Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles (Queen of the Angels) / Lady of the Lake
Over the eastern edge of Echo Park stands the concrete Queen of the Angels, Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles. Known endearingly among the locals as the Lady of the Lake, this statue was first created by Ada May Sharpless in 1934 as a commission from the Federal Works Progress Administration. Though it was meant to be cast in bronze, concrete was deemed more cost effective in a time ravaged by the Great Depression. Once completed, the statue was gifted to the city of Los Angeles in 1935.
Backstory and Context
Despite the weight of the Depression, Ada continued to work tirelessly on her art without reward or compensation, much like many other struggling artists in Los Angeles at the time. Many among the art scene at the time believed these artists to be untalented and uninspired. Los Angeles Times art critic, Arthur Miller was especially critical of women artists at the time, claiming the space was taken up by "art associations, women's clubs, and endless abortive talks, teas, and schemes." With little money coming in, there were not enough resources going around.
When Hoover left office, there came the first breath of hope:
When Roosevelt took office in 1933, the Federal government quickly began to implement his promise of "a new deal," focusing on the three R's: relief, recovery, and reform. Edward Bruce, a powerful banker and amateur painter, believed relief should extend to creative artists. With the full backing of the Roosevelt administration, and an extra nudge from the first lady, The Public Works of Art Project, called P.W.A.P, was funded for an initial two month period starting December 15, 1933.
Of the 600 artists that applied for the program - and of the 100 accepted - stood Ada. Through the program, artists were paid anywhere from $15 to $26.50 a week, and given few restrictions in their work. The idea was that these artists would create work that would be donated to public institutions such as schools and libraries. Ada's Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles was one such piece, standing at a tall, proud 14ft as the archetypal mother of the city.
The Lady of the Lake, as it came to be called, remained at Echo Park through the 1980s. Like many of the other art projects commissioned at the same time, it suffered the ravages of the passing decades and a city that only grew worse in regards to crime. Littered with graffiti, suffering from broken fingers, and plagued by erosion, the statue was put into storage in 1986. It would not be until 1999, during the ‘renaissance’ of Echo Park and the efforts to revitalize and restore the area that the Lady of the Lake would make her appearance once more. Not only had she been restored to her former glory, but this time she was covered in an anti-graffiti sealant.
Today she remains standing as a testament to the longevity, perseverance, and resilience of the human soul and creative mind.
Lady of the Lake. Historic Echo Park. Accessed November 30, 2017. http://historicechopark.org/history-landmarks/places-landmarks/lady-of-the-lake/.
Harrison, Scott. From the Archives: 'Lady of the Lake' statue. LA Times. October 11, 2017. Accessed November 30, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/visuals/photography/la-me-fw-archives-lady-of-the-lake-statue-20170816-story.html.