I think the first time I saw a picture and an explanation of Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers was in an old Kansas Grassroots Art Association newsletter. That was sometime in the early 80s. Today, thanks to this silly show, I finally got to go there. Wasn’t disappointed either, although Mike did say when we first came around the corner that it was smaller than he’d expected. Maybe...but the detail work with all that colorful tile and crockery is way more fabulous!
Our guide was Zuylema Aguirre, the lady in charge of conservation, who pointed out the ladders Simon cleverly built into the spires to make construction easier, and his various barbecue pits and ground level decorations that often get overlooked. And yes, she say, he really did bury his old Hudson out back to fool the cops who wanted to speak with him about certain traffic indiscretions!
There’s an Arts Center onsite too, which furthers the notion that the towers still enrich the community--a place where kids can escape some of the harsh realities of life in these parts and fuel their imaginations.
And learn to recycle too--which takes us to today’s other main mission--finding the self-proclaimed 10th Wonder of the World. In case you didn’t know, it’s on 62nd St in south LA, at Lew & Diane Harris’ house. Or should I say it obscures, covers and dominates their house.
Lew was a truck driver, which gave him a chance to see just how much stuff industries around the city threw away. So for the last twenty five years, he and his sister have been hauling metal fans, turbines, pipe and more back to their yard as raw materials to make sculptures with.
“One piece at a time” he says. He’s even come up with his own kind of plastic--Lewcite, naturally. Diane and Lew sit out front 24/7 and wave to passersby, who can’t help but be amazed. In fact, one woman asked if it was OK to get out and look. When told that it was, she jumped out of the car, left it in the middle of the street, and proceeded to squeal her approval. Just another day at Harris Sculpture.
The rest of our time was spent gawking around Hollywood like the Midwesterners we are, and crawling in traffic, being glad we’re really the Midwesterners that we are. Oh, and a lady bus driver was very hostile at me, but I’ve already forgiven her...
Music in the van--”Celluloid Heroes” The Kinks