simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Mosaic Man
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Monday, 11 June 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 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 ...


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