Plant-friendly muralist: ‘If someone says they don’t like flowers, I think they’re lying’
As a child, Louise ‘Ouizi’ Jones learned to paint flowers using watercolors. Now, she paints murals filled with her signature giant bouquets around Chicago.
As a child, she’d paint flowers with her mother, using watercolors. Now living in Detroit, Jones has painted four murals around Chicago and in Evanston filled with large-scale versions of her signature floral motif.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
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“If I can make art that kind of mirrors the most pure thing in the world, it’s flowers,” Jones says.
Like “West Town in Bloom,” her latest, which features giant peonies, camellias, black-eyed Susans and apple blossoms — flowers commonly found in the city.
“If someone says they don’t like flowers, I think they’re lying,” says Jones, 34, who once wanted to be a fashion designer.
Then, a high school art teacher nudged her toward illustration. Having practiced by drawing and painting flowers, she says, “It just seemed like a natural thing” to paint flowers professionally.
Jones learned to sew from her mother and these days is “obsessed with knitting.” The artist says her mom’s designs were more “utilitarian,” less focused on the art of fashion and following trends.
As an artist, Jones applies her textile knowledge to her murals. She describes her style as “colorful” and “alive.”
On a wall outside West Town Bakery, 1916 W. Chicago Ave., her latest Chicago mural features larger-than-life flowers and a red admiral butterfly.
She originally painted it in 2018 but has repainted it several times because of graffiti, most recently last summer, when she added some flowers.
Jones goes by Ouizi, pronounced “Weezy,” and tags the nickname, which she’s had since high school, on her pieces.
The artist lives with her husband in Detroit, having moved there “on a whim” to work on a project with friends. She says she “fell in love” with the city.
She has done murals across the country, most recently in North Carolina, trying with each one to reflect the flowers found in that area and consulting with horticulturists to make sure she gets them right.
She has a mural in Evanston across from a Trader Joe’s at 1211 Chicago Ave., filled with splashes of purples, reds and pinks.
Jones titled a Lake View mural on the side of a CVS Pharmacy at 3637 N. Southport Ave. “Urbs in Horto,” the city’s motto in Latin — “City in a garden.”
Jones’ first Chicago mural was a collaboration with the Chicago Truborn gallery, which brought her in for a piece along Columbia College Chicago’s arts corridor on South Wabash Avenue in 2017. The gallery has since put on shows for Jones and brought her back for the West Town mural.
As she entered the “masculine” street art scene, Jones says she saw a lot of graffiti lettering and portrait murals and took a different path.
“I think I stood out in that way,” Jones says, “even though initially I didn’t want people to deem me this extremely feminine, one-dimensional character.”
Flowers are her signature, though she varies them. For the mural on Wabash, she went with a cartoon array of flowers. For the West Town mural, she chose “a collage of different motifs.” For the Lake View mural, Jones painted in a style inspired by Japanese woodblock prints.
Though her murals offer one vision of floral garden after another, she says she’s away from home too much to have a full-fledged garden in real life. She sticks with succulents and says she’s also an “orchid whisperer,” helped in that pursuit by an auto-watering system.