Dorothy Bury Shaw, an award-winning artist from the Chicago area, explores spiritual themes in colorful renderings of great detail and symbolism. She is inspired by nature and the human experience.
Tell us about yourself and background.
Born and raised in Chicago, I fell hopelessly in love with art as a young girl. The only cure was to create art myself. Alas, my loving (but practical) parents would only consent to pursuit of an art degree if I agreed to study commercial art. So, I graduated from the Chicago Academy of Fine Art. For several years I worked as a freelance editorial illustrator. My commercial work was published in Chicago newspapers, Chicago Magazine, Midwest Magazine, and more. It was only later in life that I returned to fine art.
Tell us about your work.
A single painting will take many hours, weeks, and months to complete.
It is a painstaking process layering ink, watercolor and colored pencil on rag paper. Recently I have added altered paper collage elements into some pieces too. There is detail in the hand-drawn line work; so fine that I sometimes need a magnifying glass to do it. I find myself lost in this intuitive process which alters between feeling peaceful and channeling an intense benevolent force carrying me onward.
My work references abundant, unapologetic use of symbolism and references to mysticism. It is intimate and soulful. Of course, there is a story unfolding, and it can only be completed when the viewer brings another perspective.
Why is your work a good investment?
When a work of art stirs you deeply, compels you to linger, then soothes something in your soul, know that the connection that first sparked inside you will remain there as time passes. Art is far more than an object one purchases; it is an experience that enriches your life and wakens self-awareness. To a potential collector, I could speak of my archival methods in creating and framing my art, numerous awards, recognition, publications, and provenance which might tick some boxes when purchasing for a financial investment, but these are never what first draws someone into a piece. To connect with a painting and feel the call to purchase it, there is an investment in one’s self… staking a claim in what brings joy and abundant life. The ones who choose my art are welcoming into their lives a part of my spirit, a shimmer of the divine light that inspired the work, and all the beauty to be found in the dawn of Love’s presence within me as the art unfolded through my hands. Each painting I create is a sacred space, a blessing for me and for all who are drawn to it.
"My work references abundant, unapologetic use of symbolism and references to mysticism. It is intimate and soulful. Of course, there is a story unfolding, and it can only be completed when the viewer brings another perspective."
Tell us about some of your achievements.
As a student majoring in editorial illustration I was selected by the faculty to be awarded a full scholarship at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art. Now as a fine artist I have received many awards at exhibitions and art events throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, including Best of Show, Best in Category, First Place, cash awards and more. I have been interviewed by several magazines and newspapers including the Chicago Tribune in June of 2016, and featured for the cover story in the Winter issue of Suburban Life Magazine in 2016.
My work hangs in collections all over the world.
I am also a poet and launched my first art and poetry book in 2018, Love Without Distance, a Heartscape of Art & Verse, a project dear to my heart.
There are also private accomplishments that are very meaningful. When I meet people at street fairs who are deeply moved by my work some will say, “You are the real deal.” One elderly man spent an hour in my tent quietly studying my work, then confided, “I will never forget you, for the rest of my life I will remember this day.” Another time a woman came to me in tears telling me “I have entered a living chapel, this is holy ground, and your work tells me I am never alone.” A young professional man came to several of my art fairs one summer to gaze upon a particular painting, sitting in the grass, tears in his soft eyes.
He eventually purchased that piece. He has written me since that the painting still speaks to him delivering insights. These are the moments I understand that I am just a messenger and gratitude fills my heart.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Inspiration is abundant. I dip my pen into the simmering soup pot of all the books I’ve ever consumed, all the art that’s moved me, a lifetime of unremembered dreams, a bank of extraordinary mystical experiences, every relationship held precious to me, the ever-expanding field of Love that surrounds us, and I cover my paper with these stories. It’s important to bypass the ego, to let intuition hold the lantern. It is an intimate process.
I feel exposed when I look upon what I’ve created, but the result is always honest.
"Having been forever moved by powerful mystical experiences since childhood, I have always been focused on divine intention and its power to heal and transform. How can my work make this world a kinder place to be, and how can I help to heal the wounds upon our collective soul? These are the questions that drive all that I do creatively."
Tell us the back-story of how you developed your distinctive style.
In 2013 a powerful rain storm swept through our area. My spirit, typically calm, was increasingly restless as the storm gained momentum. I felt a heightened sense of impending loss, that life was about to be changed forever. Floodwaters slowly approached us. I felt the gaping jaws of my creative spirit, gasping for air, near drowning. All night I fought to keep the waters out but soon they rose up through the drains in my studio. There was nothing more to be done. Exhausted and surrendering, I sat down to draw and what came astonished me. My heart was pounding. I felt the ancients surround me with chants and drumming, matching my heart beat. My pen covered the paper with lines and patterns. As the storm raged, my heart found a steady rhythm and I felt great comfort in the drawings that poured from me. In the gush of those creations and the floodwaters, I was reborn. Miraculously, my studio was saved. And all the work I do now reflects that experience. There is no doubt whatsoever that this style is what I was born to do. I have not stopped since.
Share with us your upcoming projects.
Currently I am creating work inspired by nature for a select group exhibition at the Peabody Mansion at Mayslake, Oak Brook, Illinois for early 2020. I also plan on expanding my exhibitions into other locales and abroad.
What are you passionate about?
Having been forever moved by powerful mystical experiences since childhood,
I have always been focused on divine intention and its power to heal and transform. How can my work make this world a kinder place to be, and how can I help to heal the wounds upon our collective soul? These are the questions that drive all that I do creatively.
Tell us about where you are based.
I spent the first half of my life in Chicago and now reside about fifteen miles west of the city in Downers Grove, Illinois where I work in my home studio.
I am very active in Chicago-area art and poetry groups.