An art exhibit at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute — “Punks and Skinheads of the East Village: Photographs by Lilian Caruana” — is reviving the fading memory of the 80s’ Alphabet City.
Seventeen black-and-white images of classic New York counterculture will be displayed beginning Oct. 27 until January 2011.
The photographs were taken over the course of three years, between 1984 and 1987.
“I was living in the East Village and I would see these strange people walking around,” said Caruana of her subjects, “When I talked to them, a different person emerged. They were much more vulnerable than they looked.”
Caurana was drawn to their otherness, since she herself was an outsider. At the age of 8, she immigrated to New York from the Italian Alps, with no English or idea of how her life would change.
“As an immigrant, I struggled with my identity,” said Caruana, “It was like I had to select which parts of Italy to preserve and what American things to adopt.”
She photographed people at concert venues and squat houses, documenting everything from their love lives to their tattoos.
Caruana described the images: “When you look at the visuals of the neighborhood — with the graffiti and the peeling paint — you can see how the body mimics the environment.”