Denver. Chicago. And now West Hollywood.
Those pink baby faces are popping up on street poles throughout WeHo, amusing some and disturbing others, all of whom want to know what’s going on.
For a possible answer, we had to reach back to 2016 when those faces started appearing all over Denver. They became so ubiquitous that Denver television news started covering them. One Denver resident even created a Facebook page to track them.
Denver’s KUSA Channel 9 post on Facebook in September 2015 drew an amazing 393 comments, with residents speculating about the meaning of the faces, which some called pink baby faces and others called pink doll faces. The guesses included a promotion for a local art show, declarations of support for and against Planned Parenthood, cool street art and just an effort to creep people out.
However, one commenter, David H. Miller, a Denver lawyer, said he had met the artist while on a hike. Miller said that the artist, who he identified as Yani, told him “the baby heads are to remind us of the suffering of the children in Syria.” That is a reference to the six years of war in Syria that have affected an estimated 7.5 million children, 2.4 million of whom are struggling to survive as refugees.
“The Syrian conflict has been displacing that country’s population for over five years now,” Miller said in another post. “I don’t know when Yani started, but I believe him since he asked me out of the blue if I’d seen those faces when I’d asked him about his art, and then he launched into a very detailed description of his project which seems to be true…”
Madi Esses, another Denver resident, confirmed Miller’s statement. “This is my friends movement representing the Syrian refugees,” she said. “It’s meant to speak up for them and give them a face.”
Those Syrian children are among the refugees that President Donald Trump does not want to admit into the United States.
Still, no one has completely identified the artist or the mission of his campaign, which this Fall appeared in Chicago, where the local NBC channel reported on what it called “creepy doll faces mysteriously popping up in Chicago.”
Jimmy Palmieri, a West Hollywood civic activist and the founder of the Tweaker Project, called out the faces to WEHOville and alerted Sam Borelli, another well-known WeHo resident, to them and Borelli discovered and posted pictures of more.
Palmieri, an art aficionado, said his initial sense is that they are a form of street art. Palmieri referenced Jean-Michel Basquiat, who became famous in the 1970s and 1980s for his street art in New York City’s then rundown Lower East Side. While he’s tempted to remove some of the faces and keep them, Palmieri said, he won’t out of respect for the artist.
If Yani now is declaring Southern California home, WEHOville invites him to reach out and tell us more. And if Yani isn’t the artist, well, who is?