Andres Serrano got the idea for “Sign of the Times” in early October when he started to see what he perceived as a greater number of homeless people in New York City. It occurred to him to start buying the signs that the homeless use to ask for money.
"I immersed myself in the project, going out almost on a daily basis and walking five, six, seven hours a day. Once, I even walked 12 hours uptown to Harlem, East and West, downtown to Battery Park and back home. I never took transportation anywhere because I felt that since the homeless live on the streets, I had to walk the streets like they do. After a while, a few said to me, “I’ve heard of you. You’re the guy going around buying signs. I was wondering if you were ever going to find me.” I bought about 200 signs and usually offered $20, which they were happy, even ecstatic, to get. (Once, though, I saw a sign that said, “Just need $10″ so I said to the guy, “I’ll give you 10 for it and he said, “You got it. I guess the sign did its job!”)
What struck me about the people who sold me their signs was their willingness to let go of them. It was as if they had little attachment to them, even though some signs had been with them for a long time. Of course, they needed the money. Many people would tell me they had made nothing that day. But I also think that those who possess little have less attachment to material things. They know what it’s like to live with less."
Andres explains that he purchased signs from people of all ages, including a young girl who was no more than 16...perhaps younger. Her sign read, “Mom told us to wait right here. That was ten years ago.”
"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," writes Serrano.
“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."
Coincidentally, today is National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day. National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day takes place each year on the longest night of the year, December 21st.
The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has sponsored National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember our homeless friends who have paid the ultimate price for our nation's failure to end poverty.