Pat and His Wire

What is Christmas without gifts? Even Christmas in paradise requires something wrapped, something thoughtful to mark the season. So we decided as a group (with our friends Matt, Jean, Lori and Scott) to spend a little on a secret Santa exchange. Little did we know when we set the $10 maximum that this would be quite a challenge.

Duval Street has something for everyone, kitschy shops begging for your cash with all the traditional t-shirts, hats, shells and any other item that would fit the words “Key” or “West”. After picking up a classy “bobble-boob” beer coozie for Scott, we had a frame in mind for Lori, even going so far as to buy one and develop a few pictures at the local CVS.  But a frame, though personal and a wonderful souvenir didn’t seem as meaningful to us as the jiggling boobs of Scott’s beer wench, so when others may have folded and grabbed a frozen drink, we kept our wits about us and pushed on in hopes of finding something as thoughtful as Scott’s.

We perused the artwork of a few talented street vendors, but their work was either common or out of our price range, until after about a few blocks, we met Patrick. Prematurely graying possibly from the rigors of the traveling art racket, the former transportation manager and reformed deadhead sat quietly next to his all-black booth manipulating yards of silver into yet another masterpiece, seemingly unaware of the interest he was garnering from the passing crowd.

We stopped reluctantly to admire his work – simple three-dimensional sculptures made entirely out of galvanized wire. Adorable puppies, spot-on political caricatures of Barack Obama, a fish floating freely in a bowl, the frazzled hair of Jerry Garcia waving as he plays guitar – it seemed nothing was beyond him.  We just knew his artwork was outside of our meager price range.

One piece in particular, a palm tree/sunset with a sculpted “Key West” caught our eye, and when he said it was only $10, we asked him to make a second. We’d found our unique present, and a little something for ourselves.

While he quickly and effortlessly crafted another sunset, he told us about his beginnings as an artist. Apparently, he saw a documentary about the renowned mobile sculpture Alexander Calder creating art from just a roll of simple wire. Patrick rushed out to get some wire, and realized he not only did he enjoy wire sculpting, he was quite good at visualizing the structure and space needed for the art form.

He told us, in the early days, he would walk into a bar with a roll of wire, spend his last $5 on a beer and start making sculptures.  By the end of the night he would walk out with pockets full of cash from the dozens of people who wanted his sculptures. He eventually made his way to Key West and started selling these art pieces on the sidewalk.

He’s now a full-time artist and offers small pieces for $10, medium for $15 and for only $25, he will do a three dimensional portrait of you or a photo. We’d never seen anything like it.

By the way, Lori loved her sunset, but Scott really loved his bobble-boobies.