. People would pose for photos within the statue. Although I kept waiting for people to get out of the statue so I could take a photo, I finally gave up and snapped some with strangers in my pics.

The man lying down is not real. The man standing up is.

The man lying down is not real. The man standing up is.

Look closely at the photo I am sharing. That is a real man standing in the midst of the nudity, posing for his wife’s camera. The man sprawled on the ground is not real. But a few minutes earlier a young woman had positioned herself next to the recumbent man and it really was difficult to tell which was statue and which was real person.

How can anything that gives so much happiness to people be considered so negatively? 

Although critics claim his work is rips offs of other art and have labeled it as “kitsch,” it does seem quite at home in Key West with its legendary “live-and-let live” attitude.

“They were a gift from Seward Johnson. He’s part of the Johnson & Johnson family,” said Bob Allen over at the Key West Lighthouse Museum, where many of the sculpture pieces grace the museum grounds.

“Seward Johnson lives here in Key West and donates his stuff for us to display,” Allen added.

I’m no art critic but I like the sculptures.

This real cat has found a fun place to snooze in Key West.

This real cat has found a fun place to snooze in Key West.

To me, they are bright and colorful reminders that the world is populated with a bunch of diverse people. I swear that I know some of the folks that John Seward Johnson Jr. (his official name) has captured in the sculptures he has been crafting for more than four decades.

His “Lunch Break” sculpture reflects a bygone era that today’s children probably have never seen. My Dad used to carry a lunch box and thermos like this.

The lady toting a grocery bag and wearing a dress coat and high heels reminds me of my Grandma Georgie. She wore nylons and heels all the time, even to work in her yard.

Then there are the two ladies seated on a bench by the lighthouse. It looks like they are taking a break from errands to solve the world’s problems or to share town gossip. Snuggled underneath the lady sculpture, cuddled close to one of the women’s bright blue shoes is a real live cat.

I like that cat’s attitude – who cares if it is art or not. It’s a fun fitting place to snooze in the sun.

For more information: Contact www.carnival.com

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

About Jackie

Jackie Sheckler Finch fell in love with cruising 35 years ago when she rode the magnificent Mississippi Queen riverboat in its inaugural 1976 voyage. A newspaper reporter, photographer and travel writer, Jackie has cruised on large and small vessels on numerous rivers and oceans. Read more...

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