BY MICHELLE PAYER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY CARLOS HIDALGO
From original art to a line of t-shirts, scarves and home goods, local artist Dorie Shapiro-Grizzard is making this year’s holidays festive, happy and a little bit wacky.
“Let’s dance!” exclaims Dorie Shapiro-Grizzard when photographers arrive, as she spontaneou
sly whirls around her living room in her signature rose-colored glasses and a chartreuse outfit, her resonant laugh filling the room that’s already chock full of the “imaginary friends” she paints in acrylic on canvas and wearable art in a new collection of Dorie Jane t-shirts, accessories and pillows.
Her “friends,” which include a redhead, a janitor, a court jester, a waitress, a marionette, Russian and Chinese girls, and an entire cast of characters, are people she’s never met “who wake me up at 5 am to come out and play,” says Dorie. “These characters live in my heart; they live in my head and materialize on paper, sometimes with my eyes closed. I take my experiences and memories and create art from people I’ve invented who live through me and exist in my mind,” says the 62-year-old artist, whose “experiences and memories” are the result of an unusual life, from which a fantastical artistic outlet unfolded and paintings with names like The Pickle Sisters, Di-Da, The Hangover, Prom Night, Birds in a Tree and The Tea Room have emerged. “There’s no war, no fighting, no death, it’s just pure happiness and fantasy,” says Dorie about her art. “If one of my paintings, t-shirts, scarves, pillows or keyholders can give people a chuckle or start a conversation, it’s done its work; you’re wearing a story,” she says.
Born and raised in Long Beach, New York, both Dorie’s father and grandfather had ties to organized crime that propelled her into colorful surroundings and worldwide travel through hotels and restaurants her father co-owned and global gambling junkets he arranged. “My life was like a movie set. Everyone looked like James Bond,” she says of her childhood experiences. “My father would pick me up in a Kelly-green Cadillac, which was extravagant at the time. He loved to travel, so we’d jet off to London, Rome or Paris on the weekends. The airline president would meet us on the jetway,” she says. “When I was 16, we stayed at the George V in Paris and went to the Moulin Rouge. We would pop into Gucci for handbags in Rome, and he’d have a shoe store opened so we could shop.”
Dorie would return home and begin drawing her experiences, from the architecture and vibrant colors of the city to flowers, fashion and people they met. She would draw for hours, then paint the scenes into a mash-up of people, winning a school art competition at age 10 and selling her art at Long Beach street fairs at 16. “I suffered from dyslexia, so art was my outlet from an early age,” says says. “I always lived in a different world from other kids, both from my family and through my dyslexia, and I made sure that world was happy, fun and sometimes outrageous.” She laughs, recalling, “Like for my Sweet 16 party at a famous gay bar called the Ninth Circle, I designed the invitation in rhyme and said there would be whiskey sours, which of course there weren’t, but it sounded so sophisticated.”
At age 21, Dorie moved to New York and designed costumes for Broadway shows, worked in the garment district, in art galleries, at restaurants, and was a fixture at Studio 54, CBGB’s, Fire Island and SoHo. “I was around all these artists, designers and libertines, and would come home and draw all the crazy, interesting people I met so I wouldn’t forget them,” she says. They all became part of her art, as did tragedy when she lost both her daughters, one as an infant to heart disease and the other to Tay-Sach’s disease. “My art was a way to cope, to make it happy for myself and create an alternate reality during a tragically sad time,” she says.
The artist has called South Florida home since 1990—first Aventura, now Bay Harbor Islands—and has recreated herself
over the years, from clothing store manager to a stint as a stand-up comedian on South Beach to 15 years in the fine jewelry business and almost as many as an interior decorator, which she still is. “In fourth grade, I said I wanted to be an interior designer,” says Dorie. “I had already redone every room in my grandparents’ house and it was another way of visualizing and expressing an art form. Now, people who hire me know my art and know there will be a whimsical vignette somewhere in their house when I re-do it.”
It wasn’t until 2017, however, that her artwork became a full-time vocation, showing paintings at local events and galleries, including The Watchful Eye near Miami Shores. But it was during a one-woman show where people admired her original paintings yet regretted they didn’t have any more wall space in their homes that an idea was born to create the Dorie Jane line of t-shirts, accessories and pillows. Now people can wear The Hangover, French Lady or Di Da as colorful shirts or scarves, display Birds in a Tree on their sofa or keep a 12×12-inch keyholder with signature faces by the front door, including Frank with the spiked hair or the Me Sisters smiling back at them.
Dorie’s line of 19×19-inch pillows brings her fanciful, original art to life, from the riot of expressions in The Hangover to Dog Park and Cat Lady, which, as the titles imply, are impish faces and names of the animals she’s come across walking her own pup, Baby Girl. There’s Sammy, Gizmo, Milo, Leo, Teddy and Fonzie, and Dorie leaves space to put a client’s dog’s name on front. The signed, limited-edition pillows are printed on canvas, much like an original painting; yet the back is just as alluring with different patterns and fabrics Dorie selects for their luxurious quality, from velvet, linen and ultra-suede to texturized cut velvet. “I want every part of the pillow to be beautiful,” she says.
Dorie says she’s committed to giving business to small, family-owned companies to cut and sew her creations, thus the Dorie Jane line is all manufactured and stitched in South Florida. She plans to add new works every few months to her website, including new limited-edition pillows. An avid enthusiast of Jewish history, she is in the midst of creating Jewish art, starting with a series of Orthodox paintings that includes Dancing Lubavitch and Bicycling Lubavitch canvases. On the horizon is a kids’ line, a handbag line, light switch covers and whatever else her imagination can invent next.
“Di-Dah” is derived from the expression ‘dah-dahhhhh!’—you know, when you throw your hands in the air in celebration,” explains the artist, as she jumps up to demonstrate. “From age 8 to 80, these are ageless; you’re going out into the world with a smile and starting a conversation.” Or a spontaneous dance party.
Dorie Jane can be found at doriejane.com or by calling 305.479.1775.