Lawn Idols

I am probably not the most disorganized person on the Earth, but I am probably not that far off. One of things I need to get organized is a batch of photos of an accidental project, the lawn idols of Somerville (and nearby). Somerville is a small and fairly densely built-up city, with much of the housing stock in the form of two- or three-family houses set on fairly small lots. The houses are close together, but most of them are set back a little from the street, so that there is usually a tiny bit of front yard. The interesting thing is that even though the yards are small, hardly enough even to be called a yard, many residents expend a fair bit of effort in landscaping.

One of the more popular types of decoration is lawn statuary. And much of that statuary is religious in nature. The classic Mary-in-a-half-bathtub is probably the most popular, followed by Jesus (with and without ripped-out heart), and various saints (I’m not sure how one is supposed to know which is which). Sometimes Mary has a little flock of worshippers. Interestingly, Jesus usually does not. I presume the little worshipper figures can be purchased on their own, but they usually seem to end up around a Mary. Maybe Mary is feeling a little insecure needs a little more reinforcement? I don’t know.

Because Somerville is a small city, it’s easy to cover on foot. A lot of these decorated yards end up as subjects for photos. Though it’s necessary to keep an eye out for interesting or unusual examples—a lawn that had just a lone Mary would not normally be a very good subject. Some of the better ones involve a multitude of themes—such as Mary and a flock of fairies and bunnies surrounded by random plants:


I’m not sure what the backdrop behind Mary is supposed to be protecting the house from: holy radiation?

Some people apparently feel that just having a Mary or a Jesus is not quite enough protection. So they’d better throw in a saint or two, plus some animals. Having just a Mary or a Jesus, or even both, leaves a little room for doubt. But nothing is getting past this guard unit:


Pity the poor wise men who must wait in the shadows for the holiday, though.

Sometimes good examples can be found in neighboring towns. Somerville hardly has a lock on the statuary market, though few places have quite the same concentration. Even upscale neighborhoods in Cambridge are not immune. But of course, in Cambridge, the idols must be suitably respectable, literate, and informed about current events. Apparently also unable to share their newspapers.


There’s more along these lines, and I’ve got to sort through them, decide which ones I like, and there’s probably a few places I’ll maybe even want to revisit and shoot again. In fact, I know there are.

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