Portrait artist leaving paintings around DC - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Portrait artist leaving paintings around DC - and if it's you, it's yours for free

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Nicole Bourgea Nicole Bourgea

It is not every day that you get a hug from a stranger. But these two are connected by the snap of a camera and the stroke of a brush.

Nicole Bourgea is a D.C. native and a portrait artist. She came here to the Southwest waterfront about a month ago and took a picture of Pete Hill.

"I saw Pete and he's a character that's hard to miss," says Bourgea.

She captured Hill in his own environment for an urban art project she calls "As Is."

The artist says that capturing people in their natural habitat is "authentic and it's sincere. It shows what people are passionate about and what they do with their time."

She returns the finished painting to the place where she met the person. A colleague spotted Hill.

"He said somebody dropped a painting off and it looks just like you," says Hill.

Bourgea's portraits are popping up all over town. One is leaning on a dumpster just off Connecticut Avenue.

"I'm really attracted to the idea of street art," says Bourgea. "It's outside of the museums and kind of confronts us in the middle of our day."

Each painting has a sign near it.

"The sign says - 'If this is you, this painting is yours to take.' So I guess if you're the guy in the painting, it's free," says one passerby.

That's right. All this richness and color is free to the person in the painting. But she wonders if the people in the paintings will ever be able to find them. We encountered one pedestrian studying a portrait of a surveyor.

"Especially someone like this who is a surveyor and probably doesn't come here very often," he says. "This was the one time he was doing his work here, goes on to another project, maybe never comes back here, maybe doesn't even know this is here."

There have been some surprises. Like what happened at Paul's Liquor on Wisconsin Avenue.

"When we noticed that it was starting to rain, we took the painting in because someone put that much work into it. You want to protect it," said James Moller of Paul's Liquor.

With the rain gone, that portrait was back.

A bicyclist passing by spun around. He studied it and eventually decided to take it. Bourgea doesn't mind.

"I hope it's the person who I painted," she says. "But even if it's somebody else who really is opening their eyes and noticing the people around them and recognizing their neighbors, I think that's wonderful too. It really makes me happy."

She's letting go and accepting life just like the project - "as is."



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