Saturday, March 17, 2007
A work of ARF
The oil on canvas portraits of Lisa Manzione's "three girls," as she calls them, hang near the fireplace in her Delray Beach family room. She loves to glance over and admire them. "You can see their personalities in their eyes," says Manzione, who was so happy with artist Eric Bossik's work that she e-mailed copies to several friends. "When I die," replied one, "I want to come back as your dog."
Those three portraits -- at $700 a piece -- depict Manzione's dogs: the perpetually happy Dakota, the excitable Denver and the very regal Aspen, who always walked around with her snout in the air. Aspen died Feb. 10.
"Now that Aspen has passed away, I'm so happy I have it," says Manzione, vice president of a management company.
Pet portraits are just a small slice of the estimated $38 billion Americans spent on their pets last year, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. With 63 percent of U.S. households now owning a pet, up from 56 percent in 1988, more American households have pets than children.
Pet health insurance premiums totaled $160 million last year. Human fans of Paul Mitchell hair care products can now buy John Paul Pet shampoos and conditioners. And Omaha Steaks makes pet treats along with its signature rib eyes and filets.
So it's no wonder that South Floridians looking to immortalize their pets can choose between photographers, painters, even sculptors.
Stacia Goldman of Delray Beach freely admits that she treats Chanel, her Yorkshire terrier, like a child. Two years ago, she met a very nice guy with an English bulldog named Rocco.
"He used to say Rocco was the eighth wonder of the world," says Goldman. "It's his son. He adores that dog."
So when his birthday came along, Goldman commissioned Tamarac artist Jene Rizzo to paint his portrait. "He loved it! He just loved it. It's in his bathroom. For his next birthday, I figured I'd get one of Chanel."
Rizzo has been doing portraits since the late 1960s, first humans and now more and more pets. At the monthly Island City Art Walk in Wilton Manors, Rizzo's animal portraits attract attention as much for their $65 price tag as their style.
"For somebody that's got everything, what are you going to get them?" asks Rizzo. "At the Wilton Manors show, one of these high-priced Realtors took one of my cards. She said you can buy a basket of fruit but it's rotten in a week. But a pet portrait? This is forever."
Cheryl Gotbaum of Pompano Beach says she and her husband have six children between them. Choosing a personalized gift can be difficult, so the Gotbaums usually opt for cash. But when one of their sons adopted a new boxer puppy, Gotbaum called on artist Carol Ann Sherman of Delray Beach to capture Ulrich in watercolors. She's waiting for the hair on her year-old Papillion to grow in before Sherman does his portrait.
Gotbaum named her dog Sir Lancelot in part because he "rescued" her from empty-nester syndrome.
"We forget to play when we get older," says Gotbaum. "We don't go out and throw a ball in the backyard anymore. Bringing a playful creature back into our lives reminds us to have fun."
John Tanasychuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4632.