Monday, December 15, 2014
Papio started his salvage and welding business at mile marker 101 along Highway U.S. 1 in Key Largo in 1949. He collected junk, including discarded metal appliances and cars. At the time, his property was relatively isolated, but soon nosy neighbors arrived. They took issue with having an "eyesore" in the neighborhood. Papio’s first major work, the 8-foot-tall Two-Faced Woman, was created from metal fence scrolls and tin scraps as a parody of a neighbor who was nice to his face but reported him to the county. He was ultimately arrested six times for violating zoning codes.
Art aficionados and tour buses soon started stopping by to visit his “gallery.” Admission: a quarter. His pieces were exhibited throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, but he refused to sell his sculptures. Instead he hoped to donate the entire collection to a museum. He got his wish after his death in 1982 when the Key West Art & Historical Society put the sculptures on permanent display at Fort East Martello. While it may be a little off the beaten path, Papio's collection is a must-see and captures the spirit of a true Keys character.