As part of his quest to restore America’s shattered national unity one photograph at a time, artist John Raymond Mireles will exhibit portraits from his Neighbors Project on the perimeter fence of New York's First Street Green Art Park on May 1. Mireles will install 86 of his larger-than-life portraits along 300 feet of the park fence where they will be visible to pedestrians and drivers as they traverse Houston and Second Streets in the Lower East Side.
In addition to serving as a compelling visual document of Americans in the 21st century, the Neighbors Project encourages Americans to remember that, despite their increasingly bitter political and ideological divisions, they are one people with shared values and concerns. By engaging with individuals from varied ethnicities, ideologies, and socioeconomic levels, Mireles’ goal 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.
In 2015, Mireles began the Neighbors Project by creating tightly composed portraits in the historically Hispanic and African-American community of San Diego where he lived. He then publicly exhibited the resulting prints near a busy intersection within the neighborhood. Through these highly detailed and dramatically enlarged photos, 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. From the beaches of Hawaii to the backwater hollers of small-town West Virginia, and countless points in between, Mireles has photographed over 3,000 subjects. 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.
Mireles is presently engaged in bringing the work to additional cities and towns across America. In 2017, Mireles exhibited over 50 large-scale portraits at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska, where he also installed his work in a minority dominant neighborhood he had previously photographed. On April 21, he will display 41 portraits of Mexican-Americans in connection with San Diego’s Chicano Park Day. Other locations scheduled for exhibitions later this year include Chula Vista, California, and Surprise, Arizona. Additional cities to be announced soon.
An opening reception for the Neighbors Project in New York will take place on May 12 at First Street Green.
Samples of the work may be viewed online at www.jraymondmireles.com. A short documentary entitled Good Fences Make For Good Neighbors about his exhibition in San Diego is viewable here.
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