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See the Humanity

Leslie Brown

Their signs are usually written on discarded cardboard. Are they written because the one who holds them doesn’t want to voice the words? Does the sign that reads, “Homeless” provide just a little distance from the obvious?

Willie Baronet is an artist from the Bishop Arts District in Dallas. When I lived in Dallas, one of my teacher friends and I would always go there the day before Thanksgiving, so I felt kind of a connection to this story.

As a way to do something for the homeless, interact with them, as well as bring attention to their circumstances, Willie drove across the United States buying their signs. He then arranged them into a massive collage. The piece makes for a moving assemblage, much like the rows and rows of crosses in Arlington Cemetery.

Willie drove from Seattle to San Diego, then to New York. There is no “one story” that fits the person behind the sign. Willie had a long conversation with a 17 year old young lady from Baltimore named Ellie. Ellie spoke four or five different languages and had been living in one crowded room with her family. Then there was Michael in Omaha, a veteran missing a leg.

Feedback from the collection has reiterated the power of the signs gathered all in one place, yet from everywhere, each with it’s own story somehow uttered onto a piece of cardboard.


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