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‘A little bit different’: Artist Rebekah Lazaridis pays homage to her hometown

Bill DeYoung



"Haslam's Books," from the Circa exhibition by Rebekah Lazaridis. All images provided by the artist.

Rebekah Lazaridis

If you’ve seen a show at American Stage, Jobsite, freeFall or Stageworks, you have experienced Rebekah Lazaridis’ work. The St. Pete native and Tampa resident is a scenic artist, and designer, and as such is a key member of the Tampa Bay theater community.

If her name doesn’t ring a big bunch of bells, no worries. “Scenic artists, because we come in the last minute and make everything beautiful, you don’t really see us at work,” Lazaridis says. “People associate theaters with the cast and the directors. Behind the scenes people don’t often get face time.

“But I’m a classic introvert, so I was also completely fine with that.”

A third-generation local (her great-grandfather founded the Wilhelm Funeral Home in 1918), Lazaridis feels deep and resolute ties to St. Petersburg; it was probably inevitable that her pride in and devotion to community would find its way into her art.

And like all creatives, her work is in a constant state of evolution.

Opening Friday at Mize Gallery, Circa is a collection of canvases depicting various locations in the city – some iconic, and some that are just sort of cool – painted in a colorful, nostalgic style. Circa is Rebekah Lazaridis’ homage to her hometown.

“I wanted to do something a little bit different,” the artist explains. “Because when you think of vintage St. Pete, you think of old postcards. You think of the Vinoy. You think of the Coliseum. The shuffleboard courts. The Million Dollar Pier.

“And all of those places are wonderful, but I kind of wanted to take some of those places that are a little bit more off the beaten path but have as much nostalgic value as the Vinoy and the Coliseum. Places like the Emerald Cocktail Lounge and the Thunderbird Hotel.”

“Holiday Motel,” Rebekah Lazaridis.

These are relatively small canvases, in keeping with the minimalist Mize aesthetic. “Working as a scenic, your canvas is a stage – like 25 x 20 feet across,” Lazaridis points out. “You gotta get that thing done in less than a week. This was just a total change of scenery for me. And I’m having a delightful time.

“It’s using a ton of color. Most of my work up until that point had been on a black background, black canvases, heavily theatrical in nature … this felt just as emotional, but on a completely different level.”

The roots were planted in 2019, when she contributed a painting to the Mize Halloween show, Creep.

“19th Avenue,” Rebekah Lazaridis.

“I painted me, as a little ghost, walking down my street that I grew up on in Old Northeast. And I loved that painting so much, because I felt like I was in it while I was creating it. It had this beautiful coral sky – and these home details. I really felt like I was on that window trim when I was painting it. So it felt like such an immersive experience for me. I was like ‘I just want to keep doing this.’

“My husband and I bought our first home together last year; we got an old bungalow, and I’d always wanted to have my own old home. As a closing gift, I made a home illustration for the realtor that worked with us for over a year.”

And that begat a new artistic pursuit for her, making paintings on commissions of people’s homes. She’s done them for realtors, for businesses, for folks who want a colorful, somewhat idealized artistic memento of the place they came from, or the place they’re headed to, pre-renovation.

Even though she couldn’t be happier with Circa, Lazaridis can’t shake the uneasy feeling that she’s been creatively documenting a St. Pete that might not be around much longer.

“I am definitely a preservationist at heart,” she explains. “Maybe about six weeks ago, as I was getting into it I thought ‘This feels very preservation-heavy.’ Honestly, I see St. Pete changing so much, so fast, and part of me is like ‘Wait wait wait! Nooooo -’

“I want to make sure that the authenticity is held intact, and so much of that is these little Mom and Pop places that unfortunately are closing, for a myriad of reasons.”

Information on Circa at Mize Gallery here.
















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    Sharon Ransom Mendlovitz

    January 4, 2022at12:26 am

    I feel like Ms. Lazaridis. My St.Petersburg from December 1951 to March 2020 is fading away building by building. Went to city sponsored Halloween at the Million Dollar Pier and then Al Lang stadium. Went to Mirror Lake Junior High after 6 years at West Central Elementary. All gone.. One of the primary reasons we left Florida is too many people squeezed into tall towers in downtown, a city I don’t recognize.

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