Recently I passed through Rock Hill, South Carolina on our way from Florida to up north for a family event. In the middle of the busy commercial intersection in Rock Hill, which I’d last visited almost fifteen years ago, is a sight beyond belief! Back then, there was no traffic, and the art piece I’d gone to see had just been newly installed. Back in the nineties that intersection was quiet, almost deserted, with little or no traffic in the newly designed commercial district of Rock Hill. But now, in July of 2009, set amongst the endlessly whizzing-by trucks and behind tall trees and landscaped lawns that camoflague a neighborhood strickly devoted to industrial sites, is the same huge statue of — hold on now — a modern-day goddess named Civitas, whose name stands for “civilization.”
Designed and created by the American sculptor Audrey Flack (who was already internationally famous for her ultra-photorealist paintings by the early 80s, see www.audreyflack.com ) when she changed from exhibiting painting to doing sculpture of the Female Divine, among all of Audrey’s work Civitas best speaks to me. Serendipitously, I also happen to know the model Civitas’ physical form is based on, and folks, in time this woman who modeled actually did become Civitas-like in her nature. There IS a walking-talking Civitas out there. Just look for her. She might be walking right down the street by your side, waiting your table, or driving alongside you on the highway. She’s as real as you and me. Every one of us, man or woman, can become a god or a goddess if we just listen to our Higher Nature, and Go For IT!
But — for her gilded bronze Civitas the artist pulled out all the stops of human physical, spiritual, and intellectual idealism. Not only does this caryatid-esque goddess have perfect Barbie breasts (unlike its more Diana-the-huntress model) and long braided tresses flowing to her butt in ornate Viking patterns, but — Civitas is utterly massive! Standing over twenty-feet tall on her granite orb pedestal, she is an impressive-looking female if there ever was one. Warrior-like, she holds an emblematic disk high above her head as proof of her psychic instruments that can shock and awaken the entire world — if only we listen and learn from her.
What is she saying to us, the minions of civilization? To know this one must draw closer. And LOOK. The message of Flack’s Civitas is nothing but the heart-stopping Truth:
Not only is she divinely statuesque … but there are FOUR of her! That’s right! At each of the four corners of this crossroads stands an identical, towering, cloud-reaching Civitas figure, each exactly the same as the other (that’s kinda redundant, but … makes you wonder. Questions arise like … why four? … why exactly the same? … why … why … what’s up?). This is art at its best— when a creation makes the viewer wonder WHAT THE?? The entire overall effect of the Four Civitases is one massive dose of WHY?
In the same vein I totally support Obama’s spending the time he does about asking “why” before rushing ahead and taking action. Kudos to Barack!
Back to Rock Hill — if you walked up close to one of the wondrous figures of Civitas and saw her gazing down at you, wouldn’t you want to know “Why is she staring at me like that?” I would. Just check Civitas out up close and personal.
The closer you get to her the more stunning she becomes, the more evident her message is. You realize only when you take the TIME to get close to her, that she’s not really looking at you at all. In fact, she’s not looking at any ONE … but instead, she’s gazing out, contemplating. As she stands attentively, feet grounded on the solid ball representing our good planet Earth, Civitas is thinking about some THING other than what you’d think: not the annoying trucks whizzing by, the noise, or the purely commercial activities within the nearby buildings which are disguised by fancy pruned trees and manicured lawns. No, with her feet firmly grounded . . .
. . . she’s thinking about other things than what you or I usually do. Where her gaze is focused, therefore, is what intrigues me the most about Civitas. Let’s get even closer, shall we? in order to understand more.
ahhhh. Now we notice something we hadn’t seen before (just as when we look closer at everything, the more we understand, the more we “get” its message, its significance). Yes, we’d seen that each of the Civitases holds a disk high above her head . . . but now we see for the first time that each of the four disks is DIFFERENT. And that, my friends, is the message, the clue of what holds Civitas’ riveted inner gaze. Each of her four figures represents a different aspect of what the artist wishes to convey, the “up-close meaning” her modern day goddess conveys to the person interested enough to investigate.
Let’s take each of the figures, in no particular order. Don’t forget, at the hub of all these varied aspects of Civitas is a congested, traffic-whizzing, pollution-causing, cargo-hauling intersection filled with bustling commerce, speeding cars filled with people, most of whom are dangerously (and insanely!) conversing or texting on their cellphones, distracting themselves into oblivion. But at the center of all this, is Civitas’ CALM reminder of the GREAT Accomplishments, the GREATER GOOD aims of what civilization ought to be remembering, as we whiz our ways through life.
One of the statues holds a disk with stars of inspiration, reminding the people of the city to maintain their creative spirit as a cultural center:
the next Civitas holds aloft lightning bolts of energy . . . reminding humankind to be ever functional, and citizens to make life both pleasureable and efficient:
the next aspect of Civitas holds aloft the flame of knowledge, signifying an ongoing committment to the excellence of education:
and the last Civitas holds above her for all to see a disk with mechanical gears, and — guess what THAT means? —
This disk signifies how WE must respect industry.
Civitas is the symbol of all people being ONE, embodied in a “goddess” as the image of any “god or goddess” truly represents all humanity in the great iconography of myth, how we humans have used art throughout our history to portray our mysteries, from the very first cave painting until now. Civitas, holding the disk of gears high for all of us to see, reminds Earth’s children to support and strengthen all these aspects of life of earth.
So–this is the story of Civitas. I hope you enjoy her, and if you want to visit the four Great Cosmic Ladies in person you won’t be disappointed. Here, on my last note of this Civitas song I’m singing with you today, is my own rendition of a modern day goddess. I think I’ll call her “Imperfecta” because I truly believe, that no matter at what stage of evolution we are at — crawling out of the primordial sludge, or zooming in rocketships to outer space — we are all perfect in our imperfections.
And — voila! Imperfecta is born, today, right here on Lordflea sings!
in the Light, lordflea