Monday, October 22, 2012


Friends, thank you for all of the lovely notes that you have been sending me about AS IS! Please feel free to post them directly into the comment section of any of the blog posts. I really appreciate your thoughts on the project and think that other people would love to read them as well!

Also, a friend sent me this picture that she snapped
while grabbing coffee at this place in Georgetown:
Seems someone has hung one of the AS IS portraits up at the Bean Counter. Does anyone know the back story? I'm curious. Will you share?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

AS IS: A Recap

With the AS IS install behind us, and all of the urban portraits claimed, many of you have been asking: What was the result? What was the response? So I thought I'd share a few statistic with you:

* I knew exactly 0 of the people that I painted before I began work on this project.

*Since painting and installing these 10 portraits, I have gotten to know 7 of the subjects, 2 very well.

* All 10 urban portraits were claimed by the 2nd day after they were installed. 

* 8 out of 10 of those portraits were claimed by the subjects themselves, or were removed from the installation sites and delivered by their friends and acquaintances. 

* 7 portraits were taken in broad daylight.  

* 3 were removed during the night.

* Only 1 painting was left exposed to the rain. This portrait was installed in front of an art gallery.

* 2 portraits were tethered to nearby objects to prevent them from being blown over. Both of those were among the 3 paintings taken at night.

* 1 portrait is confirmed stolen.

* 2 of the  portraits' whereabouts are unknown.

Here are the portraits listed in the order that they were claimed or taken:

It has been very humbling to hear your responses to this project. I wish that I could share every word that every one of you have written. Short of that though, I hope that you won't mind me copying a few favorite notes that I have received here. (I have abbreviated any signatures to protect the privacy of those who have written.)

"I just came across an article about you leaving Portraits  of Strangers on the Streets Where you Saw Them with a note: "IF THIS IS YOU, TAKE IT"!
Such a beautiful and simple thing... This is cool! Its like a memory of a moment on canvas. I got a chance to check out the art and it's stunning!
Congrats! I love your spirit!


"Dear Nicole,
I hope that you are flooded with emails praising you for your AS IS project!

I've been doing portraits since I was 12 years old and it's always been a dilemma to me that to be successful (monetarily), I would need to paint people who are rich enough to buy portraits. I'd like to make money (so I could paint for a living rather than write grants!), but I'd much rather have people see themselves as valuable enough to have a portrait.

I carry paper and pencil and draw people all the time, and if the person wants it, I just give them the drawing. I've had people who were so happy and grateful for this little gift. But your wonderful and inspired idea is so much grander! I LOVE seeing the story of Keith Cook.

I also really like your response to the biker who took the portrait, hoping that he is appreciating the life and dignity of the man behind it.

So, I hope that not only you are lavished with blessings in your life, but that the blessings that your portraits bring to people's lives are multiplied as they see themselves through your eyes.

Hurray for you!!!

Truly best regards,
L. C." 


"Dear Nicole,

"I was pleasantly surprised to see the beautiful portrait of Feno at Ben's Chili Bowl this morning.

Your work is magnificent, and the WHAT touched me deeply.

email subject line: "Thank you for Restoring My Faith in Humanity"
Text with picture of one of the installed portraits:
"I came across this painting on my morning walk. You made my day! :-))

Thank you again, Friends! I treasure every one of your responses. In fact, I think that the success of this project can be measured in no small part by the community of notice that has sprung up around it!

 I would love to continue sharing your thoughts here. Have found your portrait,  or bumped into a portrait of someone else somewhere around the city? Care to share? You can posts thoughts here or send an email to

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Empty Nest

AS IS is as much a project about letting go as it is about anything else. (Thank you to my friend, Carrie, for her beautiful blog post on that subject!) I have to say that it has been strangely emotional to have worked on these portraits for so long, only to have left them on the street. Come what may. If I am being really dramatic, I might even say that it feels a little like I dropped my ten children on various doorsteps around the city, and hightailed it out of there, hoping for a better life for them...
O.K., O.K., that was a little Ophelia of me, but one thing is for sure, my studio is feeling strangely empty without those ten faces staring out at me this week.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Do You Know What Was Really Fun?

Sneaking around the city at the crack of dawn installing art on the streets! Thank you to my old friend, Marcie Revens, for not only coming along for the ride, but documenting the whole thing!! More of her awesome pictures soon...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 4 Update

For any of you who watched this news story about AS IS on Fox5 last night, you know that one of the two remaining unclaimed portraits was taken off of the street (on camera!) by someone other than the subject himself. 

Here is the painting:

Here's how the portrait looked installed on the street:

OK, go back and click the orange link at the top of this post to watch the news story if you haven't already. 

Now tell me friends, does the man on the bike look like the subject of this portrait? I was not there when the portrait was taken, but the flustered reporter called me to say that the man promised to send an e-mail explaining....I'll let you know when that comes through.

 So how do I feel about this? Well, I did expect the unexpected with this project. I knew that it was a possibility that the portraits could be stolen. I had come to peace with that fact. I wanted these portraits to be gifts freely given. 

I did. 

I still do.

 I also worked on the painting above for over a month and spent a lot of my own money creating it. I really, really hoped that this man would find it, and that he would know that someone noticed him...that someone thought that he was important enough to be the subject of his own portrait. And so, I am holding out hope that the person who took this painting actually knows the man it depicts...that he is holding onto it for him and looking out for him. At the very least, I hope that he is appreciating the portrait, and in so doing, appreciating the life and dignity of the man behind it.

A friend was watching the Fox5 segment and texted me as soon as it finished:

 "Can I please take the suryevor home while I try to locate him? Broke my heart to see the bike guy take the painting!" 

She was talking about this portrait:

It was installed here:

I pictured her running down the street in the dark. 

A few minutes later, I got this text:

"He's gone. I'm sorry."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 3 Update

Fox5 News shot a story on AS IS today! Here is camera man Doug recording in front of the last unclaimed urban portrait. The segment will air tonight at 6:00 PM on Channel 5.

Here are the three portraits that had not been taken as of last night:
#2 is the only portrait still on the street. Some kind soul moved it under an overhang yesterday to keep it out of the extreme storms we had, but it is back in its original location today. Do you know this man?? I'm hoping that Fox5's story on my project will help him find it.

#1 was moved inside out of the rain by a shop owner. After we parted ways, the Fox5 team headed out to interview him. I just received a call from the reporter saying that while they were at it, a man walked into the shop and took the painting...on camera! I guess I'll have to wait until tonight to see who it was.

#3 is a portrait of another artist that I met while working with Habitat for Artists at the Corcoran this summer. She knew about my project, but not that she was going to be one of the subjects! Here is what her installed portrait looked like:
As I said, October 1st was gorgeous, but the floods came out in full force on the 2nd. This portrait was the only one that braved the elements. Originally the Fox team and I planned on meeting in front of it this morning, but by 10:30 AM it was gone! Then I received this note via facebook along with a picture that she snapped of the painting:
Nicole Tell me why I got a text this morning with someone saying "I got your painting"! I was like "what painting"? Hahaha...I love love love it! Thanks sugar!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 2 Update

Well friends, yesterday I installed the AS IS portraits under the clearest of blue skies, but today the rain just keeps coming! 
Ready for the good news? All but two of the portraits have been removed! I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see the "If this is you, this painting is yours to take" signs taped to otherwise blank brick walls!  I swung by each installation site on my way into the studio this morning. The only painting still on the streets is the one installed in front of the Corcoran! I hope that this means that there are some happy folks out there.
It has been so touching to witness the thoughtfulness of DC residents! One shop owner writes me to say that he and his staff are working hard to find the employee whose portrait I had have painted. Another says that he has moved an unclaimed portrait inside his store to spare it from the elements.
A portrait of a street surveyor was originally installed against a dumpster, but someone has thoughtfully moved it under an overhang of the American City Diner to keep it dry. I rounded the corner this morning to check on it at the same time as the garbage truck. As I jumped out of my car to grab the little box of project explanation cards off of the dumpster, the driver rolled down his window. "Hey!" he shouted "Are you the one who has been painting all those pretty pictures of people? I saw one on Connecticut yesterday. It's GONE now!!" Then he flashed me a thumbs up as the truck hoisted the dumpster into the air.
One hope for this project was to ignite conversation about the power and the gift of notice. Residents caring for portraits of other community members. People searching for the subjects of unclaimed paintings. Average people taking notice. I couldn't have hoped for more from this project!

Monday, October 1, 2012

 I was up with the moon this morning installing the AS IS please don't make fun of my crude napkin drawing of the DC map... 
 but here are the addresses of the installation sites if you care to take a treasure hunt:

1.) Magruder's (loading dock),5626 Connecticut Avenue, DC
2. ) Plaza, 7825 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda
3.) Pauls, 5205 Wisconsin Avenue, DC 
4.) The Broad Branch Market, 5608 Broad Branch Road, DC 
5.) THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Avenue, DC
6.) The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th Street, DC
7.) Maine Avenue Fish Market, 1100 Maine Ave, DC
8.) American City Diner (dumpsters), 5532 Connecticut Avenue, DC
9.) Bens Chili Bowl, 1213 U Street, DC
10.) A Mano (upper Georgetown), 1677 Wisconsin Avenue, DC

(While I wish in some ways that the project had reached into more corners of the city, AS IS developed out of the natural course of my movement through the city. This portrait project is about giving the gift of notice throughout the course of a normal day, week, month, year...wherever that time took me.)
All ten of the portraits were out on the streets by about 9:00 AM and by the time we had grabbed some breakfast, at least five were gone! 
 Can I ask you a favor? Will you keep keeps your fingers crossed and spread the word so that the other five folks find their portraits before tomorrow's rain storms? Thanks, Friends!

Are You Awake?

The sun is set to rise at 7:05 this morning and if all goes according to plan all of the AS IS portraits should be installed on the streets of DC by 9 A.M. Want to know where? Check back in a few hours. Map to follow later this morning...
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