Most people wouldn't normally topple over at the sight of a man moving, but then again, Piedrahita doesn't consider himself so much a person when he's performing as a living statue.
"I was scared and went down to help her; a half hour later, she came back with a camera and took pictures of me," said Piedrahita.
This anecdote isn't too uncommon for Piedrahita who, together with his colleague and girlfriend Virginia Mesones, make up their living statues performance - a style of art that consists of exactly what its namesake suggests: made-up artists standing motionless for hours at a time simulating statues.
As buskers and business owners, Mesones and Piedrahita see surprises like with the senior happen all the time.
"Another time a child dropped his ice cream cone," laughed Piedrahita. "I felt bad, so I bought him another one."
Thirty-two-year-old Mesones and 28-year-old Piedrahita, having traveled the world with their act, currently call Hudson Avenue home.
"We draw a lot of attention," said Piedrahita in regards to the community.
"They [neighbors] like it a lot," said Mesones, "Every time they see us, they laugh and compliment us."
Mesones and Piedrahita belong to a category of artists very few New Jerseyans can claim. As a result, Mesones and Piedrahita have established themselves in Hudson County in efforts to expand their art form throughout the community and state, often performing across the river in New York's South Street Seaport.
However, the history of these statues extends beyond any foot-placed bronze plaque.
Construction of a statue
The journey began with South America native Virginia Mesones. Mesones, born in Argentina, studied theater for seven years before deciding to try out living statues with her best friend at the time.
Mesones remembers that there were a lot of living statues in Argentina then.
"We started off as Greek statues; we did it in the streets of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Barcelona [Spain]," said Mesones.
"From then on, I knew I wanted to do it," said Mesones.
On the opposite end of South America in Medellin, Colombia, lived Victor Piedrahita, an aspiring airplane pilot trying to fulfill his dreams.
Piedrahita had enrolled in the air force but after seeing things he "didn't like," he enrolled in the Academia Antioqueña de Aviacion, a private aviation school.
With bigger dreams ahead for the separate visionaries, their paths would soon cross in an unlikely place.
How do you say 'love?'
In June 1999, Mesones and Piedrahita, each unknowing of the other, arrived in the United States and settled in the city of Clifton, living only five blocks apart from one another.
Both being new to the country, they decided to attend a year-long ESL class in Paterson. After having studied as classmates for nearly six months, the two eventually became romantically involved in December of that year.
Having been together for nearly eight and a half years, Mesones remembers her statue performances sparking the interest of Piedrahita.
"I learned how to do it from Virginia [Mesones]," said Piedrahita, "She inspired me to do it after I saw her do a performance in Manhattan."
A statue's education
Originally, Mesones studied to be an actress in Argentina. She studied theatre for seven years in addition to honing skills such as Yoga and meditation.
Mesones studied various acting methods including the Stanislavski Method of acting and the Eric Morris Technique in Argentina's Carlos Gandolfo School and Taller del Angel School.
After taking to the streets, Mesones decided she was ready to make a career of living statues.
"Different techniques help you for the job," said Mesones.
Piedrahita, in addition to receiving mentoring from Mesones, learned how to move like a robot and break dance while on a tour through Los Angeles, Calif.
Time standing still
Out of all the talent, craft, and technique these artists have, the most valuable and indispensable trait is their patience, as Piedrahita has described.
"[The hard part] is standing in front of the public for the first 15 minutes; it's still cold and people don't know how to react," he said.
"When you warm up, it just comes natural," said Piedrahita. "Sometimes we're standing for seven hours without using the bathroom or eating."
Mesones, who has the most experience including theater, television, and film performances, also races against the clock.
Costume preparation can take anywhere between two and three hours. In addition, new characters can take up to two months of planning.
"New characters are a lot of work," said Mesones. "Currently, we're preparing a new bronze statue in which we need about four different colors."
"There's a lot of research to be done for the costume and the history of it, if not, [the audience] won't recognize the character," said Mesones.
As a result, pricing for the living statues performances ranges between $500 and $4,800.
The couple's characters also vary depending on the day's events. Will Piedrahita be the aviation-inspired White Pilot? Will Virginia be the Blue Fairy today or the Greek Statue tomorrow?
Anyone's guess is as good as theirs as the couple displays assorted characters for various seasons.
In the future, the couple hopes to expand their services of offering other art forms via their company. Like statues that adorn cities throughout, Mesones and Piedrahita only want to flourish within their neighborhood.
"We want our company to grow and [appeal] to the Hispanic public ... so that we can do more within the community," said Mesones.
For more information, visit www.livingstatues.org.
comment on this story, e-mail NMillan@hudsonreporter.com.