I often wander the streets of New York looking at my feet, headphones sprouting from my ears, lost in thought. But on one sunny day in the city I happened to look up. In front of me, I saw a building that quietly blossomed into something entirely magical when I stepped closer for further inspection. I crossed East 83rd Street on York Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to find a building with an identity crisis. A street art fantasy was scrawled along the walls and gargoyles guarded fake stairwells on this building that was perhaps empty, happily planted on the corner, enacting its own video game fantasy.
So yes, in every way this was just a building with a mural, but it’s so strange to find such lovely artwork existing anonymously in the world, seemingly invisible to the people who walk by without glancing up. Where did it come from? Who painted it and what does it mean? It almost felt like the building, stuck in the same place for so long, began to grow a fantasy like a second skin or a new layer of paint. Textures of twine and faux-engraved detailing peacefully clashed with painted brick, swirled arches, conflicting personalities, ghouls playing instruments and monster tailors guarding painted garments and stairs – some real, some painted on – leading to nowhere.
Since I’m an iPhone photo app geek, I snapped the building for a while, waiting for the painted stairs to materialize and take me to some other world. Maybe this street art mural was the building’s daydream of Dungeons and Dragons, or maybe this demon building was just singin’ the blues. The mural depicted a mess of gorgeous imagery, giant fake clocks, mechanisms so large, I felt like I could walk through them when they failed to clang or tell the correct time, idly soaking up the afternoon sun, frozen in time and flattened along the facade of the building. The mural was stunning and it reminded me that beauty is everywhere. Alternate realities exist. Some buildings daydream in game symbols, and these unexpectedly expressive game board murals, artistically rendered but oddly marginalized, are often ignored.
Next time you find yourself stressed out, hurrying from point A to point B, stop. Look up and around you. Fantastical things exist on every corner, even along the walls of a languid building, richly enamored with its own exterior, playing out some bizarre and unknown game, waiting to be discovered.
Unexpected Street Art Discovered In New York