A small but significant part of the culture is disappearing, and the landscape is changing:
Where are the lawn Madonnas of yesteryear? One of the charms of wandering the outer-circle neighborhoods of New York, far from the towering commercialism of Manhattan, has been the statues of the Blessed Mother staring out serenely from the postage-stamp lawns of rowhouses.
“A lot of new nationalities came in, it isn’t what it was,” said Lou Campanella III, a statue and masonry dealer whose family firm sold “something like 300 Blessed Mothers a month” in her saintly front-yard heyday, which lasted into the 1990s. “Now, maybe 15 to 20 a month.”
But the beauty of the city’s continual immigration churn is that there are newcomers who have fresh preferences in lawn statuary, creating a new market.
“Different ethnicities, different religions — we sell a lot of elephants now,” Mr. Campanella noted. “People from India love them and the Arab newcomers, too. And foo dogs — guardian lions — for Chinese customers,” he said, referring to different popular icons revered for much the same protective powers attributed to statues of the Madonna.
“And Buddhas, all kinds of Buddhas, fat Buddhas, meditating Buddhas,” he explained in the Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, workshop of L. J. Campanella & Son, which has shipped out assorted elves and saints, gremlins and fairies to the region’s garden suppliers and masonry yards for the past 66 years.