Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

STYLE : DESIGN : Palace of the People

June 16, 1991|TIM STREET-PORTER

When designer Tony Duquette and his assistant, Hutton Wilkinson, first glimpsed St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Baldwin Park, it was a sterile, barn-like building. Wilkinson described the 1940s structure as a "concrete bunker, all gray and Naughahyde" and dubbed it "Mussolini Modern." There was nothing of the richness or ceremony of churches in Mexico and the Philippines, the homelands of many of the parishioners. But Father Peter Nugent, then St. John's pastor, had seen Duquette's work and asked the Tony-winning artist (he designed "Camelot") if he could improve the church. Duquette gladly accepted, saying, "I am always trying to bring a sense of pageantry to people's lives."

Using a warm coral and gold palette, just as he had for the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion auditorium, Duquette made the story of St. John his decorative theme. The tapestries and altar cloth, inspired by St. John's wanderings in the desert, were made from shreds of wool and burlap stitched to hessian netting. For the chandeliers, Duquette shaped the arms to resemble water from the fountain of the baptism splashing heavenward.

Duquette also decorated two side chapels--one for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a favorite saint of the Filipinos, and another for Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. Volunteers from the congregation painted the walls coral and the ceiling gold and refinished the pews.

Finished in 1983 but never photographed for publication until now, the church joins a select group of religious interiors created by artists, including the Matisse Chapel in France and Luis Barragan's convent and chapel in Mexico. It is one of the most poetic of L.A.'s ecclesiastical interiors, and, in Duquette's words, "a palace of the people."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|