Monday, May 17, 2010

Billy and Diana - Philly Mascots

Something strange happened to me last week. I had been looking though some old research and I came across one of my favorite art objects in a photo.

There is the Augustus Saint Gaudens statue of the Roman goddess Diana that decorates the main hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I am of course aware of all the trials and triumphs of this statue as art and its ability to survive. It started out as a weathervane on the second of four Madison Square Gardens. The second Garden was actually right off Madison Square in Manhattan.

To make a long story short, this one time symbol and “goddess of Manhattan” got ditched when they tore the building down and it survived to become art in Philly. There is even an O. Henry short story, rather dated in language and understanding, The Lady Higher Up, in conversation between “Miss Diana” and “Aunt Liberty” in the New York harbor.

More boring details I will not talk about. But the strange thing is that when I looked at this statue, this work of art, and its setting in a treasure house of human culture, a museum I have many times visited, I slipped into the transcendent and felt spiritual and close to the Divine.

Art, and not pagan idol, touched something in me. The feminine road to the Divine was more pronounced in ancient, primitive, obsolete pagan cultures. Maybe that pathway should consider being reopened in the traffic jam of today’s uncertain global common culture.

I have to wonder how the world progresses that if some art might be a true pathway to the divine.

Speaking of superstition, there is the local Philly myth of the Curse of Billy Penn.

Curse of Billy Penn

The Curse of Billy Penn was an alleged curse used to explain the failure of major professional sports teams based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to win championships since the March 1987 construction of the One Liberty Place skyscraper, which exceeded the height of William Penn's statue atop Philadelphia City Hall.

The curse was supposedly overturned by placing a small statue of William Penn on the top of the tallest building in Philly, the Comcast center at 975 feet, in 2007 just in time for the World Series Title in 2008.

Superstition, myth, religion – many times wishful thinking and self fulfilling prophesy.

In any case, in an ancient sense and in honorable titles, Statues, Art, are mascots, honorary gods, in a vaguely pagan parameter, at Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, the Quaker City.

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