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Randlett King Lawrence (aka Randy and Randyland), Phantasma Gloria

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About the Artist/Site

Randy Lawrence, who graduated with a degree in economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been working on a giant Virgin of Guadalupe bottle fence in front of his Echo Park home since the year 2000. He calls the piece the Phantasma Gloria. While the Virgin of Guadalupe is commonly associated with Mexican Catholics, and Lawrence did have a Mexican grandmother, he comments that he is drawn to this image more due to the widespread visibility of her features around Los Angeles. He seems to regard this image in a more spiritual than specifically religious way.

Lawrence works for the movie industry, creating sets, props, and serving as construction foreperson for such films as Mulholland Drive, Blow, The Cable Guy, Drag Me to Hell, and the recent Decoding Annie Parker. Upon completion of each job, he is laid off, and happily returns to working on his home decoration.

Lawrence builds up the flexible façade, which as of my viewing measured roughly 24 feet high by 50 feet wide, by threading water-filled bottles on wire supports strung from rebar frames. Among his preferred materials are two-foot-tall glass vials from Poland, two-foot diameter goldfish bowls, Aqua Della Madonna bottles from Italy, and thin Ikea vases from China. As he explains it, each bottle functions as an asymmetrical convex lens, refracting the light. Consequently, as the light from the sun passes through the bottles, the imagery that one would see through the glass is reversed, and the viewer is treated to a shimmering and magical display of intense color, with upside-down images shining through each and every one of the 1000+ glass containers. The space between the bottles, and the distribution of stress across the wires and the rebar infrastructure, ensures that the structure remains flexible, able to withstand high winds and earthquakes.

Fronting the bottle façade at street level is a concrete retaining wall, painted in vivid colors with almost psychedelic representational and geometric images. At the left side, as viewed from the street, metal cut-outs of the head of the Virgin of Guadalupe with her blazing crown create shadows on the far side of the wall of the stairway beyond, which leads up to Lawrence’s home. The small yard between the house and the bottle fence is littered with boxes of bottles and tools of his construction, and functions as an outdoor studio.

While the primary, central image of the bottle façade is that of the Virgin with expansive blue wings, closer examination reveals a myriad of details, many figurative or iconic. There are dancing figures, faces, mouths pursed to kiss, hearts, a dolphin, and starfish, but also more abstract forms, such as spirals and crescents. On his Facebook page, the artist encourages his followers to share the forms they see in his work, and he revels in their delight and encouragement. “Instead of a brush stroke, I’m using the sun itself, the horizon itself, arranged to create images,” he says.

Lawrence has commented that the work was inspired by his reading about Francis Crick, one of the scientists who discovered the structure of DNA, and also those who study primate visual systems. He had purchased a cobalt blue glass bottle at the supermarket and placed it on his windowsill; looking at the bright spot in the center of the partially-filled bottle, he saw the sky and horizon upside-down, and the rest, as they say, is history. The bottle images are ever-changing, depending on the angle of view and the time of the day or night; the moon and streetlights provide as intense a viewing experience as does the rising or setting sun.

The Phantasma Gloria is viewable from the street, and, while currently adorning solely the Lemoyne Street frontage, Lawrence has plans to take it around other sides of his property. He is enthusiastic about showing and explaining his work to visitors, and welcomes their interest.

~Jo Farb Hernández

 



Map and site information

1646 Lemoyne Street
Los Angeles, California, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 34.083594 / -118.255695

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