Thursday, August 24, 2017

Randyland: Not to Be Missed in Pittsburgh

My final post about Pittsburgh is a big one: it’s all about Randyland.

Long-time readers already know I've got a thing for the outsider artists known as environment-builders. They don’t consider themselves artists, generally, but just feel compelled to modify their environment, usually their home or yard.

Randy Gilson fits that model. He’s just the second environment-builder I’ve met, and the only one who was still in his prime at the time. I thought I had shot a video of him explaining his reasons, but… oops, it failed to record more than a few seconds. So here’s another visitor’s interview with him that captures a bit of what he said when I was there:

You can get an idea of his bio here.

Before there was Randyland, there was the Old Allegheny Garden Society, which Randy started in 1982 by buying old whiskey barrels to plant with flowers along Taylor Avenue in the Mexican War Streets area of Pittsburgh. Over time, the Society grew to 800 gardens in a relatively small area of the city.

Randy bought his brick house on the corner at auction for $10,000 in 1995. The informational sheet at Randyland quotes Randy as saying, “I’ve always been a punk. I love it! I’m not an artist, I’m a dreamer. Randyland is an incubator—little eggs that I’ve got in my head that I keep opening up.” He has a day job (as a waiter) and supports the place through donations and his wages and tips.

And now my many, many photos. I'm splitting them into a few categories: overview, painted surfaces, found objects, and gardens/plants.

The overview:

When Randyland is open, it's open. There's no admission and the donation box and items for sale are not monitored closely. I'm not sure if Randy owns the house on the left or not.

His house, which is the original building, is the yellow one on the right.

In the interior space of the yard, there's a two-level courtyard with lots of seating.

And a port-a-potty.

As you might expect at the most painted house in America, it's hard to find a surface at Randyland that's not painted:

This stylized map of Pittsburgh is along the sidewalk side of the yellow house. A somewhat stern face looks on from the telephone pole.

The Welcome Wall at Randyland... I gather that all or most of these are painted by people who have visited from the various countries or cities noted.

The painted fence is a major feature, with many musical figures.

A close up of those drums: these words are Randy's philosophy of life.

Randy's front door.

Even the newspaper box and trash can outside the property have been painted.

There's a lot of paint, but Randy (or someone helping him) is also serious about the gardens and plants:

There's a joke on these steps: Hen and chicks are planted in these chickens.

Found objects are the core of most of the material and assemblages at Randyland (including the paint!), but a few deserved special attention:

Two pigs along the sidewalk...

...old metal lawn chairs climbing the fire escape stairway...

...and a hugging robot right at the entrance.

The house across the street has gotten in on the act, too:


Past posts on environment builders:

Outsider artists in Sheboygan

Outsider art, 2012

Save the Wells Street Art Park

The Sculptures of Tom Every

Herman Rusch's Prairie Moon

Wouterina de Raad, environment builder

Dick and Jane's Spot, Ellensburg, Washington

The Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

Concrete Wisconsin

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