Golden Child with Da Big Gunz
This glowing golden mural by Tampa artist Princess Smith is just south of the entrance to the ArtsXchange, at 593 22nd Street South. The mural faces east, 33 feet long and 12 feet high. It’s visible to traffic going in both directions.
“Well, the title is called Golden Child with the Big Gunz.
“I’m inspired by a picture that I took of my little girl when she was about maybe seven or eight years old. And she just kind of struck this pose. And I’ve had this photo in my computer for all these years. And I did a show over at the Morean Gallery at the beginning of the year, and I decided to paint the picture.
“So the piece that you see up there, it’s actually the painting that I did. And as I started to draw the image out – not even painting it, just draw the image out – people started to drive by and really give positive reaction. Positive feedback, things like, wow, that’s really inspirational.”
Against a rich gold background, a young African American girl with skin of glowing gold and dreadlocks flowing out around her, rises out of the base of the mural, chest high. She raises her left arm – on our right, as she faces us – and makes a fist, to show her mom that she can make a muscle. Her other arm angles over her heart, tugging up her T-shirt sleeve to show us.
“It’s not necessarily just about girl power or just about strength, it’s so many different things.”
The expression on her daughter’s face is calm, and confident. Her eyes are open wide, looking directly at you, gauging your reaction. Her right eyebrow is cocked, amused. Her jaw is set, determined. Light glints off her nose, her cheeks and lips.
video by Marcus Oania
Her image doesn’t fill the wall – the top quarter of the wall is gold, with a wide gold border on either side. But her quiet confidence radiates in all directions. Her heavy dreadlocks undulate around her, seven curving toward the right edge of the wall, a few falling down her back and three kicking up to the left.
“People ask, well, why did you take the hair down and let the hair flow? Because in the original painting, it was in a bun, which was bound and tied up. Well, when you let it flow freely, it’s free infinite, you know? To spread positivity and to have people look at it and feel that spark feel joy, smile, feel proud, whatever.”
The rich gold color of the mural is inspired by a favorite book and movie Princess Smith remembers from middle school – The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton.
“There was this one line where one of the character tells another to ‘stay golden, stay golden.’ And when you think of the color gold, it’s a very high, bright, a really joyous color. And it kind of governs the solar plexus chakra that deals with the joys of life, doing things that you love, being positive and outgoing and free spirited.”
“I’ve been hearing a lot of comments from everyone from all walks of life. People in suits, people in work clothes, homeless people, little children, you know? So that makes me happy. That’s very gratifying.”
Princess Smith signed her name “P. Smith” in artful black capital letters, in the lower left corner, with her website and Instagram handle on the gold. She’s a Tampa native with an MFA from the University of South Florida. Her work has been seen in New York and auctioned at Sotheby’s.
Her work in oils and watercolors explores distorted images of African American women caused by slavery and racism – and celebrates children, motherhood and the female figure, in all its majesty.