Dick Moody might be the only artist in the Keys that can claim to being thrown out of art class in the seventh grade … and benefiting from it.
“There’s more to it than that,” Moody said while working on a current project at the Stone Soup Gallery on White Street. “It goes back to my growing up in D.C. My father, Robert, took me along to the nightclubs and I fell in love with music and began my life-long affair with the sax.
“My aunt, Victoria May, lived with us and she took me to art museums,” Moody recalled with a smile. “I learned about art because of her.”
At the art museums and galleries, Moody visited with his aunt, he saw a lot of nude paintings and sculptures. When his seventh-grade art teacher gave students clay to mold, Moody remembered those sculptures and paintings.
“The teacher was upset with what I was doing.” Moody laughed at the memory. “I was taken to the principal’s office and that was the end of my middle school art classes.”
So he switched to shop and wielding classes. As if providence watched over him, his welding work on friends’ cars led to artwork on the cars, too.
“If you can remember the late ‘50s, you’ll recall the teenager’s cars with flames on the side, pin stripping, and I used my art ability to do that work on cars too,” Moody said. “All this because of a misunderstanding in my seventh-grade art class.”
Moody’s skills weren’t limited to shop class and cars.
“In 1957, I met Roger Hughes. We were in the tenth grade and he asked me to join his band,” Moody said. “It was a big band, with four saxophones. For seven years, I played six nights and took home $100 a week. Good money back then.”
After high school, Moody attended Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., to build his portfolio.
“I took as many classes as I could,” Moody said. “And I still had the night gigs playing music.”
Eventually, he landed a job as an illustrator at an ad agency. He stayed for four years. But then the Navy hired him as a civilian ‘vision information specialist.’
“I kept that job, getting upgraded by the Navy, for nineteen years,” he said.
In 1985, Moody and his wife Kathleen visited Key West for the first time. They moved here in 1987, bought a gallery on Duval and then sold it, but he’s still deeply involved in the art scene. Currently, he’s most engaged with ‘Trompe L’oeil,’ – fools the eye — painting.
“I stumbled on the style by accident in Paris more than twenty years ago,” Moody said.
But he’s also a sculptor. Locals may have seen a few of Moody’s stainless steel sculptures in their wanderings around Key West. His 12’-by-18’ monoplane is at the Key West Airport terminal and his 12’ stainless steel marlin is on the wall of the Blue Marlin Motel. He has also had pieces displayed by Arts in Public Places.
And then there are the murals.
If you’ve been to Sloppy Joe’s, you’ve had to pass his balcony mural, a mural on Lazy Way at the Key West Historic Seaport, and the entry wall at the Key West Beach Club.
“I’ve got other murals in private homes,” Moody said. “A lot of them in kitchens.”
Moody’s murals have weathered floods, hurricanes, smoke-filled kitchens and Sloppy Joe’s daily barrage of customers.
Moody does do consignments and can be reached through his website.
If you hear a saxophone playing one evening with a band in a local watering hole, you might find him there, too.