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'AS IS: An Urban Art Project': Are You The Subject Of Nicole Bourgea's Portrait? (PHOTOS)

09/28/2012 01:23 pm ET | Updated Sep 29, 2012
Nicole Bourgea

WASHINGTON -- Portrait artist Nicole Bourgea is about to give away over $40,000-worth of her art. Monday, she's going to leave 10 paintings around D.C. -- she won't say where yet -- with the aim that her subjects will discover the offerings.

"I'm hoping, in an ideal world, that the people that I've painted will find the portraits," Bourgea told The Huffington Post.

Bourgea took some time between paintings to speak with HuffPost about "AS IS: An Urban Art Project."

The Huffington Post: Did your subjects know they were being painted?

Nicole Bourgea: No. One man found out and has already received a painting and another woman found out about the project through a newspaper article and received her portrait, but they're they only two.

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AS IS

HuffPost: What made you want to create a piece that the subject doesn't know they're the subject?

Bourgea: I want to be able to give back in some way. Portraiture is my special way to do that. I get a lot of commission work too and I get a lot of nice notes about it. It's wonderful to be able to get paid for my craft. I wanted to share this with a larger community.

HuffPost: And the feedback has been positive?

Bourgea: It's been great. It's been really humbling.

HuffPost: How do you decide who you're going to paint.

Bourgea: It's kind of at random. I'm trying to keep my eyes open while I pass people. It's really easy to go about your day, mind your own business. When I found myself hurrying past someone, I tried to pay more attention to them.

HuffPost: How long do you plan on continuing the project?

Bourgea: For the sake of people being able to find the portraits, because they took me so long to do, I wanted to install the first ten. I'm almost done with the last one.

HuffPost: Will you wait around to see who takes the art?

Bourgea: I'm planning on just installing them and leaving them. The worst thing that could happen would be for the painting to be returned to me.

HuffPost: This is a pretty cool gift. It's not like you're giving away a $50 sketch. These cost a few thousand dollars.

Bourgea: They're usually $4,200.

HuffPost: So you're giving away $42,000 worth of art.

Bourgea: Right.

HuffPost: Are you O.K. with that? You sound a little hesitant.

Bourgea: No, no, no, I'm definitely O.K. with that.

I started the project between commission work, a couple of hours here or there. I finally built up enough funds and courage to take three months off from commissioned projects to work on this. Things have been a little tight but I think it's worth it.

HuffPost: Has it made you excited to be an artist?

Bourgea: Completely. I really appreciate my commissioned projects but at the same time I was getting stuck in a little routine. This project was part of soul-searching to figure out why I make art. I'm definitely excited and I'm looking forward to what will come next.

HuffPost: Why is this project important?

Bourgea: I think we all have something we can do with our lives to give back to the world. It's why we're here, to do something that matters. I feel really blessed to be able to have this skill and be able to use it, not to just make money but to do some good. People feel lonely and this lets them know they really matter and I'm doing what I can do to help that.

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