Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. More murals are added every week.
The West Loop.
That’s where you’ll find a giant black-and-white mural of an octopus named “Maud” —a nod to actress Maud Adams, who costarred with Roger Moore in the 1983 007 movie “Octopussy.”
Nora Balayti, 36, an artist from Dixon — about 100 miles west of Chicago — says it took 16 hours in March 2018 to paint the octopus, which drapes the corner of a building at 1520 W. Fulton St.
Much larger than Bowie — the Shedd Aquarium’s giant Pacific octopus named for David Bowie which has an eight-foot arm span —Maud takes up a space roughly 40 feet by 40 feet, Balayti says.
When the ivy grows up the building in summer, the octopus appears to be lolling in seaweed, clinging to the bricks, limbs wrapping the windows.
Building owner Stephen Hamilton, who’s lived in the West Loop since 1994, says the idea for putting up a mural was inspired by a trip to see a friend in Los Angeles. “The mural thing took off there way before it took off in Chicago the way it has,” he says.
He wanted a piece of art that would fit with his two businesses in the building —Stephen Hamilton Productions, a food photography business, and Room 1520, an event venue.
“We wanted something food-related, but we also wanted something Instagram-able that brides and grooms could take a picture of,” Hamilton says.
He says he got in touch with Balayti after an employee mentioned the artist’s work, asking her to create an octopus inspired by the paintings in naturalist John James Audubon’s books.
He gave Balayti five or six ideas. Then, shedrew and cut out different octopus images by hand and slid them over a picture of the building to see what worked best.
One of Hamilton’s employees suggesting the name Maud, after Adams’ character.
Balayti painted the mural herself. She says she worried the paint wouldn’t cure properly since Chicago can be chilly in March. But the sunlight it gets at the building’s southwest corner “sped up the curing process, which allowed me to get that job done at such an early time of the year,” Balayti says.
She says she uses all-weather exterior paint. “If I’m putting the work into it, I want the stuff to last,” she says.
Balayti has painted a number of other murals in Chicago since 2011.
Her first jobwas at Cheesie’s Pub and Grub, 958 W. Belmont Ave., when the business’s original location opened. The murals she painted at the back of the restaurant of Marilyn Monroe and the Mona Lisa eating, among other comic depictions, burst with color.
Balayti says her best-known works probably are the six murals, each 10 feet by 18 feet, advertising beer at Deja Brew Bar & Grille, 5219 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn.
“It’s what I like to call my South Side gallery,” she says.
She credits her knowledge of paint and technique to her father. Bob Balayti lives in Dixon and paints residential and commercial spaces.
“I showed her the differences in paint and techniques and doing it properly,” says Bob Balayti, who’ll turn 70 in July. “What she’s done now is totally on her own.”
He’s helped her with a few jobs outside Chicago, including painting pizza, hearts and a giant Busch Light beer can on a large wall at a downstate Rosati’s Pizza in Mendota.
“It’s really hard to find good help, and he is, even now at 70, the best help I can have,” she says.
She lived in Chicago for years but two years ago moved back to Dixon, where she also works as a substitute art teacher. A competitive disc golfer, she wants to travel the country.
“My boyfriend and I just got a popup camper,” she says. “We want to sell our house and kind of do a little traveling. I’m really looking to travel, paint some murals in different areas and hit up some disc golf courses and tournaments on the way.”