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Artist Has a Blast with Tower Panels

July 03, 1988

New York artist Patsy Norvell often works in clothes that resemble those of an astronaut or a worker in a nuclear power plant.

For a job that called for her to sandblast geometric designs and plant imagery on 3/4-inch-thick glass panels, she donned a helmet, protective clothing, welder's gloves and earplugs and went daily to Western Glass Co. in Maywood.

The panels were designed by Norvell in her SoHo studio in New York for the Home Savings of America Tower under construction at 7th and Figueroa streets in downtown Los Angeles.

"My work is very involved with the actual physical space," she said. "For the Home Savings Tower, I took my cues from the arches in the architecture of the building. Each window is covered with an arch, detailed with my concept of the leaf pattern in the Home Savings logo. The arches frame the major images--stylized traveler palms and split-leaf philodendrons--etched in glass to catch and hold the light."

The execution of the designs on the five 14-by-15-foot windows--each weighing about a ton--required Norvell to spend three months in the Los Angeles area. Like many New Yorkers, she gravitated to Santa Monica. She brought along her 3-year-old daughter, Amelia.

The panels were installed last week in the French Renaissance-style building designed by Albert C. Martin & Associates for Ahmanson Commercial Development Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Home Savings of America.

Norvell, whose work has been exhibited in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Lincoln Center in New York, Yale University Art Gallery and Vassar College, is known for her major works of fine art in etched glass.

Unlike superficial commercial glass etchings, Norvell's glass panels are spectacular architectural pieces in which intricately carved leaf and vine motifs blasted to a depth of inch create luminescent effects.

A graduate of Bennington College in Vermont, Norvell is one of the founding members of the A.I.R. Gallery, New York's first women's cooperative art gallery. She is married to artist Robert Zakanitch.

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