The face of Twiggy by Chad Mize is a well-known mural in this alley lined with murals. It’s found on a north-facing wall at 648 1st Avenue North.
The wall is 16 feet wide and 14 feet high, set back from the alley in a rectangular space where cars park. The cars don’t seem to bother the calm, melancholy face of British pop icon and fashion model, Twiggy. Her face is seen in an enormous black and white close-up – just her eyes, her nose and mouth.
The background is pale pastel pink, blue and yellow, very different than the bright-colored murals nearby, and a deliberate choice by Chad Mize. The palette is inspired by the colors of the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree, a tropical tree with surprising, multicolored bark.
Twiggy’s eyes were her trademark, when she modeled in the 1960s. Her eyes on the mural are gigantic, rimmed by dark eyeliner and fringed by long, dark lashes. Her eyebrows arc with skepticism. The light that hits her deep black pupils is reflected as a large white star in each eye.
Her nose seems almost three-dimensional, her nostrils at the level of two entry doors to the back of the building. The space between the doors is taken up by her full, pouting, black and grey lips. Her lips are slightly parted, as if she’s about to speak. Her lips and eyes are turned down slightly, giving the mural a melancholy tinge.
Even in this simple pen and ink-sketch style, her face is beautiful and glamorous. The rough concrete blocks around the edges of the wall and down the middle of the building give the mural texture and a rough, raised surface.
But her eyes, the left half of her nose and most of Twiggy’s wide mouth are on a smoother section of the wall.
The wall itself seems a surprising location for such an ethereal tribute to a beautiful woman. But at the time, it was the back wall of the art gallery Chad Mize owned on Central Avenue – one of the first galleries in what’s known as the 600 Block, an early influence on downtown’s rejuvenation.
Two concrete closets jut out of the lower left and right sides of the wall. Electrical conduit runs across the wall, above Twiggy’s eyebrows and past the right side of her face. An electrical meter rests on her full upper lip, with conduit running up over her nose and between her eyes. The pipes and electrical connections are painted to blend in, but the image is a little jarring, an angelic face marred by pipes and doors and bricks.
But the overall impression is that Twiggy’s calm beauty has won, and even a difficult wall can hold a lovely work of art.
Chad Mize has been painting images of Twiggy since 2003, drawn by her androgynous look and 1960s vibe. Twiggy herself has visited the mural, and was very moved. The project came to life thanks to a $500 grant that Mize received in 2013, two years before the first SHINE Festival. Because the grant was time sensitive, painting had to be completed during a week of wet cold January weather.
Twiggy’s face is framed by murals on both sides, like three sides of a square with Twiggy at the center. On your left, a golden half moon on a purple sky, and wildly colored Russian dolls that go around the corner to the alley.
On your right is a wall that faces east, that holds another work by Chad Mize – Mr. Sun.
Mr. Sun connects to the right edge of Twiggy, but is painted in a very different style. This adjoining wall comes up only to her eyebrows. The whole wall is electric blue.
On this bright blue wall is a yellow sun. The sun has a laughing face, with hipster ‘50s glasses and an open-mouthed grin, like he’s shouting hello.
The sun is on the left side of the mural, a giant ball half as wide as a car and tilted to the right. Thin gold sunbeams shoot out of the sun and spread across the wall. The sunbeams are shorter where the sun gets close to Twiggy on the left, and nears the roof. The sunbeams stretch out long on the right, toward the edge of the wall. The different lengths give this simple graphic energy and movement.
Mr. Sun has cheery eyes behind his glasses, crinkled like they’re laughing. He’s got a hint of dimples and his big blue mouth is open wide, showing his teeth. His head is round and almost bald, with two small spiky tufts of hair, and a subtle blue shadow made of tiny dots across the upper left side of his head, like the dark side of the moon.
This bright graphic was inspired by a logo designed in late 1940s, to promote St Petersburg as a tourist destination. Chad’s re-creation was adopted by the Chamber of Commerce, so Mr. Sun is present at every St. Pete ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Chad Mize is a leading artist in the St. Petersburg mural scene, with community projects and commissioned work around the city.
He’s a hard-working and versatile artist who uses a wide range of mediums. Many local businesses boast recognizable signs and logos that are Chad’s creations. And he’s famous for the standout St. Petersburg visual slogan found on T-shirts and prints across the city – Paris, London, Tokyo, St Pete.
Listen to a conversation with Chad Mize and Creative Pinellas. . . creativepinellas.org/magazine-items/arts-in-chad-mize/