Dick Moody may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or be as powerful as a locomotive, but he is a man of steel.
With torch and rod in hand, Moody has spent much of his adult life bending and shaping the steel into works of art.
One of Moody's major works is being celebrated this month in honor of the 100th anniversary of the first flight between Key West and Havana. Moody's half-scale model of Domingo Rosillo's plane hangs prominently in the Key West International Airport terminal, one of the last images visitors are treated to before leaving the Keys.
Moody is particularly proud of the piece because of its historical significance, the attention to detail and months of research that went into it. He called the plane "a very accurate model."
County Airports Director Peter Horton praised the work.
"I am not only impressed by Dick Moody as an artist, but because of his engineering skills," Horton said. "The plane was hung with such skill."
Moody has not limited his art to metals. He is an accomplished painter whose works have graced the faÃßades and interiors of government buildings, hotels, homes and watering holes, including a three-dimensional mural of a Havana landscape at Sloppy Joe's.
Moody was born in Fort Lauderdale but moved to Washington, D.C., when he was 13. He started painting in third grade after his aunt paid for him to take art lessons. He said he stopped taking art classes in seventh grade after being kicked out of class and sent to the principal's office for sculpting the nude torso of a woman.
Moody took his first welding class in 10th grade and shortly afterward built a souped-up go cart, he said. This would be the beginning of a lifelong love affair with metals and fast cars.
"I drove that son of a bitch," Moody said. "I like hot rods. I like them low, loud and fast. I love to build cars."
Moody subsidized his income and paid for his love of cars by playing saxophone in rock bands in the greater D.C. area.
The artist did not return to art school until after graduating high school and working at an art supply store.
"I remember thinking, I can do that," Moody said. "I can draw better than that guy."
However, his colleagues told him that to be a paid, working artist, he had to attend art school. Moody attended the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., for one year. He then went to work for a commercial art and illustration firm there.
He moved on to become an illustrator for the Navy, where he penned the artwork for military publications and presentations for 20 years. Moody built a $3 million exhibit for NASA at Cape Canaveral, which led to his getting the Navy's highest civilian artist honor, the Superior Civilian Service Award.
"I did over 100 moonscapes for NASA," he said.
Moody left the Navy and started his own art supply business in Orlando in the early 1980s. He sold the business after five years and moved to Key West after visiting for Fantasy Fest.
He lived off the proceeds from the sale of his business and played music to supplement his income. He quickly made a name for himself in the Key West art scene and was commissioned to do several high-profile pieces of work, such as the steel marlin on the faÃßade of the Blue Marlin Motel and a metal shark at the Key West trash Transfer Station.
Moody, 71, has also remained active in the local hot rod scene. He is a founder of the Florida Keys Southernmost Car Club, where he serves as "leader of the pack."
Club members get together the third Sunday of every month. On Tuesday night, they will drive their vintage cars to the convalescent center on College Road as part of a regular event they hold for the seniors.
"They love to look at the cars and reminisce about old times," Moody said. "They love to talk about the old cars they had. It reminds them of being young."