Placitas artist makes the shoe fit a medium

When Barbara Burzillo was working as a KOAT-TV sales manager, she was a self-described shoe freak.

“Channel 7 had a regular Zappos delivery for me each week,” the Placitas artist said.

Kathaleen Roberts
Kathleen Roberts
“It Looked like a Dragon to Me” by Barbara Burzillo.

Known for her work in bronze, Burzillo was retired and shuttered because of the pandemic, so she peeked inside her closet. She had already given away most of her corporate clothing, but the shoes remained.

“I wasn’t using them anymore and I just couldn’t part with them,” she said. “I had a little fun when I was 50 and got single and bought a lot of crazy shoes.”

So she turned everything from her clogs to her sandals to high altitude platforms into sculptures.

The results are on display at Wild Hearts Gallery in Placitas in “Shoeluccinations” through Oct. 3.

It all began last December when Burzillo created “It Looked Like a Dragon to Me” for a gallery group show.

To create the heavily scaled dragon emerging from its platform cave, she lined the shoe with aluminum foil and used wire to shape the beast. She added epoxy dough for its skeleton and created the scales and details with Apoxie adhesive clay.bright spot

“I feel like I’m being set free because of this sculpture,” Burzillo said.

Barbara Burzillo sits in her home studio in Placitas.

Another dip inside her closet produced “I Have Fishoes,” a heeled purple sandal peppered in fish scales, its bulging eyes and pouty lips emerging from the toe.

Burzillo had bought the shoes for a wedding.

“That shoe was so colorful it just felt like a tropical fish to me,” she said.

“Shoey Armstrong” emerged from a black clog, morphing into an irreverent take on the jazz legend Louis Armstrong.

“I had the shoe standing upright leaning against the wall,” she said. “The opening looked like a giant mouth and I thought of a jazz singer.”

“Booby Shoesday” resembles a corseted Barbie doll.

Feeta Kahlo by Barbara Burzillo.

“That shoe is a brand called Naughty Monkey,” Burzillo said. “It looks like a corset because of the grommets and the lace.” Burzillo drilled holes in the sides of the shoe, adding wires long enough to contain the arms and legs.

The nubby texture of a platform sandal reminded her of rattlesnake skin, so she transformed it into “Reptheel,” complete with a rattle saluting from the heel and a forked tongue hissing at the toe.

So far, Burzillo has embellished just one of each pair of shoes. She isn’t sure if she will sell both the sculpted and the unembellished shoe together or if she’ll transform the mate later. Some viewers didn’t realize the sculptures began as shoes, she explained.

Feeta Kahlo by Barbara Burzillo.
Shoey Armstrong by Barbara Burzillo.
Reptheel by Barbara Burzillo.

This month art lovers will see Burzillo’s work in four shows, including both the Placitas and Corrales studio tours. She isn’t yet sure yet if her “Shoeluccinations” will take over her studio or whether she will produce more bronze.

Burzillo took night classes in art throughout her career, studying painting, pottery and clay before delving into bronze. Much of her bronze work is figurative, characterized by dramatic gestures with elongated, faceless figures. She has shown her work in both the Rio Grande and Weems art markets.

Barbara Burzillo stands in her work studio in Placitas.

The artist moved to New Mexico in 1995 after spending 26 years in New York City. She left advertising and marketing in 2017 to focus exclusively on her art. “I did love art as a kid, but, like the rest of us, I had to move along,” she said. “Now I can do it with freedom and not desperation.”

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