Joyous Pride with Chad Mize
A Q&A with Chad Mize about his Pride Month curation.
By Eva Avenue, June 7, 2018
Toward the end of 2017, Chad Mize missed not being around people and sensed a void in the gallery scene. Six months later he’s joyously celebrating Pride Month in his own new space.
The St. Pete artist and gallerist originally co-owned BlueLucy with Phillip Clark, and Mize handled a majority of the group curation at the 600 Block gallery, back when the district was home to art galleries filled with working artists. After its peak in 2014, the rent doubled (and it has since tripled), and the brick-and-mortar operation shut down, but Mize continued acting as a floating curator, hosting group shows at a handful venues over the course of three years.
Pride & Joy opening reception
MIZE’s first official show opening features 26 artists for Pride And Joy on Friday, June 8, 7-11 p.m. The Tampa magazine Mieux put out a call to artists for him, resulting in submissions from Tampa and Miami thrown into the St. Pete mix. Also, his childhood friend Katie Neiwodowski from New Jersey sent shrinky-dink portraits of all the artists in the show, magnetized and attached to nail heads coming out of the wall as part of her 100-portrait shrinky dink MIZE installation called People Are People (pictured above).
Friday, June 8
689 Dr. MLK Jr St. N., St. Petersburg
Now he’s back downtown with MIZE, a new arts venue that sings from a similar song sheet as The Studio@620. The gallery doubles as a mixed-use space for actors, writers, musicians, neighborhood meetings, etc.
“What I told the artists was I prefer for the art to be positive and bright,” Mize says. “So it’s a celebration of us being free and being able to be who we want to be. I have several gay men in it, some lesbians, queer, non-binary artists. I really was focused on artists who identified with that but if someone was straight and wanted to be in the show, I wasn’t going to say no.”
Participating artists in Pride and Joy include Katie Alexander, Saumitra Chandratreya, Perry deVick, John Gascot, Jay Hoff, Brittany J, Tenea Johnson, Madeleine Lundquist, Cake Marquis, Dylan Marvin, James Michael McCracken, Michael McGrath, Spencer Meyers, Chad Mize, Nicholas Lucious, Katie Neiwodowski, Cam Parker, Andrea Pawlisz, Melanie Posner, Andee Scott, Sam South, Juliana Villamil, Scott Wayne, Jake Whitney, Mark Williams, and Carmela Zabala.
“I’m excited to have my first opening to see what the vibe is and to even see how the space works,” Mize adds. “BlueLucy was more of that shotgun style, not very wide, but I did have that back alley, which we did stuff back there, that was pretty cool. This space doesn’t have an alley, no backdoors…We’ve got this beautiful big sidewalk. The landlord’s gonna allow me to use the parking lot, like if I wanna have bands or DJs outside.”
During the lead-up of the event, Mize caught up with us for an informal chat to discuss his new space, the local arts community and his encounter with supermodel Twiggy.
Eva: Tell us about the new neighborhood …
Chad: We have a new coffee shop opening down the street called Gypsy Soul. Then we’ve got the medical marijuana dispensary that opened down the block. And then also sensory deprivation tanks, right next to it.
Eva: What is that, like, $100 and you just float through space?
Chad: You’re in a dark room in water, it’s all salt, you just float. There’s some type of soundproofing. Pale Horse does it a lot and whenever he’s in L.A. he said he does it there. He said if you have an idea this allows you to… you can disconnect from this white noise that we hear constantly, even when we’re sleeping, there’s some type of vibe noise. It’s body temperature so you don’t feel the water.
Eva: Send all your artists to the tank and do a show.
Chad: But I like the fact this is developing here. It used to be a little sketchy. I mean, it is by the interstate.
Eva: Um… did I see a picture of the real Twiggy in front of your Twiggy mural?
Chad: She was on CBS Sunday Morning. They did a segment about her and her life and…
Eva: I was like, ‘Why isn’t this the freaking cover of Creative Loafing right now? The real Twiggy by Twiggy!’
Chad: She has a product line on HSN. She sells clothing. She’s a designer, she does these mod coats. I’d heard at BlueLucy after I’d done the mural, ‘OMG, do you know Twiggy’s local?’ She’s in and out of St. Pete all the time cause of HSN. I’m like ‘I need to meet her, she needs to come by the mural.’ And then next day my neighbor came by and said, “Oh I didn’t even know you were here, Twiggy just came in the shop.” This was in the Trunk, that women’s clothing store next to BlueLucy. I was like
WHAT? TWIGGY WAS HERE? Why didn’t you come knock on my door?’
Eva: Just shoot me now!
Chad: So anyway, that Sunday I kept getting all these messages from people – ‘OMG I saw your mural and they ended up using it in the fade-out of the piece,’ ‘they used the mural and it faded out’ and so I was always a little nervous with the fact that I’m painting… I’ve done a lot of Twiggy pieces.
Eva: You were afraid you were gonna be sued by Twiggy?
Chad: Sued, or if I met her she’d be like, ‘Where’s my cut?’ But I mean the Twiggy piece was obviously more of an homage to her; I didn’t make any money off that. I did that for free. So in the piece that she was interviewed she said she loved the idea of people using her face, continuing to keep her image alive and I was like, ‘Whoa!’
After seeing that piece, I was like, ‘you know what I want to do? I want to do a London-themed mod show.’ In the fall, when it’s a little bit cooler, people can dress up — I’d love to connect with her and find out if she could come to the opening. If she’s still local, I don’t even know. But even if I never meet her, the fact that she saw my work, responded to it, it’s like a dream come true.
When I started painting — when I moved to St. Pete in 2003 — that’s when I started using her image. I was going through a ’60s phase where I was listening to Pizzicato Five and just really inspired by that mod throwback. Even St. Pete was like that for me, seeing the neon signage and it was still kind of old, you had the old motels from the ’60s. I was showing at a salon called Plush which was down by where American Stage is now. There used to be that strip across from Williams Park, there was a salon there. I met the Vitales there and had an exhibit there. Cory Janning, she was the owner of the salon there, she had a really short pixie cut and I’ve just always been drawn to that androgynous look, you know?
Eva: So are you not from here?
Chad: I lived in Boston, I moved there for college, but I grew up down in Bradenton so I’m local. I used to come up to the Dali Museum, as a kid. I have a nice place in my heart for the old building,
I designed the Art Is Anything The Artist Says It Is shirt for their Duchamp show for the Dali. They approached me to do it, based off my Paris London Tokyo St Pete line, they wanted one that said Dali, Duchamp, London, St. Pete, because the exhibit was in London so that was the connection.
Eva: Yeah, it was at the Tate.
Chad: We did two re-orders and then I have the Paris London Tokyo St. Pete shirts in there. It’s a dream come true for me because the Dali was a total inspiration for me as a kid — I remember going when I was in high school. I’d come for art club from Manatee High School. I remember buying the Hallucinogenic Toreador shirt that I wore, and now I have my own shirt, and that’s a pretty impressive gift shop. It always was, even back in the day, the high-end items like the perfume with the lips. So I got to meet with the lady who does the—they design all in-house — Diane Birmingham.
Eva: Yeah! She’s great; she’s awesome.
Chad: She’s a great mentor, she was giving me tips on stuff. I’m hoping I’ll still be able to work with them and keep designing some stuff for other exhibits. I actually got the call — I was in Chicago for Christmas, she called me and she’s like, ‘Hello Chad, we’d love to carry your shirts at the Dali.’ I was like, ‘What!’ I was screaming at my mom, ‘They want to carry my shirts!’
Eva: (Laughs) what was your mom’s reaction?
Chad: She actually never thought being an artist would amount to much, because she always, as any mother, she wanted me to be successful and go get a business degree. But I have that side. I have both sides, business and artistic. I was inspired by the Pop Shop by Keith Herring in NYC. As a kid, I went to the Pop Shop with the postcards and the t-shirts.
Eva: How old were you?
Chad: In college, 18, 19. That’s my idol, that’s who I love in terms of my doodle style.
Eva: And all the lines are evenly spaced, it’s almost meditative looking at it.
Chad: When we opened Bluelucy, it was more like a studio and then it became a gallery; then the t-shirts took off.
Eva: Yeah that makes sense. People always want to buy clothes.
Chad: I was in Seattle last summer and I saw two of my t-shirts walking around Seattle.
Eva: What?! With St. Pete on it?
Chad: A guy was wearing that..
Eva: Did you go up to them?
Eva: I can’t believe you didn’t go up to them. Can you imagine you buy a shirt somewhere on a trip, you’re walking around somewhere else, and then the artist just comes up to you, like, ‘Hey, I made that shirt!’
Chad: It was just so random. Then friends send me images all the time seeing the shirt at an airport, at a place. People buy it, they’re going to wear it wherever they are. And it’s representing our great city. My goal is to go to Tokyo in the next three years. That’s the one place I haven’t been to on that shirt. Maybe I need to have a show for each one of those things. London is the mod one. Tokyo would be a japanimation show, the Paris show, and then the St. Pete one. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll do a year. Maybe I’ll do one each year.
… I was actually asked to remove this from my window when I moved in. (points to a text painting near the window that reads “Come In, You Don’t Look That Gay.”) I had it right there (points to window). The landlord asked me to put it in the back and I said no. He said, ‘I have some complaints from people at Banyan,’ and I said, ‘Well, if they have a problem, they can come talk to me — I’m a gay artist and I don’t find this offensive. I also want it in writing because I’m ready for a cover story.”
Eva: You’re such a badass.
Other Pride-themed art events include “Pride Without Prejudice,” on display at the Cider Press Cafe and the Emerald Bar with an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday. It stays up through June 30.
The Morean Arts Center also will present a Pride Pop-Up in their gallery store from June 18 to July 18, with an opening reception from 1 to 3 p.m. June 24. In addition, Pride-themed art will be on display at the Pride Rooftop Disco party at the Station House from noon to 7 p.m on Sat., June 23.