Perspective manifests differently for everyone. For me, I love blasting music, eating pizza, and watching a west coast sunset. Perspective for Simon Rodia was obtained through creating art.
When I first arrived, I purchased my tour ticket from the Watts Towers Art Center that is directly adjacent to the towers. Tickets are $7. Watts Towers are a collection of seventeen interconnected sculptures created by Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant, who built this masterpiece over a span of 33 years. His success was attributed to his tile masonry skills and construction knowledge.
It is unfathomable to think that one man could build such an elaborate work of art that reached up to 99 feet tall. Rodia utilized steel rods wrapped by wire mesh and coated with concrete. Each wire was layered with porcelain, tile, and glass. When Rodia created his masterpiece, he was working at the Malibu Tile Company; he utilized damaged tiles and materials from work on his design. The refurbished tiles were combined with a number of other miscellaneous objects such as bottles, seashells, mirrors, figurines, plates, and pieces of broken pottery. The green glass bottles that adorned the art piece (pictured above) are soda bottles from the 1930s-1950s.
Like some of the best artists, Rodia used his passion and inspiration in the moment to guide his creation rather than a predetermined map or plan. Rodia named his masterpiece ‘Nuestro Pueblo‘ meaning our town. In 1955, upon completion of Nuestro Pueblo, Rodia gave the masterpiece to a neighbor and he moved away.
For many years there were controversies with the City of Los Angeles about the stability of the towers. In 1959, a committee was created, the Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts, to fight the city. The committee argued that the city should do an engineering test to determine if the towers would fall or not; if the towers didn’t fall, they could stay standing. The crane that was attached to the tower actually experienced mechanical failure during the test because the towers wouldn’t move. The committee continued to care for the towers until 1975 when they partnered with the City of Los Angeles, who partnered with the State of California in 1978.
This piece of art is now owned by the state of California and is managed by the city of Los Angeles. My tour guide was telling me how necessary it was to repair parts of the towers that had been corroded by weather and moisture. In 2010, LACMA partnered with the city to repair and restore parts of the corroded towers. LACMA has structural engineers and specialists working tirelessly to maintain the structures that Rodia built long ago.
The fact I find most fascinating is that the towers have never been vandalized, demonstrating its influence in the community of Watts. Be sure to visit Watts Towers to see the work of Simon Rodia! Check back next week for another Secret of SoCal.