Tag Archives: visionary art environment

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

Jardin de Rosa Mir

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Jardin de Rosa Mir was created by Jules Senis (1913-1983). Senis was a mason who specialized in tiling. Originally from Spain, Senis headed to France in 1947 to escape from the Spanish Civil War. He and his family made a home in La Croix-Rousse, the 4th arrondissement of Lyon, France.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Senis promised that if he recovered, he would design a beautiful garden in honor of his mother, Rosa Mir Mercader. He kept his vow and began work on the garden in 1957. Senis continued to work on it for another twenty years. The space for the garden was only 400 square meters, but this did not discourage Senis from finding a way to fill it up with plants and flowers. He built parts of the garden upwards by making several tall pillars with connected arches. The structures are intricately embellished with shells and stones.

The garden is now a historical site, and it is taken care of by the City of Lyon. Visitors can view the garden on Saturdays during the summer.


Website: http://rosa.mir.free.fr/
Photo Credit: Alain BERODIER via Flickr. Copyright: Creative Commons