DC Gay Pride Environs…
Once again we participated in the pleasures of Gay Pride in the Federal City. Now called “Capital Pride,” the queer festivities have been a part of Washington culture since 1975. Spanning from the 300s to 700s of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, the street fair was a real French Sunday. After reviewing images and much reflection, we got to thinking about the festival’s immediate environs.
Man Controling Trade was designed by Michael Lantz (1908-1988) in 1938 for the Apex Building, central to the Federal Trade Commission. Lantz won the commission in the “Apex Competition,” which, some say, was the largest American sculpture competition ever held. In 1942, the seventeen-foot-long Art Deco era wonders (there are two) were installed.
This, the Mercury Fountain, is located in the Rotunda of the National Gallery of Art. Circa 1850, this bronze statue representing the god of trade is actually a separate piece of sculpture that precedes the construction of the fountain or the museum building for that matter. While the physical origin of this specific piece is cloaked in anonymity, we know that it is “after” Giovanni Bologna’s eighteenth century version. Mercury (or Hermes if you prefer Greek) is almost always depicted in motion with winged hat and feet (or sandals), a drawstring purse, the caduceus, and the best ass any god ever put or played with on this earth.
Presumed to be of Milanese sixteenth century origin, Bacchus and a Faun, another work in the unknown caster category, is located in the West Sculpture Hall of the National Gallery of Art. The ancient god of wine is holding grapes, which signifies his pursuits, and is probably in mid stagger as he was always, fortunately, nude and drunk. Bacchus (or Dionysus if you prefer Greek) was the son of Zeus and Semele and is often depicted with a very feminine quality as he was described as being womanly or “man-womanish” in Greek mythology.
We could go on and on in such rich environs as Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, but we chose these three particulars as historic examples of the age old interest in the beauty of masculinity and the physical manifestation of that interest through “more acceptable” pursuits such as art. The American Sculptor Lantz died leaving a brother and four nieces. Is there some reason why he might have captured masculinity so well? Merx has the best rear end in the history of the world. Why might the sculptor have chosen this model as a subject? The ancient god of wine was a supposedly a sissy. What on earth could that mean? The amalgamation of these age old realities can be seen even in this early twentieth century capital environment, but it wasn’t until 1975 when “Capital Pride” began that these ideas really came to life. They were before reserved to the arts. They were before as silent as the grave.
Well, now…, I think even Pandora would be a little shocked!!! Happy Pride!