Image of the Week: Stained Glass at Laurel Canyon

Stained Glass at the Laurel Canyon branch
Stained glass at the Laurel Canyon branch

I have been providing an initial tour through all the media of the Sheets Studio artwork, and today we have arrived at stained glass. These can be some of the hardest images to photograph — even before we consider the banks’ restrictions on taking images only from the outside.

Millard Sheets and Susan Hertel were the primary designers of the images, and, in the case of stained glass, all the fabrication was done offsite; Denis O’Connor created the mosaics, working from gouaches and inverted cartoons and cans and cans of tiles. That was about all the labor they could handle in-house. Update: Brian recalled that the Pasadena stained glass firm was John Wallis Stained Glass, still active as John Wallis & Associates in Sierra Madre. Rufus Turner also indicates that Judson Stained Glass did commissions as well. Carnevale and Lohr, the Bell Gardens, Ca., firm recently involved in restoring the Rancho Palos Verdes mosaic working mostly in the iconic granite and travertine of these banks.

Both Hertel and Sheets had a lifelong love of horses, and here is yet another image where it shows: horses at the corral, young men and women out for a ride, and children being pulled toward fun by a woman at the reins. Other animals join in the fun — lots of dogs, and a few cats — and the bright, contrasting colors accentuate the theme of fun.

As I mentioned last week, these artworks could do a lot to set a happy mood in the bank — and of course the use of stained glass suggests the sense of awe inspired by walking into a darkened cathedral. The 1960s also saw the interest in Color Field painting, watching how one bright color would play off another; I see influences of that style and interest here, with the green moon, purple dog, bright green reins, and dappled blue- and orange-and-white horses.

These are commercial products — artwork sold to banks, that helped the banks’ bottom line — but they are also exemplary period pieces, valuable artworks from the time, which, as I have mentioned elsewhere, also tend to tell a story of California history. One hopes that JP Morgan Chase, as their current steward, understands the power and significance of these artistic bank assets.

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