On a Saturday morning, Randy Lawrence is in the front yard of his home in Echo Park, wearing what appears to be a pair of homemade pajamas.
"Oh, I design my own clothes," he explains.
Rising in front of him is his massive, 50-foot-wide sculpture of the Lady of Guadalupe, a panorama of steel and wire soaring more than 30 feet high and containing more than 1.000 suspended glass bottles filled with colored water. Randy says his landmark sculpture is best viewed at 9 a.m., when the sun peeks out from behind the hills, causing each of the hundreds of convex-shaped carafes and vials and flagons to glow like incandescent light bulbs.
"The idea is to make mosaics where the basic elements are not a glass tile or ceramic tile — but the sky itself," says Randy, excitedly.
He has a kind of manic energy, especially when explaining his unique design, how the bottles act as convex lenses, transmitting upside-down images of the background and the sun's orb.
A U.S. Army brat from Staten Island, formerly a reporter for the Long Beach Press-Telegram ("They put me on the bereavement beat. In those days you could write in a more flamboyant manner") the 58-year-old Lawrence says he now works as a set builder on the Universal Studios lot, on films and TV shows like The Voice.
But his ever-evolving sculpture, which sits in front of his ramshackle bungalow and looms over the street below, is his passion and obsession.
So why the Lady of Guadalupe? "She’s the symbol of Mexico, the patron saint of the Americas, and she’s a ubiquitous symbol in Los Angeles," he says. "It ties in with L.A. being named after the Queen of Angels. I figured it would honor her and the city."
He considers the piece unfinished. "The head of a pagan goddess is gonna go over there." Why? "So nobody will feel left out!"
His dream is to build a half-mile-long bottle-and-steel sculpture, maybe somewhere in the Mediterranean, that the sun would light up at dawn and dusk.
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The inside of his house is just as unfinished as the sculpture, with walls knocked down and half-rebuilt, as if he can't help himself.
"I gotta clean up," he says. "That's my project for the week."