She’s not visible from the street, so anyone driving past the Hollander Hotel in downtown St. Pete won’t even catch a glimpse of the 18-foot woman, self-assured and sexy and a little bit aloof, wearing a loose red scarf in her hair, peering through dark glasses over the back-entrance swimming pool and tiki bar.
The mural, all done up in vibrant colors with a psychedelic paisley background, was created by Gulfport artist Melanie Posner. The 25-year-old Philadelphia native’s reputation in the bay area arts community has been growing as her paintings – canvas originals, collage pieces and prints – have found their way onto gallery and business walls and into private collections.
Melanie Posner paints lifelike women, with generous or enigmatic smiles, proud or probing eyes and realistically sensual curves. Her works are evocative and challenging.
“I think females are beautiful,” she explains. “In college, painting females and exploring how complex they are kind of helped me figure out myself, and who I was. At that point in time, women are learning, they’re blossoming, they’re growing.
“And I think that really helped me figure out who I was and what I wanted to be. How I felt internally, my self-esteem and my insecurities. And it’s still something that I just love painting.”
As for her murals – there are five or six of them around town, and she has several more in the early stages – the blurring of lifelike detail and touches of dreamy surrealism make a Posner piece instantly recognizable.
“I love painting big way more,” explain the artist. “Working large is just really exciting. And in my studio, I’m definitely a perfectionist with my work.
“You can’t really be a perfectionist working large. Everything is more blown up and magnified. So I feel like I’m a little bit more free doing murals, rather than in my studio doing canvas work.”
Like many muralists, she creates the image she wants on her computer, projects the digital blueprint onto the wall, traces it and paints from there.
“I use social media, Pinterest and Google a lot as tools. I’ll just put in key words to find girls that are inspiring to me. I don’t really know what draws me to some of the girls that I use as inspiration, but there’s something about them: Either their eyes, or the story they’re telling, or their confidence … something about them that makes them unique and special.
“I want all my girls to be really vibrant, and I want them to portray certain feelings. So I guess I gravitate towards women that are expressing that.” Often she incorporates flowers, or florid imagery.
Posner was one of five local “Open Call” artists invited to participate in the 2018 SHINE mural festival. Each was assigned a section of the back wall of a business complex at 4139 7th Terrace South, adjacent to the Pinellas Trail.
Her creation was the face of a beautiful woman, who’s lying horizontally on her side, cupped by her exquisitely realistic hand.
The SHINE mural was completed in October; by Thanksgiving, it had been vandalized, tagged by some graffiti “artist” who ignored the other four murals in the vicinity completely.
The graffiti is still there today.
A planned restoration effort never got off the ground, because Posner very soon was off to Orlando for her next project: Providing scenic artwork for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World.
Contracts like that one, and an increasing number of commissions, keep the artist from having to maintain a steady day job. Her paintings will hang in Enigma downtown through the end of the year. The Hollander Hotel mural was a commission from New Belgium Brewing, which was launching a new, hibiscus-infused summer beer called Mural Cerveza.
Watch her at work in this New Belgium promotional video, created on site at the Hollander:
Incredibly, the mural – which, of course, includes a tall glass of Mural Cerveza in the woman’s hand – was begun and completed in just under five days.
Not without a little self-doubt from the artist, who nevertheless enjoyed the thrill ride of artistic uncertainty: “I can’t tell you how many times I had to get off the lift,” Posner laughs, “and stand back to make sure that what I was seeing made sense to everyone else that would be viewing it in a different way.”
Posner will be one of 40 local artists participating in That Art Festival, a free event from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7 at Jannus Live.