When the World Meeting of Families convenes this September in Philadelphia, with an appearance from Pope Francis, the holy gathering will have one unlikely participant: local painter Perry Milou. His colorful, Neiman-esque Pop painting of the pope is the offcial WMOF portrait, a colorful close-up of Francis, in profle, blowing an air kiss to his unseen fock. So just how did Milou—a man known from Philly’s nightclub scene, and an artist recognized for capturing the spiritual essence of Philly icons as well as famous international beauties and exotic cityscapes—get in on the pope’s touring action?
“I don’t believe in coincidences or karma, only higher, spiritual, soulful connections,” says Milou of his life’s marvelous links: a South Philly grandfather named Francis; his grandmother Rita’s love of Perry Como; his mother’s name, Angel; his birthdate, October 4, 1967 (St. Francis’s Day); his marrying a woman named Angela (“after many, many hellos in Rittenhouse Square,” he laughs). “On June 8, 2010, our daughter Francesca was born. We have an incredible nanny from Guatemala, Angelica, to help [us] raise [her]. Our frst son is due September 27, the exact day Pope Francis will rejoice in mass to millions of people in Philadelphia. Could my son’s name be Francesco?”
Considering everything about his unexpected connection to the heavens, Milou painted the pope in a somewhat mystical Impressionistic style, while the ethereal, earthly background shows off his signature “rain technique,” which he has developed over many years. “The graphics are totally Pop,” says Milou of his marriage of image and word. “People love to read, they seek meaning. I have checked my ego at the door on this project, and I am asking for spiritual guidance. Not because I want money; I just want to share the image with the world and celebrate Pope Francis’s message of ‘love, family, peace, and unity.’”