Photographer Matthew Leifheit became fascinated with a tale he heard while strolling around Key West on a ghost tour: Robert the doll, an effigy of an aging man’s younger self that he carried with him.

Leifheit thought the whole yarn sounded “really gay.” 

That story inspired a new photo exhibition, “Robert the Doll,” opening Nov. 3 at the Studios of Key West. 

While the original Robert the doll was made of cloth and is rumored to be haunted, Leifheit took inspiration from lifelike, anatomically correct sex dolls. (You may remember “Lars and the Real Girl,” the 2007 Ryan Gosling comedy about a delusional young man who fell in love with such a doll.) 

The next day, Leifheit purchased a skimpy sailor suit in a Duval St. boutique, throwing the history of Key West as a Navy port into the mix of themes. Local drag performer Nathan Strange stood in for Robert in this incarnation. Beyond the obvious “Dorian Gray” references, the photographs also illuminate common May-September relationships found in the gay community. 

“Robert the Doll” by Matthew Leifheit will be on view through Nov. 23 at the Studios of Key West, 533 Eaton St. Admission is free. For more information, go to TSKW.org.

 

 

Gallery Celebrates 25 Years on the Drive

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ArtFrenzie co-owners Bernadette Zizzo (left) and Debbi Burke are pioneers in the development of Wilton Manors and will celebrate the 25th anniversary of their gallery on Nov. 12. Credit: Facebook.

The city of Wilton Manors – and Wilton Drive, in particular – have changed dramatically since Debbi Burke and Bernadette Zizzo first opened ArtFrenzie. 

Their first location was in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, the strip mall anchored by Georgie’s Alibi that become a hub for LGBT-owned businesses and, later, a thriving residential community. 

“Wilton Manors was pretty run down then, but when George (Kessinger) struck up the deal to open the Alibi in the plaza, he told us we should open up there, too,” recalled Burke. “I wasn’t scared…when the gays move in, they make it nice.” 

The store would move several more times before landing at its current location the former Latinos Salud headquarters. Regardless, the loyal client base followed Burke and Zizzo, drawn by their selection and framing expertise, as well as a range of décor and accessories. They also launched a larger framing studio in Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Village. 

Big plans are ahead for the latest home of ArtFrenzie – renovations to the storefront, an expanded deck and performance space. Burke said many galleries are also transforming their retail spaces into a place to hang out and enjoy the art. 

Burke and Zizzo were a couple when they embarked on this quarter-century business venture: “We’re still best friends, we’re family. It’s our love. We love this business and our community, watching it grow and change. (Wilton Manors) has turned into such a beautiful place and this is just the beginning.”

The festivities kick off on Nov. 5 with sales and special promotions culminating with an anniversary gala on Nov. 12 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Guests will be treated to live entertainment, food and beverages. 

ArtFrenzie, 2330 Wilton Dr. in Wilton Manors, celebrates its 25th anniversary Nov. 5 – 12. For more information, go to ArtFrenzie.com or Facebook.com/ArtFrenzieArtFrenzie.