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© Copyright Alberto Garcia Alvarez 2005
St Louis Bertram Church, Oakland, California, 1962-63.
The architect Richard Schubert, from Oakland, California, asked me to meet him in his office. That was November 1962. He had just finished building the church of St. Louis Bertrand and commented, ‘from the inside it looks like a factory’. He said, ‘see what you can do, but whatever it is it has to be completed by March’, four months ahead!
In two weeks I came back to him with a plan to make stained glass windows all around the church; paint ‘al fresco’ the fourteen stations of the cross; make two large sculptures cast in concrete and a baptismal font carved in Carrara marble. Schubert told me to go ahead with it all.
I started to work without delay. I went to Los Gatos, the closest stained glass workshop to San Jose where I had my studio, with my project for the windows. These were: a façade window measuring some 80 sq. m., 16 lanced windows measuring over 60 sq. m., a Baptismal window of 4 sq. m., and 4 smaller windows for a chapel. The director of the workshop, an Irishman with a very traditional approach to glass windows, said that he would not have anything to do with it but he would put one of his craftsmen to help me do the work while the rest of the teem had vacations. I painted black scribbles on thousands of rectangular pieces of cathedral glass, which were fired twice and leaded, framed with metal and installed in the church.
While the installation was taking place I started painting the stations of the cross, which cartoons I had been developing during the evenings. The painting was done directly on wet mortar of sand and lime as is proper for the fresco technique.
Meanwhile I had sent to Pietrasanta, Italy, a 3-D model of the baptismal font to be reproduced in Carrara marble, which arrived to the church in time for the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony was in the late afternoon while the sun was setting, and all the windows, which were made in various tones of gold colour, were dramatically brilliant giving a magical glow and ‘punto’ to the organ and choral singing taking place at the time. Afterwards, the comments of priests, nons and the community in general were of satisfaction and approval.
Unfortunately this was not the end of the experience concerning that commission. (More...)