"Moontalk by a poet who has not been to the moon is likely to be dull." Mark Twain

Well, Kiddies, time to wrap up
Small Works Folk Art Week.
I hope you've enjoyed getting to know a few of the artists who have helped pull me along in my journey. It seems to me that we'll have to indulge in a folk art week again soon, because I have so many friends to share (and selfishly speaking, it has given me great pleasure to be reunited with them).

Do you ever get the feeling that you've never really done anything of much consequence? I do. If I had just written "Phantom of the Opera," for instance, or been the costume designer for a "Cirque du Soleil" performance, I think I could go to bed happy at night.

Today I thought we'd visit one of what those in the business call a "Folk Art Environment." Usually these environments make me feel tired to look at . . .

Watts Towers

(this could be why I've never really done anything of consequence)

Detail, Watts Towers

But isn't it amazing and wonderful to contemplate the drive to create that would result in a folk-art-transformation of an entire place?

A folk-art-destination?

It seems to me that this kind of work requires not only tremendous vision, but a consuming desire to share that vision with as many people as possible. This isn't something that all artists seem to possess -- many folk artists amass piles of work in their barns, basements and attics which are only discovered by accident or after the artist is gone.

Simon Rodia (1875 - 1965, California) said: "I had it in my mind to do something big and I did."

Simon Rodia was the creator of the Watts Towers, the most famous folk art environment in the country. Although he held construction jobs on and off, his principal occupation was working on the soaring towers that slowly rose on his land. (The tallest is almost 100 feet high.) He averaged eight hours of work on them every day between 1921 - 1954. Then one day he deeded the property to a neighbor for the price of a bus ticket, saying "I don't want to have anymore to do with them." When he died, he lived about 500 miles away. He did not revisit.

The city of Los Angeles tried to demolish the towers in 1959, but luckily they were saved and are now on the National Register of Historic Places.

I saw the towers as a child when visiting my dad (my dad actually worked in Watts for awhile -- not a nice neighborhood) but I don't really remember them, I just remember him pointing them out. I have more memories of the scary hamburger stand my brother and I ate lunch at every day. Regrettable, but true. (Anyone who knows me is not surprised by this. I both love cheeseburgers and am easily scared.) But let's just say that as a grown up, I would realize it was definitely not safe for two kids from Salt Lake City to walk to lunch there, no matter how tasty.

Today, like any sensible adult, I would instead take my camera and drive over to spend time soaking up the creative energy of the Watts Towers.

Simon, for a regular guy with no education, but with some cement, bottles, dishes, seashells, mirrors and steel rods . . .

you certainly did do something big.


april said...

love the title of this post. i had to go back and scroll to the first picture after seeing all the details. it's looks like an immense accomplishment. impressive.

and yes, please do folk art week again. this was fun. and i made a lot of new friends.

susan m hinckley said...

Thanks, April! It was fun for me so I will do it again (even though it was a little daunting doing a post every day for 5 days in a row! Lots of people seem to do that -- I don't know how) But now I'll go back to my normal sporadic ramblings for awhile and then, in about March when Minnesotans redefine March madness because winter is interminable, I'll do it again.

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