By Phil Marty, Special to Tribune Newspapers
7:59 PM EST, March 5, 2013
LOS ANGELES — Sometimes you see something, and you can't help but smile.
And, so I'm grinning as I turn in a circle, first seeing a concrete wall studded with perfect green circles of glass. Then, another wall — this one embedded with shards of dinner plates and cups — bright yellow, pale yellow, alabaster, cobalt blue, rusty red.
Concrete-covered rods the thickness of my wrist crisscross overhead, and they also sparkle in the sun, encrusted as they are with more glass gewgaws.
Rising above it all are the towers. One stretches nearly 100 feet toward the sky, and you could get lost trying to take in all of the intertwining rods that form the tapering, circular swirl. They're also covered in all the colors of the rainbow.
These are the Watts Towers, the work of Simon Rodia, an eccentric Italian immigrant who spent most of his waking hours from 1921 to the mid-1950s creating them. When he wasn't at his day job, Rodia, who also went by the name Sam, was taking the castoffs of the world around him — rebar, broken bottles and tiles, even seashells — and turning them into 17 structures that filled his yard with a magical riot of color.
Some called them an eyesore, and some wanted to tear them down. But they survive on a quiet, dead-end street in the Watts section of the city's south side. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 19 miles to the northwest and a world away, on its website calls the Watts Towers "one of the most widely recognized works of art to come out of Southern California in the last century."
Said Rodia, who died in 1965, "I had it in mind to do something big, and I did it."
Well done, Sam.
Watts Towers is at 1765 E. 107th St. Though you can view some of the towers from outside, you have to take a tour for full access. 213-847-4646, wattstowers.org, wattstowers.us
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