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Lower East Side Guerilla Art by the Mosaic Man

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by Dora Bona (subscribe)
A freelance writer, and amateur photographer Dora also teaches creative writing classes. Check out her website at www.creativejuicy.com
Published March 6th 2011
If you find yourself strolling through the streets on the lower east side, you'll no doubt stumble across some amazing New York "guerrilla art". Tiny shards of mirrors and broken china and ceramic affixed mostly to lampposts, creating awesome pieces of artwork.

Today, street art and recycled art is growing in popularity. For 22 years one man has blended both the art of mosaics and street art by using recycled material on public property. His vision has changed the face of a city. Jim Power is a Vietnam veteran who is well known throughout New York as "Mosaic Man" .

His purpose in life is to tell his story through his art using a mix of thrown away materials like broken plates and mirrors, ceramic tiles, shells, stones and any other material that he can collect to tell a colourful story. Some materials are donated, and some found. Jim is a well known neighborhood denizen who has lived in squats, apartments, and on the street with his beloved dog, Jesse Jane. At his peak, Jim had over 65 lamp posts decorated in the city. He describes his trail of mosaics as "a nice thing people would enjoy and it would make people feel good."
Jim Powers at work

Jim has decorated scores of public venues, most particularly the lamp posts, mural walls and often doorways of the neighborhood to the extent that his mosaics have come to define the area. His work includes abstract design, figurative representations and a good deal of lettering. You can't help but stop and look.
Extreme art

Born in Waterford, Ireland, Jim Power came to live in New York City in 1959 at age 13. His family settled in Richmond Hills, Queens. He served in Vietnam and moved back to the Village in 1981 - and soon became a New York icon.

In 1985 he constructed his first mosaic around a tree in front of the Saint Marks Hotel. And from there, this artist was unstoppable. The wildly colorful, jagged-edged mosaics are cleverly infused with a vibrating primitivism that unifies Power's public works. A myriad of ceramic squares and slivered tiles, angular pieces of broken plates and a plethora of found objects make up Power's palette.
East 6th St & 7th Ave

A typical light pole has more than a thousand tiles; the eight-foot pole at Eighth Street and Broadway has more than 2,800, with two small plates stacked on top of one another to form the number 8. A tribute on another pole is to emergency service workers during the 2003 blackout, another highlights the old Yiddish theaters, the Bowery Boys, Burns and Allen, Charlie Parker.
Avenua A and 3rd Street

The 80 mosaic lampposts comprise the now infamous "Mosaic Trail" and span the Lower East Side running from Broadway down Eighth Street to Avenue A, to Fourth Street and then back to Eighth Street. The trail has been recognized in East Village guidebooks about New York City and in "AMTRAK by RAIL," which shows the mosaics as a top tourist attraction.


Some of Jim's work honors those who have passed. He is also very involved in showing the history of September 11th by creating messages to honor those that have fallen.

I'm a history teller," he confesses, "because I put a lot of history into these things that somehow connects. Without the public's involvement it really wouldn't mean anything. Just another piece of work out here. I'm not doing this to stay sane. I came out here to do something. And all I know is one thing, everybody is wondering what they're doing on the planet. I'm not. It's my job. I've no choice."

Everywhere you look on the lower East Side, you'll feel the passion of this amazing artist, and it all adds to the flavour of New york. It's all about the characters, the charm and the history.

A New York Legend
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Why? Because sometimes, people are
When: all day every day
Where: Lower East Side, Manhattan
Cost: Free unless you'd like to donate
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Comments
Great article. Power's work is truly inspiring, even though he's constantly having to recreate it all the time due to the push back by the city and its relentless changes. Like much of the street art here, it's memorable, but fleeting.
By Joann Jovinelly - senior writer
Wednesday, 9th of March @ 05:13 am
I agree with Joann's comment his work is amazing. His story is just as amazing. It's a joy to stumble across some of his masterpieces.
By sherr22 - reader
Wednesday, 13th of April @ 05:31 am
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