The Tesla mural is found at 2232 5th Avenue South. This work by St. Petersburg artist Carrie Jadus is inspired by Nikola Tesla, and titled “Resonance.”
The mural faces the intersection of 22nd Street South and 5th Avenue South. The Pinellas Trail cuts through the intersection at an angle, and passes the mural’s left side. The Tesla mural takes up the entire northeast wall, 78 feet wide and 30 feet high.
It’s a striking, sepia-toned portrait of scientist Nikola Tesla, debonair and dashing, with a dark moustache, wavy hair, hazel eyes and the good looks of a silent film star. He’s painted from his shoulders up, his face so large that the top of his hair is cut off by the roof. His eyes look directly at you – observant, and slightly amused. His cocky eyebrows and almost-smile makes it clear that he is measuring and calculating what he sees – but in a moment, he might break into a laugh.
Tesla wears an old-fashioned suit with an open, high collar and holds an enormous reflective sphere in his right hand, balanced on his fingertips. His fingers are alive and expressive, and reflected at the bottom of the sphere. The sphere reflects the intersection that the mural faces, with a white car, a bicycle crossing the street and in the distance, a cell phone tower and Tropicana Field. Tesla’s face is reflected in the globe.
The mural is in the browns and golds of an old photograph. But the shadow of the globe and the shadow cast by Tesla’s wavy hair are a muted greenish-blue, as is the light reflecting from the globe onto his shoulder.
A rust-colored metal stairway zig-zags up the wall to the left of Tesla, heading to a grey door on the third floor with a turbine engine painted above it. A high window with metal bars juts out of Tesla’s forehead, between his right eye and his ear. Its sides are painted the same shade of greenish-blue.
Artist Carrie Jadus often paints large-scale “Grande Portraits” at least five feet high. She chooses geniuses, musicians and other people she finds inspirational. Before she became a full-time artist, Carrie earned a degree in electrical engineering and worked as a radio frequency design engineer.
Nikola Tesla is a Serbian inventor and physicist whose work in the late 1800s profoundly affected radio broadcasting, modern engineering and communications. He designed the light bulb and alternating current, or AC power. Many of his theories were so far ahead of his time that he was dismissed as a quack – and much of Tesla’s work is only now coming to fruition, like wireless communication.
Tesla experienced “Blocks of Thoughts,” that let him imagine experiments and run variations in his mind until they were successful, before he would actually perform the experiment.
The window jutting out of Tesla’s forehead is one of these Blocks of Thoughts, as are other windows in the upper left and right corners of the wall, and two square air conditioning units on the lower left.
Jadus designed the mural so the windows of the building represent blocks of floating ideas, adding blocks of abstract gold and silver light bulbs powered by AC electricity. Thomas Edison is usually given credit for inventing light bulbs, but Jadus points out that students of electrical engineering know better.
Also in the background are images of Tesla’s original patented drawings, like the turbine engine over the third floor door. The glowing squares filled with light bulbs and the devices that Tesla invented cast muted blue shadows that are painted on the mural.
The Sphere in Tesla’s hand is a sacred shape in electromagnetics. In Croatia a golden sphere marks Tesla’s grave. In the mural, the sphere he holds reflects his vision and inventions in the modern world – a wireless cell phone tower, AC power lines and an electric Tesla car in the parking lot.
Tesla’s tireless devotion to his work led him to be somewhat quirky and even though he was very handsome, he never married and eventually became reclusive, with a favorite Pigeon as his friend. At the left, a white pigeon flies across a blue block, leaving a blue shadow as it heads toward Tesla.
Just around the left side of the mural, facing the Pinellas Trail, is another work by Carrie Jadus, one she painted using paint left over from the Tesla mural. Little Miss Sisyphus shows another enormous reflective sphere. This one is being pushed up a mountain peak by a young girl straining with the effort.
The mural is more brightly colored than Tesla. The girl wears an orange shirt and orange shorts with a wide white horizontal stripe, and hiking boots with the laces untied. The shadows cast by the windows overhead are bright blue.
The mountain she is climbing is shown at the very summit, jagged peaks rising out the ground.
Reflected in the sphere is a golden road, winding through a rocky landscape to an emerald city. A thick root grows out of the base of the sphere, and a small pointed rocket angles out of the top.
The image came to Jadus as she was finishing the Tesla mural. Everyone has a burden to bear that never seems to end. But, she explains, it’s that burden that often exposes beauty and strength in the world.
The child is strong and she’s at peace, almost ready to push her burden off the cliff. The root growing out of the base of the sphere forms a cross, like the traditional symbol for male. The rocket angling out of the top echoes the symbol for female. For Jadus, these are clues to what the child’s burden is.
The root growing into the ground also anchors her burden, making the final push depicted in the mural, the hardest.
The reflection seen on the sphere is the girl’s vision, the Emerald City. The sphere also reflects the location of the Arts Xchange, a Warehouse Arts District project that’s creating affordable studio space for working artists.
You probably noticed that most of these murals in the city are painted by men. But the Tesla Mural and Little Miss Sisyphus were painted entirely by female artists. On these pieces, Carrie Jadus was assisted by Tara Radosevich, Jules Cozine and Suzy Shultz.
If you continue along the Pinellas Trail past Little Miss Sisyphus, in about a block you’ll come to a colorful flag on the opposite side of the trail, by Michel Mirabal.