Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Watt A Work Of Art - Part One

So last week I showed you several of the places we visited while in Los Angeles. We saw some fantastic sites, drove from ocean to mountaintop, cruised Mullholland Drive, and hit the corner of Hollywood and Vine in the heart of Tinseltown.

But by far the thing I saw which I liked the most, which impacted me the most, were the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia in the Watts sections of Los Angeles.

The following text is from the placards that lined the site of the Watts Towers, explaining the goal of this Italian immigrant who created such an amazing piece of art. Since this is quite a large amount of information, I will complete it in three parts; this of course, is the first.

Unconventional Life, Unconventional Art 
Simon Rodia
has been referred to as a visionary and a man of great passion. A self-taught laborer from Italy, he had a singular goal in life:
“I had in my mind I’m gonna do something, something big.”
He made his living as a cement worker and tile setter on construction jobs by day. He began his towers in 1921, working by himself on evenings, weekends and holidays for the next 34 years.
Tile Setter: A person skilled in precisely, and quickly, placing decorative tiles in wet mortar.

When Rodia stopped work on the Towers in 1954, he named them Nuestro Pueblo, Italian for “Our Town.” This phrase is spelled out in glass pieces and was also scribed directly into the mortar.
A native of Ribottoli, Italy, “Sabato” Rodia was born on February 12, 1879, into a farming family. It’s likely they visited the nearby village of Nola, where he would have witnessed a unique celebration called the Gigli Festival, held there since the late Middle Ages. The Gigli Festival is an annual religious festival held in Nola, Italy, historically celebrating the return of a well-loved bishop after his travels.

Organized by craft guilds, the festival featured a procession of tall, pointed towers made of wooden rings covered with paper and carried through the town on the shoulders of the village men. The Watts Towers resemble the icons used in the festival so closely that they are considered the likely inspiration for his work.

Why did Rodia build a boat? A stylized boat in included in the Gigli Festival, representing the one that brought the bishop back to his people.
A Difficult Dream to Capture
At age 15, Simon was sent to Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines with his brother. When his brother died in a mining accident, he left to find work as a traveling construction worker.

At age 23, he settled in Seattle, Washington, and married Luccia Ucci with whom he had three children. In 1905 Rodia moved his family to Oakland, California, where he made a comfortable living and saved enough money to bring his sister and her family from Pennsylvania, settling them in nearby Martinez.In 1912, Rodia’s marriage collapsed. He divorced his wife and left his family, never to make contact with them again. He began a new life as a roving day laborer that lasted until 1921 when he bought a house on a triangle-shaped lot in the working-class neighborhood of Watts. At the age of 42, Simon Rodia began building the structures that evolved into his towers.

My note: You'll notice the small triangular lot in the photo above. In this shot below, you'll see that I photographed it from the very end of the triangle, looking down both sides of the structure. The left side of the structure was adorned with all his work, but the back side, which was also decorated, was destroyed by kids in the neighborhood throwing rocks at the glass and pottery pieces and they walked to school and destroyed everything. He decided eventually just to leave that side bare.)

Back side of structure:

See the rest of the Watts Towers visit here:

Part Two

Part Three

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Salena Javier Barcelona
Road To Bangor
Horton Hatches A Plaza
Crack Whores For Everyone!


all things bradbury said...

isn't this something!!!...i had never heard of this before.....all of that intricate and painstaking workmanship and the inspirations behind it!!....thanks for sharing!...i am really enjoying my...ummm...your, visit to los angeles!!

Anonymous said...

Im loving all of this culture that you are posting. Nice to get OUT of the truck for a while and find some real life again, huh? I want to go to LA now and explore...Ive only ever been in a truck.

Gil said...

This is the work of a pure genius! Nola is near Sarno where my grandfather was born. I remember this as on our first trip to Italy I got a flat tire in Nola!!!