One of the more avant-garde art shows exhibited in the Florida Keys returns this month, but this time people will not have to dive 90 feet below the ocean's surface to enjoy it.
In August 2011, divers attached 12 pieces of art by Austrian commercial modern artist and underwater photographer Andreas Franke on the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg artificial reef for several months. The works have returned to the Keys and will be shown at The Studios of Key West starting on Jan. 17 in an exhibit called "Life Below the Surface."
"Andreas Franke's surreal photographs from the sunken Vandenberg make you think you're breathing underwater," Studios of Key West Executive Director Jed Dodds said. "Having the images on view in the historic Armory is thrilling, and the exhibition promises to be one of the most anticipated all year."
Franke dived in the Vandenberg in 2010 and snapped several photos of the wreck. He later digitally manipulated the images to depict surreal everyday scenes on the ship from the past -- a little girl is seen on the weather deck, holding a butterfly net, a couple is waltzing inside the ship, and a bartender is pouring a cocktail.
Franke called the art "mystified scenes of the past that play in a fictional space" and "dream worlds, where you can get lost or you can identify with."
The art was featured on the Vandenberg for four months. The saltwater and pressure from being placed 90 feet below the surface dramatically changed the pieces over time, said Key West Capt. Joe Weatherby, who organized the Vandenberg sinking.
The images are encased in 3-millimeter thick Plexiglas and mounted in stainless-steel frames sealed with silicone.
"The pressure pushed water past the seals and transformed the colors to make the pieces look like old treasure maps," Weatherby said. "It was pretty magical."
Weatherby attached 12 similar pieces of Franke's work to a wreck off Barbados last month.
The Key West exhibit will be on display from Jan. 17 to Feb. 15, with a grand-opening party during the monthly Walk on White (Street) from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 17. There will also be an after-party at the Key West Rum Barrel Bar Grill, 528 Front St., following the opening.