“What makes Tony tick? Where do you get your inspiration? What stirs your soul?” These questions were asked by a close pal one night while having an in-depth discussion about spirituality and psychic intuition. My response may have been somewhat unexpected.
Like most, I draw inspiration from several sources, including people. While history books are filled with impressive names, I’ve sought out the less-celebrated, but, nonetheless, intriguing. One person high on my list is Simon Rodia, an Italian born in 1879, who immigrated to the United States at age 14. Later in life, Rodia constructed a 17-piece folk art structure located in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Now commonly known as the Watts Towers, Rodia’s vision took 33 years for him, with no assistance, to design and construct (sans drawing boards, bolts, scaffolding or welding, I might add).
It was August 2007 when I first visited the attraction that’s a little harder to find than, say Disneyland. I’d never been to Watts before, but was aware that the violent and historic 60s’ race riots had taken place there and that the area served as the locale for TV’s Sanford and Son. When my eyes initially made contact, jaws dropped. The Watts Towers, with two of the sculptures’ spires topping out at nearly 100 feet, were beyond impressive. A self-described poor man, Rodia used whatever he found – broken colored bottles, marbles, discarded plates, tile remnants – to mix with twisted metal and concrete to form his unique masterpiece.
Even after his labor of love (he embedded the heart symbol throughout the project) was finished, developers wanted, what they called, “the eyesore” demolished. Different organizations got involved to protect the jewel. After being jerked around between city and state governments, the Towers were finally named to the prestigious National Register of Historic Places, guaranteeing the diverse artwork would be enjoyed for generations to come. Patience, vision and talent were the combining forces that Rodia, who died in 1965, used to build a monument to the human spirit.
While not an immigrant, I relate to Rodia, as he was a man at mid-life who passionately followed his dream. He wanted to leave a positive mark on the world.
And, he did. And, so do I.
Love and light,