Saddened by the death of Simon (Sam) Rodia, the builder of the Watts Towers, J.J. Beljon dedicated his sculpture to the creator of this Los Angeles landmark. Homage to Sam Rodia was the largest work in the 1965 Long Beach International Sculpture Symposium, comprising of 19 cast concrete components which extended 130 feet on the site. About 260 tons of cement was poured into intricately constructed wooden forms, made by 11 union carpenters, to produce the sculpture. This piece also has a tribute to Rodia on the back of one of the massive pieces, lettered and ornamented in Rodia’s style.
J.E. Amrhein, structural engineer with Portland Cement Association in Los Angeles, served as the consultant who supervised the project. Amrhein became a lifelong student of art history, based on his experience designing and constructing this work. When asked about the work, Beljon stated, “Rodia, an Italian immigrant, built the towers as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to this country. I, too am grateful to America for her great ideas and with my work in this symposium say ‘thank you,’ too.”
J. J. Beljon, author, industrial designer, typography designer and educator, was Director of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague in the Netherlands at the time of the symposium. Beljon was an environmental artist and worked extensively with the architects of projects commissioned by the Government Buildings Agency. In addition to CSULB, his works are carried throughout different countries (e.g. Tertulia De Los Gigantes (1968) in Mexico City, Mexico). In 1998 he received the Wilhelmina-ring, which is the Dutch oeuvre prize for sculpture, after which he was commissioned a sculpture in Sprengenstein Park, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands.