Simon Rodia’s Watts Tower

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The Watts Towers, located in California, were designed and constructed by Simon Rodia. The towers consist of seventeen sculptures, including three towers, with the tallest standing at nearly 100 feet. Other noteworthy sculptures include a gazebo and a ship. The most impressive thing about the towers is that Rodia built them entirely by himself from 1921 to 1954.

The towers were constructed using steel rebar armatures, mortar, and wire mesh. No scaffolding or machinery was used to build the towers, although Rodia occasionally used a window washer’s belt and buckle. He decorated the structures in mosaics of broken pottery, glass, shells, and other discarded objects.

Rodia was born as Sabato Rodia in 1879 in Ribottoli, Italy. It is possible that he visited the nearby village of Nola to attend the annual Gigli Festival where he would have encountered the Giglio structures (pictured below). These structures may have served as direct inspiration for his creation later on.

Rodia came to America in the mid-1890s. In 1921, after a couple of unsuccessful relationships and various jobs, Rodia decided to start his artistic journey at 1761-1765 107th Street in the Watts community of Los Angeles. He worked as a construction worker during the day and dedicated all of his spare time to making his art. He decided to create “something big,” and he did exactly that.

In 1955, at the age of 75, Rodia decided to leave his grand project behind to go live in Martinez, California with family. He handed the keys over to a neighbor. In 1959, the Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts was formed to help preserve the site. After critics of the towers had questioned the safety of the structures, the site went through extensive safety testing and passed. This is a great accomplishment considering that Rodia was mainly self-taught. In 1990, the towers were listed as a National Historic Landmark, and presently the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department manages the park. Visitors can view Rodia’s amazing towers by attending a guided tour. Until then, here is a YouTube video (filmed by PC3DM) of a quadcopter flying over the Watts Towers.


Resources:
Giglio Festival: www.nyfolklore.org/pubs/voic31-1-2/giglio.html
Watts Tower Art Center: www.wattstowers.org
Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds

The Evocative Art of Harry Underwood

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Harry Underwood, Flame Vine of Florida. Pencil, latex paint, wood. 36″x 42″.

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Harry Underwood, The Pepsi Principle of Refreshment. Pencil, latex paint, wood. 3’x 4′.

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Harry Underwood, Sit. Pencil, latex paint, wood. 26″ x 26″.

Harry Underwood is one of my favorite painters. I first saw his work at the Outsider Art Fair in Chicago about ten years ago and immediately purchased a piece (which was a rare occurrence back then). It’s hanging above me as I write this.

Harry was born in Florida in 1969 and currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a self-taught artist who began painting in 2001 while working as a flooring installer. Harry dedicated his spare time to working on his art, and his persistence eventually paid off. His work is represented by several notable galleries and has been in shows in the United States, France, and England.

Harry’s paintings evoke a sense of nostalgia and are slightly surrealistic. They conjure up feelings of simplicity, summertime vacations, childhood memories, and a longing for another time or an imagined place. The nostalgia is enhanced by his use of beautifully subdued and expressive colors.

His process involves outlining his painting on plywood using a mechanical pencil and then filling it in with latex house paint. The pencil marks become part of the picture, adding an extra element to them. He also layers poems and words onto his paintings, and has referred to his work as “illustrated poetry.”

“And there’s no truer sound than a sound never found from the shy, the innocent, and the unknown.”

-Harry Underwood

Palais Idéal

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1024px-palais_ideal_du_facteur_cheval_14Ferdinand Cheval, the creator of Palais Idéal, was born in 1836 in Charmes-sur-l’herbasse, a village near Hauterives, France. He worked as a rural postman for most of his life.

In 1879, at the age of 43, Cheval stumbled over a rock during one of his mail delivery runs. Inspired by the rock’s unusual shape, Cheval began his dream of creating a palace. He worked on Palais Idéal for 33 years, and it took approximately 3,500 bags of lime to construct the palace. Read more…

Still Lifes of Holly Farrell

9-pumps-2014-holly-farrell2009-couch2013-bowl-lrHolly Farrell was born in 1961 in North Bay, Ontario. Farrell is self-taught and has been a full-time painter since 1995. She turned to art making as a hobby to de-stress from her work at a group home for teenagers experiencing developmental and psychological obstacles.

Farrell mainly works with oils and acrylics. Her use of color creates a calming effect. Her subjects, which are familiar everyday objects (including many vintage items), seem to be elevated to a higher level, conjuring up a peaceful feeling amongst the chaos of daily living. They are almost portrait-like, asking you to see their personalities.

Personally, I was drawn in by her work due to my photography interests. I often photograph objects that have been discarded or lost in hopes that their former beauty or meaningfulness in someone’s home can reveal itself again. I see some of that in Farrell’s work, too.

“When the objects started to take on a character of their own, I realized I was really painting portraits without any people in them.”

-Holly Farell
(From Garde Rail Gallery)


Image Credits (top to bottom): ©Holly Farell
Bowl, acrylic & oil on masonite, 12 x 16 inches.
Couch, 2009, acrylic & oil on masonite, 18 x 28.
Phone, 2016, acrylic & oil on masonite, 18 x 14 inches.

Merritt Wallace

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Today’s featured artist is Merrit Wallace. Wallace was born in Japan in 1963 and was an artist at the Creative Growth Center in California from 2005 to 2013. Creative Growth is a non-profit studio art center that supports the work of artists with disabilities. Wallace’s lively drawings begin as black and white lines and end up covered with bursts of spontaneous colors and movement.

In the below video, the artist describes his work and process:

CGAC Featured Artist: Merritt Wallace from Michael Hall on Vimeo.

The House of Dreams Museum

wright4wrightwright3Stephen Wright is an artist and designer from East Dulwich, an area of south London, England. About 31 years ago, he began transforming his house and garden into the House of Dreams Museum. He was inspired to create the museum after viewing Jarvis Cocker’s documentaries on outsider art, called Journeys into the Outside with Jarvis Cocker (which I highly recommend watching). His museum is full of elaborate mosaics and found object sculptures. It also serves as a shrine for his memories and a tribute to his deceased partner and parents. It was bequeathed to the National Trust and is open to the public. The visiting hours are listed on his website. 


Image Credits: Stephen Wright, www.stephenwrightartist.com

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Bee Habitats as Art

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Greg Corman is a landscape designer and artist living in Tuscon, Arizona. He creates his work from recycled or salvaged wood, found objects, and steel. The above images are examples of his bee habitat sculptures, which are functional forms of art. The sculptures have holes and tunnels drilled into them to provide bees with brood chambers for their babies. He states on his website that these functional artworks are nesting spaces for native pollinator bees and do not attract honey or killer bees.


Artwork Credit: © Greg Corman, cormanart.com

Toothpick Arts & Crafts for Kids

To go along with my recent post about toothpick art, I have found some fun projects for kids.  I love the idea of working with nontraditional art supplies that are either lying around the house or affordable to buy. Toothpicks are definitely easy to come across.  Loosely inspired by the work of artists Scott Weaver and Wayne Kusy, here are a few ideas I came across. (The project credit goes to the links under each photo.)

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Toothpick cacti from Mod Podge Rocks

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Toothpick Toadstools for a fairy garden from Magic Onions

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Cute hedgehog project from Crafts N Coffee

 

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Toothpick Artists

weaver-1weaver-4weaver-2Scott Weaver is a San Francisco-based artist who creates elaborately detailed artwork using only toothpicks and Elmer’s glue. Scott began creating toothpick art in 1968, at the age of 8. His most famous toothpick sculpture is called Rolling Through the Bay, a kinetic sculpture which was constructed using approximately 100,000 toothpicks over the course of 37 years. Scott estimates that it took over 3,000 hours of his time to create the sculpture. The sculpture is 9 feet tall and 7 feet wide.

Wayne Kusy of Chicago is another incredible toothpick artist. I had the honor of meeting him several years ago and helping him with a toothpick art workshop at a Chicago gallery.

Wayne was inspired to start building with toothpicks in fifth grade after completing a school project using his chosen medium. Wayne started small and eventually worked his way up to building toothpick versions of ocean liner models, ranging in length from 4 feet to 25 feet. His largest toothpick sculpture is the 25 foot Queen Mary, which was made using 814,000 toothpicks and 19 gallons of Titebond II.

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Image/Video Credits:
Scott Weaver, Rolling Through the Bay via Tinkering Studio ©
Scott Weaver’s Rolling through the Bay from The Tinkering Studio on Vimeo
Wayne Kusy, Work in progress, via Intuit the Center for Intuitive & Outsider Art
Wayne Kusy, Cutty Sark via Detour Art.

Michelle Stitzlein’s Butterflies & Moths

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moth6webMichelle Stitzlein is an artist from Ohio who works with found and recycled objects. She uses unexpected materials to create her artwork, such as bottle caps, garden hoses, shards of china, old piano keys, and license plates. She has a great sense of color and design and knows how to transform the discarded items into intricate details that make her work come alive. Her butterfly and moth series is striking.

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Michelle is also the author of two art books for children, Bottlecap Little Bottle Cap and Cool Caps! Her website has several great examples of bottle cap art projects.