Randy Hage is an artist who works to sculpt miniscule versions of established storefronts from years passed. Randy’s keen eye for detail and texture pushes his sculptures to look as they were merely photographed by a passer by. The hard work and countless hours spent on the minute carving, cutting, and construction can be seen in Randy’s pieces even to the smallest details within a commonplace trashcan. In addition to building his antiquated facades, Randy also adds another level of preservation to these endearing institutions by photographing them to embrace their glory. When asked about his process and his past work in Hollywood film magic, Randy had this to say:
I never had the pleasure of viewing your sculptures in person. Nevertheless, when I view the photography taken of these facades, I am in complete awe of your work. The first thing that comes to mind is, “How did he get all the minute details like the aged and dilapidated posters, flyers, and graffiti done perfectly?” Are there any “behind-the-scene” secrets you can talk about to give us a better understanding of your practice? When I find a storefront in New York that I feel will make a good subject for my miniature sculptures, I shoot hundreds of photographs of it for reference. I try to capture every detail and that includes any posters, signs, and graffiti. Adding posters to my work is fairly easy. I reduce the size in Photoshop and then print on the appropriate sheen paper. I cut the poster out, and to get closer to the proper scale thickness of the real poster, I carefully split the paper with a craft knife and peel the top layer off. Glue it in place, maybe curl the edges, and weather it as needed. The graffiti is much more complicated. In some cases, I create hand-cut stencils for the different colors and layers and then spray paint the graffiti. Other times, I use paint pens or an airbrush to recreate the graffiti by hand. I even make miniature trash, newspapers, and cigarette butts.
I read that you have done past work in television and film. Since childhood, I have been mesmerized by the kind of artistry you posses. Are you still working within that industry? What are some of the most touching structures you have created in Hollywood that still resonate with you today? Right now I’m not doing any industry work. I’m focusing all of my efforts on my art. For over 25 years, I worked as a freelance prop and model maker for television and film. During that time I was able to work with almost every major studio and network. I also fabricated products for commercials, museums, and trade show exhibits. I taught prop fabrication at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, (FIDM). There really isn’t a stand out structure or item. Much of the work that I did was burned or blown up for effects…a lot of background structures and odd props. I never had an emotional connection to the work like I do now. There is such an iconic, recognizable, and meaningful element to my recent work. It’s a whole different way of life when you are following your own path and dreams as opposed to doing commissioned pieces.
You will be exhibiting your third solo show at Flower Pepper Gallery on October 10th in Pasadena, California. Your new collection of works that will be on exhibit has an emphasis on “mom and pop” shops that have become important landmarks in distinctive communities. What is it about these quaint storefronts that you find the need to immortalize? I originally went to New York in the late ‘90s to photograph the SoHo cast iron buildings for some miniature projects I was working on. On the street level of these building were the storefronts. I loved the hand painted signs, the colors, and the decay. At that point, I decided these “Mom & Pop” storefronts would make a great subject for my venture into the fine art world. I began to make multiple trips each year to photograph the different storefronts and strangely many of these stores, some that had been in business for over 50 years, were closing up, replaced by Starbuck’s, Chase Banks, and chain stores. The driving force of this change was urban renewal and gentrification. And it wasn’t just affecting the stores, it was displacing people in the community and changing the diversity that made the neighborhoods so unique. This change was incredibly rapid and my project quickly became more of a documentary of the storefronts. In New York, the neighborhood is your backyard and the people who run the shops become a part of your family. Generations of families have come to love and rely on these small businesses and when they disappear, it’s a heart-felt loss. Over the past 15+ years, I’ve photographed about 600 storefronts. More than half of those have moved or have gone out of business. I like to think that my work honors and, in a way, preserves these much-loved New York storefronts.
Randy has previously exhibited with Thinkspace Gallery and will now present his third solo show at Flower Pepper Gallery in Pasadena, California on Saturday, October 2, 2015. Randy resides in Los Angeles where he continues to work diligently on his quest for preserving spaces in which people have been so keen to forget. If you would like to view more of Randy’s work or contact him for future opportunities, you may do so by visiting his website.