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You Do Not Smile



To me, most street murals are pretentious, overly photo-realistic, and lack edginess. (witness the succession of vapidity at the Houston Bowery Wall)—but when I drove past the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Dean Street, I was struck by the “You Do Not Smile”—pronouncement; uncommonly poetic for a mural.

Only it was an ad for Dr. Burton’s dental practice.

Was it accusatory?—a mom demeaning her daughter’s social flaws?

Was it a command?—a dean reprimanding a cheeky student?

The rest of the ad is equally confrontational:

“You have not done that detal work because you are afraid.” (“dental” or “detail”? At this point, one imagines Dr. Burton pulling his hair and berating the muralist)

And the daring coda:

“At Dr. Burton’s office we cater to cowards.”

The “we cater to cowards” slogan, I subsequently discovered, is a not uncommon tagline among dentists around the country...It’s still weird.

But the lady is unique—a Frida Kahlo-ish lass sinking into a blue cotton candy ocean—Is she smiling or scared?

Dr. Burton, if he is still practicing, is no longer at that number.


Corner of Dean Street and Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn.

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