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Local Artists' Work Takes Cruiser to Island


She and her fellow artist, Rita MacNelly, who work from Fulton Hill Studios, are putting the finishing touches on a 37-sided, irregularly shaped piece of "Pilgrimage to Paradise," a 3- by 5-foot puzzlelike work of art designed by painter Mark T. Smith that will fit together 11 pieces from artists in states along the East Coast.

In a trek that begins in New York on April 15 and scheduled for kickoff on "Good Morning America," Smith will travel in a hand-painted PT Cruiser from Chrysler, which is sponsoring the event, and pick up each piece as he travels to Key West. There, the whole will be assembled and will join an exhibition of Smith's new paintings.

It is all a tribute to the good vibes of Key West, where Hemingway wrote adventures and Audubon painted birds, where artists such as Bogan and MacNelly travel for "spiritual rejuvenation," Bogan says. "You can't swing a dead cat without hitting an art gallery," she adds.

One of those galleries liked the work of the pair and chose them to represent Virginia in this project. At 5 p.m. on April 16, the two artists are scheduled to hand over their piece to Smith at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk.

As usual, Bogan and MacNelly split up the work. Bogan drew and constructed the sculpture. MacNelly painted it. Their inspiration came from Bahama Village in Key West, where most residents are black, and most are poor and feeling pushed out from an influx of wealthy home builders that has created what MacNelly calls a "white, fancy area."

Bahama Village, she says, is a pure, natural part of the island, and very Key West, as much as the bright blues and lush reds and pinks and sea-green aquas that color their work. Like the colors, MacNelly says, Key West is a free spirit. "No rules apply," she says. "That's what I love about it, is the openness of it all."


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