Roadkill Art Exhibit Shows Florida Man’s Artistic Side
The most “Florida Man” thing going on in Pensacola this week won’t end with an arrest report or body camera footage – it’s an art exhibit at the Jewelers Trade Shop in downtown Pensacola. .
The boutique opening will feature a husband and wife duo of Key West artists, Rita and Fred Troxel. Rita is the retired Florida Keys movie commissioner whose management helped bring production of the Netflix series “Bloodline” to the Keys. Rita will present a collection of elegant and elegant oil and watercolor paintings inspired by the southernmost locations of Florida.
Her husband, Fred, meanwhile, trades brushes and canvas for bones and corpses in a series of road-sourced sculptures that are equal parts beautiful, bizarre, and fully fledged Florida Man.
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He calls them “A1 Angels,” referring, of course, to A1A, Florida’s most famous state highway that runs along the Atlantic Ocean from the Georgia Line to Key West.
Troxel has recovered many anatomical remnants of his sculptures from unfortunate Florida wild animals that scurried, kicked, slithered, or slid quite quickly across the pavement. Others he found while traversing mangrove islands or traversing the South Florida backcountry.
Each piece is a concoction of biological remains that did not exist together in nature. Skulls of cormorants, beards of stingrays, talons of raptors, and dead coral are combined into creatures the Lord himself had not before imagined.
A recurring element highlighted in Troxel’s designs are raccoon penis bones, known academically as baculum.
“Cajuns use them as toothpicks,” laughed Troxel in a phone call last week. “And believe it or not, you can even buy them on the internet! (Yes, Amazon Prime members can buy a raccoon baculum with guaranteed two-day delivery! What a time to live!)
And if anyone were to know the function of a raccoon baculum to oral hygiene, I believe it would be someone with Troxel’s professional expertise. He has been a dentist for 44 years with a practice in Big Pine Key, where he gained fame as a “barefoot dentist” by working without shoes for more than four decades. What could be more Floridian than that?
A brief aside: I was recently sitting in a bar with two local authors who explored the Keys in their fiction – Nic Shuck and Corbett Davis Jr. of Pensacola. Holding the bar was one of Pensacola’s most beloved bartenders, the inimitable and exuberant Tammy Ingle, who was a longtime resident of Big Pine Key. When the topic of Dr. Troxel’s upcoming art show came up, as small worlds go, the barefoot dentist was already well known to Ingle here in Pensacola.
Davis and Troxel are both members of a gonzo group of South Florida fly fishers whose annual outings include a wild and varied cast of characters of varying levels of fame and sophistication. Jimmy Buffett and Carl Hiaasen are both members, and Davis says he’s usually the only conservative on the boat full of deranged but lovable lefties.
Hiaasen himself received one of Troxel’s first figurines, complete with raccoon baculum and all. Troxel was a longtime collector of bones, fossils, and biological remains even before he began to reassemble them into art. But he has now sold a handful of playful and macabre totems to private collectors.
Corbett Davis Jr., who purchased one of the figures, described the artist’s inspiration. “He’s just outside.”
The pieces are both irreverent and totemistic. A macabre exhibition of dead things that also uplifts and celebrates fallen creatures in depictions that could easily be interpreted as gods, spirits or otherworldly beings. They are 100% pure Florida Angels.
So if watching a reassembled traffic accident sounds like a lively start to your Friday night, stop by and meet Fred and Rita Troxel at the Jewelers Trade Shop from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, May 6. There will be wine and beer and chef David Penniman will be cooking fresh Florida seafood snacks for the occasion. Just bring your own toothpicks. The raccoon baculum is for artistic purposes only.