You may notice some new faces in downtown Oklahoma City. They are part of a new public art exhibit of photographs pasted in the windows of the BOK Park Plaza building at the corner of Walker and Sheridan. New York artist John Raymond Mireles is the man behind the lens, and he is on a mission to unite the country.
Mireles spent the past three years taking portraits in each of the 50 states to show that we are all neighbors, and we should treat each other that way. In his travels across the country, there is one thing that Mireles says always stands out.
“I really saw that we’re one people and Americans are incredibly friendly people,” he says.
He says in the recent years, though, communities are growing more divided. He felt he could do something about it.
Mireles's Neighbors Project features people from all 50 states. The local Oklahoma City exhibit features multiple photos from Talequah.
He says, “Oftentimes it’s just a point on a map, and I say let’s go there and I show up. I go to a bar or I go to a street corner and I meet all these amazing people.”
Each of Mireles's photographed subjects are different ages and from different backgrounds, but they all stand in front of the same tan background for their portrait. For the exhibit, they are arranged in a very purposeful order.
“A farmer from Vermont with this African-American woman from Chicago,” he says as he points to two neighbor photos, “they’re very different in the way they dress, but there’s a certain pride there.”
The Oklahoma City Downtown Partnership brought Mireles's vision to life here to emulate the different facets of our community.
“When we know each other, then this idea of difference, of somebody being other, that tends to fade away,” he says.
In addition to the Neighbors Project, Mireles has also been compiling photos for another exhibit in collaboration with the Oklahoma Black Museum and Performing Arts Center scheduled to debut next year.
The Neighbors Project installation officially opens on Saturday, but you can see the portraits at the BOK Park Plaza building through April 15, 2019.