Artist John Raymond Mireles is on a quest to restore America’s national unity one photograph at a time. Today he’ll install 86 larger-than-life portraits from his Neighbors Project along 300 feet of the fence surrounding New York’s First Street Green Art Park. Visible to pedestrians and drivers as they travel Houston and Second Streets on the Lower East Side, Mireles hopes to remind Americans that, “despite their increasingly bitter political and ideological division, they are one people with shared values and concerns.”
The portraits, seen side-by-side, serve as a visual document of Americans in the 21st century and “more complex narratives begin to reveal themselves,” says Mireles. Through engaging with individuals from varied ethnicities, ideologies, and socioeconomic levels, a goal of the Neighbors Project is to “encourage empathic connections across differences and promote solidarity by offering viewers the opportunity to better know and relate to their fellow residents of the United States of America,” states the press release.
Mireles began the Neighbors Project in 2015 in his own San Diego neighborhood. He exhibited the portraits he made near a busy intersection within the community, which is historically Hispanic and African-American. By viewing the images, Mireles says, “residents were able to intimately identify with and take pride in the character of their fellow neighbors.”
Encouraged by the feedback he received and the engagement he witnessed, Mireles expanded his gaze to encompass cities, towns, hamlets, and fields across all 50 states. Since 2015, Mireles has photographed over 3,000 subjects from the beaches of Hawaii to the hollers of West Virginia. He deliberately strips away the background and entitles each portrait with nothing more than a geographic location, “thus allowing viewers to sympathetically connect with the portrayed individuals.”
An opening reception for the Neighbors Project in New York will take place on May 12, 2018 at First Street Green.
Other locations scheduled for exhibitions later this year include Chula Vista, California, and Surprise, Arizona. Additional cities will be announced soon.
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