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"Watts Towers Triptych." Original 3 Image Set Revealing the Essence of Simon Rodia's "Folk" Art.

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Entitled "Watts Towers Triptych." This photographic print utilizes three of the essential images captured by Ron Sterling on 35mm B&W film in August 1972 during the 6th Annual Watts Summer Festival and just before the legendary WattStax** concert held at the Coliseum in Los Angeles as the finale to the Summer Festival.

The artist, Simon Rodia, spent 30 years (1925 to 1955) building and sculpting his complex set of 17 separate pieces on a residential lot in the community of Watts. Two of the towers rise to a height of 100 feet. The sculptures are constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar, and embedded with found items of porcelain, tile, shells, and glass.

His intuition guided him, and his energy to "make something big" was unstoppable and inspirational. The Towers were adopted by the community of Watts as a symbol of hope, transformation, and fulfillment long before the Watts Rebellion of 1965, and have continued to stay close to the community's soul. The Watts Summer Festival began a year after the rebellion and continues to this day in the second week of August.

Each image in the triptych carries a title that the photographer felt was the essence of the image and what drew him to favor that particular composition. The first image is called "Aspirations" and, seen from the inside of a lower network structure, the towers appear to represent escape from a web.

"Ascension." The middle image was composed to reflect in many ways, the structure of the towers, but animated and allowing the rider, for a few moments, to actually rise above the usual landscape of life, and not to just imagine it.

The third image in the triptych is entitled "The Ankh Within." I am sure Mr. Rodia had no idea that the support and connecting rods between two of the tall towers were formed in the shape of an 'ankh.' And, in a sense, his deeper self, or intuitive being, formed a connection to a long-standing symbol that is known as breath of life, the key of the Nile or crux ansata (Latin meaning "cross with a handle"). It is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic character that meant "life." It is often interpreted to mean eternal life.

Egyptian gods were often portrayed carrying it by its loop, or bearing one in each hand, arms crossed over their chest. It is also widely used as a symbol of early religious pluralism: all sects believed in a common story of eternal life, and this is the literal meaning of the symbol. The New Age mysticism movement in the 1960s utilized the Ankh to symbolize the same tolerance of diversity of belief and common ethics as it did in Ancient Egypt.

** WattStax is often referred to as the Black Woodstock. A documentary of the concert exists in two different versions. I recommend the version that includes Richard Pryor doing commentary about every 10 minutes that is classic and very smart Richard at his best. The "Stax" part of WattStax refers to what then was one of the best black recording studios of that time, rivaling Motown. The artists appearing at WattStax included The Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Albert King, Luther Ingram and Isaac Hayes. In those days, the Coliseum could seat over 100,000 and WattStax kept it at standing room only for the entire 12 hours of music (112,000).