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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Watts Towers

So I got it in my head to visit the Watts Towers.

I had heard about these things when growing up and I think I saw Huell Howser visit them on one of his creepy, but infectious shows.


The sculptures' armatures are constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar. The main supports are embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile and glass. They are decorated with found objects: bed frames, bottles, ceramic tile, scrap metal and sea shells. Rodia called the towers "Nuestro Pueblo," meaning "our town." Rodia built them with no special equipment or a design, working alone with hand tools and window-washer's equipment. Neighborhood children brought pieces of broken glass and pottery to Rodia in hopes they would be added to the project, but the majority of Rodia's material consisted of damaged pieces from the Malibu Pottery, where he worked for many years. Green glass includes recognizable soft drink bottles, some still bearing the logos of 7 Up, Squirt, Bubble-Up, and Canada Dry; blue glass appears to be from milk of magnesia bottles.

Watts is in what is known now as South LA, and formerly called South Central. I actually had to drive on S. Central to get the towers.

It's a rough neighborhood. A lot of beat up cars and ramshackle A-Team vans for sale on the side of the road. The train tracks are a stone's throw and there are no automatic gates to warn cars. Just an almost constant train horn.

In the distance I heard an Ice Cream truck.

The towers themselves are pretty funky. Reaching skyward, caged for their protection against the city that houses it. It's odd to walk around one of the few folk art projects listed on the National Register of Historic Places and not be allowed to interact with it.

Paraphrasing Tom Leher, "The problem with folk art is that it's for the people."

There was another group looking at the towers when I arrived. They looked German and disappointed. I want to talk to them, but they seemed scared of being shook down and I didn't know quite what to say to them.

There were some cool murals around there, especially the anti-smoking one (it's where the skulls are from).


At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I've seen those things in the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. They were in the Los Santos city ( Los Angeles) They are just as ugly in real life as they are in the game.


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