An artist traveled around New York City and bought the signs of people begging on the street. Here is his story.
I won't say Sign of the Times is a political piece, because if it is, whose politics? Mine or those of the people I encountered? But it's a timely piece, marking the end of Mayor Bloomberg's term. It's the mayor's parting shot, what he left us with. Ironically, many people do not see a homeless problem. They are too busy going about their business to see the people lying at their feet. But I believe the homeless have influenced New Yorkers in at least one way: they've made sitting on the streets acceptable. On several occasions I approached someone sitting on the street only to discover it was a student or tourist looking at an iPhone or at the people walking by as if they were sitting at home watching television.
Sign of the Times is a reaction to a social injustice and tragedy. It's a testimony to the homeless men and women who roam the streets in search of food and shelter. It's also a chronicle of the times we live in. A few days ago I went to Paris for an exhibition of mine. I was immediately struck by all the people I saw on the streets of Paris. I have been to Paris more than 20 times and have never seen so many homeless in the City of Love. I easily could have done this project in Paris.
Although the homeless are at the bottom of the economic ladder, many Americans are not far from it. They may not be homeless, but they're poor. Fifty million or more Americans live at or below the poverty line.
I call this piece a collection because that's what it is, a collection, and I'm the collector. But I'm also an artist, and I've made my collection a work of art. It's a voice, an instrument, mine and theirs, telling a story that needs to be heard. It's the story of the poor in New York City, in America and in the world.