Echo Park’s Lady of the Lake

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Photo Credit: Kcet.org

Echo Park, LA is home to an impressive number of architectural and historical landmarks – including the Victorian homes on Carroll Avenue, the Pueblo-Style Atwater Bungalows, or Frank Lloyd Wright’s art-deco tribute to Mayan temple architecture, the Ennis House.

The Ennis House isn’t the only art-deco-inspired monument in Echo Park. The recently-renovated Lady of the Lake statue welcomes visitors to Echo Park Lake. Her official name is “Nuesta Reina de Los Angeles,” which translates to, “Our Queen of the Angels,” but locals tend to know her by her Arthurian nickname. In this post, we’ll tell you all about the history of this majestic sculpture.

Our story begins in 1934, when the Works Projects Administration, or WPA, commissioned a public statue for the city of Los Angeles. The WPA’s public arts division was designed to fund public projects by deserving artists who struggled to make ends meet during the depression – and also to assist in the creation of art works that would inspire everyday people. Many WPA mural and sculpture projects still survive. The WPA employed over 10,000 artists in total, including superstars like Diego Rivera and Willem de Kooning.

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Ada May Sharpless with the Lady of the Lake – Photo Credit: Lit250v.library.ucla.edu

Artist and sculptor Ada May Sharpless won the WPA commission for the Lady of the Lake, and she set out to create a monument that would capture both the history and unique cultural traditions of the Los Angeles area as well as a spirit of progress and modernity.

Ada May Sharpless grew up in Santa Ana, California, and developed an interest in painting and sculpture early on. She graduated from USC in 1922, and went on to study sculpture at the Otis Institute of Art and Design. She continued her exploration of form and design in Paris, where she studied with influential art deco sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. Sharpless created several other public sculptures in the Southern California area, including a full-length stone sculpture of explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo for her hometown of Santa Ana.

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Photo Credit: Kcet.org

Sharpless’ work, like that of other art deco sculptors, is characterized by clean lines and stylized forms. Their work also called back to ancient sculpture traditions that emphasized the human form, including statues of Greek athletes and bas-relief friezes on Egyptian temples. Her “Queen of the Angels” was meant to synthesize these diverse influences into a seamless whole, a sculpture that was monumental, accessible, familiar, and innovative all at the same time.

The Lady of the Lake was installed in 1935, but the statue fell into neglect along with the park. Fingers broken, covered with graffiti, she was placed in storage in 1986, but restored in the late 1990s and returned to a renewed Echo Park Lake. Today the regal statue gazes down on visitors as they approach the park from the peninsula, with the water providing a dramatic backdrop. If you’d like to visit Echo Park’s own guardian naiad, you can find her welcoming visitors at the north end of the park.

Real Estate Unlimited is a real-estate company dedicated to representing clients in Echo Park and other historic neighborhoods throughout the Los Angeles area. We pride ourselves on our in-depth knowledge of the Los Angeles area, and we’re glad to give our clients the benefit of our local expertise. Call us to schedule a consultation today!

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