Those eyes staring at you from a poster underneath the Bruckner Expressway? They belong to women from Hunts Point.
Since the portraits went up starting on Saturday, June 18, Bronxites have been wondering what and who exactly are those people on the posters that have been popping up all over the southeast Bronx.
The images are the result of a collaboration between an internationally-renowned artist who goes by the initials JR, and Hunts Point-based nonprofit The Point. All of the portraits’ eyes belong to women from the Hunts Point area, pasted over pretty much anyone else who either lives or works in the Bronx and crossed paths with the projects creators while they were taking pictures.
“The idea was to have people look through mothers’ eyes and see the community from their perspective,” said Danny Peralta director of Arts and Education for The Point. “In Hunts Point particularly a lot of the positive things that happen, come from women and mothers. They’re the glue.”
The posters are concentrated in Hunts Point but can be seen throughout the Bronx. They are as tall as 20 feet and as small as three by five feet.
JR has done similar portrait projects throughout the world. Starting in his home town of Paris in 2004, he has put up pictures of local residents in Rio De Janeiro, the disputed area along the Israel-Palestine border, and Nairobi, to name a few. All, including the Bronx, are part of an ongoing initiative called Inside Out.
In addition to his international street credibility, JR gets respect from the high-brow art world. His work has been sold at Sotheby’s and displayed at the Tate Modern Museum in London.
His identity is a secret, partially because of the fact that some of his projects are illegal, however, JR are his initials. He declined to be interviewed for this story and does not like to be photographed.
Peralta and his co-workers at The Point had been familiar with JR for years, and bringing him to the Bronx had always been a goal.
“We’ve been plotting to get him out here for awhile, and when he showed up it was kind of like he fell in love with the area,” Peralta said.
Many of the photographers are regulars at The Point’s community center. JR mainly oversaw the printing of each poster. While the message of women in the Hunts Point community will probably not get through to most casual viewers, the biggest upside to Peralta is that they have drawn some positive attention to Hunts Point.
School groups and casual visitors from all over the city and all over the world have viewed the posters.
“That’s really our work,” Peralta said. “To change the perception of Hunts Point from a crime ridden, poverty stricken, community with hookers and crack, when it’s really hard working people, doing a lot of interesting things.” Peralta said the posters will stay up indefinitely.