I was walking along East Houston not seeing very many faces at all. Houston Street is the equivalent of a super highway in NYC and directs traffic cross town from the FDR drive to the West Side Highway and back again. Add to the mix a massive amount of construction, particularly on the east side, where I was surprised to see the words Luxury and Ludlow together on a new high-rise apartment building. This part of town was a lot tougher when I was a kid. I still think that luxury and traffic jams don’t go together, but what do I know.
I passed a jackhammered street crossing, bespeckled with orange safety cones/tape/sawhorses, when I looked up from the sidewalk to confirm that a blooming tree was indeed responsible for the petals drifting across the sidewalk. I saw the first face hanging incongruously on the wrought iron fence that protected the tree. Then there was another and another and another. Each face more beautiful, more distinctive than the last. These are not conventionally beautiful people for the most part, but they are stunning, full of character and people I’d actually like to bump into and have a chat with.
I was so mesmerized with their faces and the non-threatening eye contact that each and every one made with me that it took me some time to say to myself ‘Hey, you don’t look like you’re from around here.’ Ever the keen observationalist, that turns out to be true. These people are from Kentucky, New Mexico, California and, I’m happy to report, from the Lower East Side. I recognized her. I know my people. Now I want to know other people.
Finally, at the very end of the faces, as though I’d been reading a script in Arabic, is the explanation. Neighbors by John Raymond Mireles. The goal of the artist is to unite people across all of the boundaries and walls we’ve created to distance ourselves. It worked!
I have no idea how long it’s going to be there. It’s definitely worth a special trip or you can check it out on the artist’s website here.