New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mosaic Man

This story about Jim Power, aka Mosaic Man, has been told and retold. In fact, a paper was written by Eric Miller, PhD candidate in folklore and folklife at UPenn (click here). In 2004, he won a City Lore People’s Hall of Fame Award. Power is part of the fabric of the East Village - he has also been an activist artist (click here for eastivllage.com). His first foray into public mosaic work was in 1985 when he made mosaic planters around tree trunks in Astor Place. He began decorating lampposts with mosaics in 1988. After an altercation with the police, Power negotiated a settlement with the Department of Transportation which permitted him to do 80 lampposts. Last count there are 67 which can be found in a loop - starting at 8th Street and Broadway, across St. Marks Place to Avenue A, down Avenue A to 4th Street, across 4th Street and back up to 8th Street. The lamppost mosaics are themed - many commemorate events. Power came to the US from Waterford, Ireland. After a two year stint in Vietnam, he held a number of positions - blues/jazz guitarist, Con Edison worker, carpenter and stone mason - as a stone mason he earned as much as $2700 per week. His interest in art and injuries from his prior work led him to pursue this passion and give up his livelihood. He has since lived on the fringes of society accompanied by his dog - squatting and crashing in a variety of locales including the Cave collective. There are typically thousands of tiles on a lamppost - it takes as long as 3-4 months to complete one. The tiles themselves are a medley of ones purchased and donated. Although I remember some controversy and range of opinions regarding his approach initially, I think time has done well for his work - in a period where there is substantial gentrification and influx of store chains and mass merchandisers, the mosaics provide a break in the homogeneous direction the city has been moving in ...

7 comments:

Carpedeum said...

Having just visted New York for Book Expo I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your wonderful blog. The photos are incredible and the captions are so informative. Also we met many helpful and gracious New Yorkers as we went about your city.

Brian said...

carpedeum-
Thanks. I haven't gone into this blog with the intention of being a NYC resource but if it turns out that way, great. Makes my efforts that much more worthwhile.
Brian

dan said...

hey man-

i saw that you posted something on the cage a while back and thought you might be interested in this story on the 30th anniversary of the cage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeyg3rpH6q8

-dan

RD said...

These mosaics are beautiful. And let me also say that I find yours one of the best daily city blogs out there. Great pictures, excellent information--I love that you stay off the beaten tourist path and give us something new and unique to NYC every day. Terrific.

blueroad said...

This blog is one of the most beautiful and colored that has ever seen. You know how to offer a lot of information, both with the photos and with the words, of a city among the most alive of the world.



A regard from Italy

X!ne said...

I'm so glad you blogged about Jim and his mosaics. I remember seeing him around the neighborhood all the time in the late 80s and maybe early 90s and they he seemed to disappear. But a couple of years ago, I ran into him again working on a new mosaic. It really warmed my heart, especially amidst all the gentrification that has gone on in the neighborhood. It felt so good to see him out there still full of enthusiasm...he's a great example of what makes NYC great.

Scuba Diva said...

If you notice, the tiles include broken crockery and even smashed mirrors (like at an optician's store on 1st avenue where he did the sign;) that's a big element in Jim's work.