John Ahearn’s live cast sculptures of neighborhood figures honor local individuals and document New York’s vibrant, often undervalued, communities. In the early 1980s, Ahearn and other artists met weekly with residents of the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House on Manhattan's Upper East Side to empower women through the creation of art. There, Ahearn met Ernestine, making a plaster cast of her that would come to form the 1992 work, Ernestine and Three Friends (Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Women’s Shelter). Whereas classical sculpture traditionally memorialize society's elite—leaders, heroes, religious figures—Ahearn’s painted plaster casts acknowledge a diverse sampling of New York’s communities. They indelibly capture a life force that transcends social status, placing the real and unromanticized on a pedestal and challenging the notion that only a certain kind of individual is worthy of veneration.
Ernestine and Three Friends (Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Women’s Shelter), 1992
Four cast pigmented plaster busts
Installation dimensions variable
Courtesy of Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
Photo: Whitney Browne