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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Sunday, September 01, 2002 Our Lady, Queen of the Angels
Mexican folk retablo
This excerpt from a Los Angeles Timesarticle this weekend on the Taj Mahony is telling:
The cardinal has had final say on every decision regarding the cathedral, down to the wattage of the lightbulbs in the freight elevator. His taste and influence are as much a foundation of this building as the earthquake-savvy base isolators that hold it up.
He had conversations with [sculptor Robert] Graham about the doors, he says, but the artist chose the images and symbols. The only thing Mahony insisted on was an actual statue of Our Lady, which Graham originally had not been interested in doing.
"I told him the cathedral was named after Our Lady of the Angels," Mahony said, "and our city was named after Our Lady of the Angels, so at some point along the way people would expect to see Our Lady of the Angels."
You would think. Yes.
And the result? The Bird Girl in a Hospital Johnny. Our Lady of the Manicurists.
What a missed opportunity, this cathedral built to last five centuries.
Why couldn't the designers of a cathedral for a city named by 18th-century Spanish missionaries El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, Town of the Queen of the Angels, have looked to Catholic Mexico for artistic inspiration?
Alternately, designers could have looked across town to the Getty Museum, which recently hosted "Queen of Angels," an exhibition of Marian devotional art of the Middle Ages, like this, and which has other magnificent holdings of religious art, like this Renaissance Flemish painting of the Assumption, or this study for an 18th-century Italian fresco of the miracle of the House of Loreto.
Indeed, the section of the Getty Museum's online catalogue devoted to Mary contains 143 images, all of them striking.
Examples of beauty in religious art, from folk to classical, are readily available in southern California. The source of inspiration for the cathedral designers, however, is anyone's guess.