Washington Square Park is home to its usual host of characters, from skateboarders to chalk artists to full on drum circles. Amid the flurry of activity that takes every day, Johan Figueroa-González, a 30-year-old transplant from Puerto Rico, somehow manages to command the attention of even the most preoccupied New Yorkers. We recently spotted him hanging off the side of Washington Square Arch, where he performs as a living statue.
The act itself is not new — there are plenty of street performers who wear body paint and pose on the street for a quick buck — but Figueroa-González certainly turns it into a true art craft. Covered in head-to-toe in white body paint and donning a garb wrapped around his waist, he is able to blend seamlessly into his surroundings — so much so that we recently ran into some confused foreigners, who questioned why there was such a crowd growing around what they perceived to be an actual sculpture.
We were quite amused to see the shocked faces of tourists after we explained to them that the “statue” was, in fact, not a statue, but a man posing as such. Figueroa-González’s small frame — he stands 4-foot-11 tall and weighs 83 pounds — allows him to clutch onto a ledge of the Washington Square Arch while his feet rest on another. He holds a pose for a couple of minutes at a time, the illusion is only broken when he decides to switch up his stance.
Both New Yorkers and tourists alike stop dead in their tracks to watch Figueroa-González in his element (which is quite a feat in a city as diverse and full of life as New York).