Expressive and Vibrant: Painting Out Loud With Artist Laurie Shapiro

  • Visual artist Laurie Shapiro shares how living with progressive hearing loss fuels her creativity by leaving her with an inner world that’s much louder than the outer one.
  • Similar to our most recently highlighted artist, Paula Flores, Laurie’s profound connection with the natural world, including cannabis, drives her work.

7-minute read

Vibrance in Silence

Join us as House of Puff steps into the loud, interior world of mixed-media artist, Laurie Shapiro. Laurie’s work is a blissful riot of vibrant color and exuberant natural forms. She attributes her artistic vision to her unique personal experiences. That includes living with a condition that results in progressive hearing loss as she ages. This gradual change in her hearing is slowly leaving her with an inner world that’s louder than the outer one. Her experience with the contrast between her emotional life and the world around her drives her visually captivating works of art. Laurie’s upcoming show at the Dyer Arts Center in Rochester, NY runs from August 28th through December 8th. The Dyer Arts Center is at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, located on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology. We highly recommend checking it out if you can!

House of Puff: What’s the one main thing you’re exploring in your work right now?

Laurie Shapiro on her loud inner world

I’m exploring a few major themes in my work right now and figuring out how to tie everything together. One big part is acknowledging the effect my hearing loss has had on my work and perception. I have a condition where I’ve gradually, but significantly, been losing my hearing over time. While my experience of the outer world is muted, my inner world is loud. This internal “loudness” colors my perception and my work. I’ve also been exploring what it means to really listen. Especially listening to the environment during a time of climate crisis.

Laurie Shapiro's art installations are vibrant and immersive.

House of Puff: If you could time travel, what’s the one thing you’d most like to experience high?

Laurie Shapiro on Woodstock

I think it’d be great to go to the original Woodstock high. But I’d also love to go to Woodstock ‘94 high.

House of Puff: What’s the one thing you do daily to spark your creativity?

Laurie Shapiro on alone time for inspiration

I take a lot of time for myself. I’m a pretty big introvert, so I need lots of alone time to process and center myself. Sometimes this means meditating, going on a long walk, or just sitting around doing nothing. It’s often in the emptiness, and in a meditative silence, that ideas and clarity come. I also get more ideas when I’m making my work. For me, that’s engaging in another form of meditation. Sometimes you feel creative, and sometimes you don’t. But it always feels good to paint and spend time in the studio. Opening my sketchbook and playing around with colored pencils and making smaller works can be really helpful to get the creativity flowing.

House of Puff: Who are some artists from the past whose work makes you think they consumed cannabis?

Laurie Shapiro on af Klint, Kahlo, Basquiat

I think that many artists from the past might have consumed cannabis, and many artists continue to! A few who immediately come to mind are Hilma af Klint, Frida Kahlo, and Basquiat. Hilma’s work makes me think she might have consumed cannabis because of the colors and mysticism in her work. Frida is such an icon today, and I could definitely see her at least trying cannabis. Both her and Basquiat’s work were influenced by the social circles they were in. And I could definitely see cannabis playing a part in that. There’s so many raw emotions and complex symbolism in Basquiat’s work. So, I could definitely see him consuming cannabis. Honestly, I think that, in the same way as having a drink from time to time, cannabis has likely been in many artists’ lives at some point or another.

House of Puff: What’s the one element that’s always in your work and why?

Laurie Shapiro on life and color

Flowers and colors are always in my work. I think that’s because both symbolize life and beauty to me. I strongly believe that artists have a responsibility to create the world we’d like to see, and my vision is a colorful world full of flowers, love, and life.

Step into the loud, inner world of artist Laurie Shapiro

House of Puff: What’s the one way that cannabis contributes most to your creativity?

Laurie Shapiro on cannabis and creativity

Cannabis can have psychedelic properties. Sometimes shifting your mind and perspective can have enriching effects. Being open to cannabis and other mind-altering substances as a teenager一and the spiritual experiences that came from them一really influenced my perception. When I was a teenager, I loved using cannabis while drawing or painting. At this point in my life, I’ve become more sensitive and gentle with myself. I primarily use meditation as a way to a greater perspective. As an artist, many of my spiritual experiences make their way into my work.

House of Puff: Who’s the one artist who has influenced you most and why?

Laurie Shapiro on Fran Flaherty

Many of the influences and role models in my life have been my wise older friends. I look up to them for support and guidance. There are quite a few of these people in my life. However, I’m currently working with Fran Flaherty. Fran is the director of the Dyer Arts Center at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, NY, where I’m showing a large body of work this August through December. She has really encouraged me to push my work both aesthetically and conceptually. As I connect it to a larger culture of deafness and disability—and with the upcoming show—I just want to give her a little shout-out.

House of Puff: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to others about using cannabis?

Laurie Shapiro on set and setting

I’d say start with a little bit and be around people who make you feel comfortable. Being in nature always feels better for me, too. When I’m high, I have no interest in anything with a screen. I either just want to create, listen to music, or be in nature.

House of Puff: Living or dead, who’s the one person you’d most like to talk to about your work?

Laurie Shapiro on meditation

I’ve thought about this question a lot, and I’m having a hard time finding that one person. I kept asking myself, “who would be most influential?” So, I kind of wanted to take this question in another direction. I previously mentioned that I have an ongoing meditation practice that’s important in my life and work. Sometimes during meditation, I reach out to others一alive or dead一and have dialogues with them in my head. I find this process very helpful. In fact, it’s mentioned in the classic book, “Think and Grow Rich,” where the author states that he consults his dead role models this way. In a meditative state, we can access a place that goes beyond time and space.

House of Puff: What’s the one cannabis product you’re loving most right now and why?

Laurie Shapiro on hemp CBD

At the moment, I’m enjoying hemp CBD because I can roll a whole spliff or smoke an entire joint. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more of a sensitive lightweight with weed. But, I also do enjoy my 1:1 vape and a mellow sativa.

House of Puff: If you could only enjoy one work of art for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?

Laurie Shapiro on her deep love of nature

I’d choose the natural environment. I think the earth itself is the most beautiful piece of artwork. We’re seeing so much destruction of the planet today with the climate crisis. We don’t realize that we need this planet, but it doesn’t need us. I’d love to be able to enjoy the forests and trees and other species that live on this planet with me. And if I could enjoy the earth’s flourishing natural habitat for the rest of my life, that’d be really nice. I believe that we can all do small things to make this more possible. I’m genuinely worried about the forest fires, record temperature levels, ocean pollution, and ongoing extinctions.

House of Puff: What’s one thing you’d like to say to cannabis naysayers?

Laurie Shapiro on The Last Prisoner Project

It depends on what they’re naysaying. If cannabis isn’t your thing, that’s cool. But any idea that it’s dangerous or that someone else shouldn’t enjoy it is ridiculous. I’ve gone through phases with cannabis. Sometimes it’s a great addition to my life, sometimes it’s not. I’d never tell someone else not to enjoy it. I’d rather be around a group of people using cannabis than alcohol. Also, I want to give a shout-out to The Last Prisoner Project. They’re a nonprofit fighting for cannabis reform and the release of everyone incarcerated for cannabis offenses. We need to fix the injustice the war on drugs has had on American families. Shifting the culture around cannabis to one that’s more accepting and open would be a big step forward for our society. Those who have been marginalized because of the racist and unjust war on drugs need to be given justice.

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