Did that statue over there just scratch its nose? No, it couldn't have. It's a statue. Wait. It just waved. Yes, it definitely waved. Have I been out in the sun too long?
No, I'm not seeing a mirage or other heat-induced illusion. I'm witnessing the art form known as a living statue.
Artists who perform as living statues dress in flowing clothes, paint their faces and upper bodies with light face paint, and strike a pose in public gardens, parks, and on street corners.
Living statues aim to impersonate stoic, chiseled statues. But it takes just a moment for them to spring to life and engage those around them with silent gestures.
Traditionally, living statues come alive only when money is placed in a hat by their feet. But you may spy one moving periodically without notice.
Living statues may dance, wave, or blow kisses, but then they return to the same pose they had at the beginning. If they're good at what they do, it may be hard to tell the difference between them and stonestatues – unless one of them has to sneeze, of course.
Although no one is completely sure, it is believed that living statues began as circus entertainers in 19th-century Europe. Their popularity grew rapidly.
In the US, living statues are usually found in areas popular with tourists. Businesses also commission these performers to pose as shop-window mannequins, hoping to fool those who walk past.
Clara LaFrance, who has a master's degree from Boston University, has spent the past few years standing on her soapbox blowing kisses to those who acknowledge their appreciation for her art with coins, dollar bills, and even little notes and poems.
"I was surprised that you can move people without even saying anything," she says.
While it may appear that these artists do nothing more than just stand around, it does take a degree of athleticism to carry off the immovable poses. Clara says that her background in dance has helped give her the strength needed to stand still for long periods of time.
When the sun beats down on a hot summer day, some living statues might begin to envy their stone counterparts. But not Clara. She finds that standing still is one of the most enjoyable aspects of her hobby.
Her longest time not moving has been more than 20 minutes. "You become an island of calm and solidarity in a sea of people," she says.
Living statues usually try to dress in period attire, striving to resemble historic statues and memorials. Clara dresses up as a Southern belle and chooses among three different outfits: a silver gown with ruffles, a white lace dress, and a straight skirt with a corset. The most important features are the props she holds in her hands, most commonly a parasol (fancy umbrella) and gloves.
Living statues may stay in the same location or travel extensively. Clara has traveled to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, teaming up with artists and performers from all around the world.
It's not all fun and games. Sometimes she must cope with bad weather and with hecklers who become quarrelsome.
She also finds it a challenge to maintain composure when parents think she is a baby sitter and leave their children with her as they stroll about the tourist location.
But those are the exceptions. In Clara's experience, most of her audience is respectful and appreciates the contribution she makes to their day of touring. Above all else, it is the children who make the hours she spends on her craft worthwhile.
Clara fondly remembers a little girl who beckoned to her one day. The tiny girl leaned in close and whispered, "I love you."
Clara enjoys "sweet people like that," she says. They're a good reason to climb back atop her box and strike a pose once again.