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A casino's junk is one man's work of art

24 July 2013

INDIO, California -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- Take the side stairway up to the second story, travel through locked double doors and down a back hallway and you will have arrived at the Fantasy Springs slot graveyard. Inside sit dusty, antiquated machines, a few just out of service but most beyond repair. There are wires and disconnected buttons, broken lights and ancient (in this day and age) computer parts.

“These pieces were slated for trash and now they have new life,” says Lou Crescenzo, Vice President of Casino Operations at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. “I have seen many years of constantly changing technology on the gaming floor; nowadays it happens fast and you have to keep up, but casino trash to artwork - it’s a first in my gaming career.”

The thousands of donated bits and pieces now sit in the yard of Palm Springs artist Kenny Irwin, who has been creating large form art displays for 20-plus years. Irwin is best known for his yearly ROBOLIGHTS Art and Light display in the city’s Movie Colony East neighborhood. It features thousands of energy-efficient mini-lights illuminating larger-than-life space aliens, robots and other futuristic creatures all created by Irwin.

“Several of us in the marketing department went to see Kenny’s creations when he opened up his home to the public last winter,” says Anndee Laskoe, Fantasy Springs Public Relations Manager. “When we saw the piles of old slot parts, wires and monitors sitting in a hallway near our office, we immediately thought Kenny could turn this stuff into a spectacular robot city.”

No doubt, that’s what Irwin is doing; many of the parts have already been added to a huge piece he calls “Santa’s Casino Stealth Bull.” It is slated to be part of a major art installation at the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) in Baltimore Maryland in the fall.

Irwin says that at the helm of the fantastic beast will be a life-size microwaved, cyborg Santa, who will be piloting nine ferocious toilet-bowl Robodeer. Much of his latest creation is made from slot machine parts donated by Fantasy Springs. Irwin continues, “This thing could survive a full-scale alien invasion as they make those slot machines from titanium steel.”

The donation was made possible with the help of Kenny’s neighbor Tim Sigle, who with his pick-up truck made four separate trips to Fantasy Springs to sort through the piles and pick out the treasures. “Kenny’s art makes people realize that things they thought were trash can have a new life and be reused for a second purpose. Much of his art has an eco lesson behind its look.“

And Irwin is beyond appreciative as he points out every little piece of junk will soon have another life and purpose. “The junk I receive is the food that feeds the unending appetite of my art. All of this recycled stuff is going to enable more robots to be born.”

The AVAM installation featuring Irwin’s work will open to the public in October. There will be two feature showings of his art - in one gallery, his BIC ballpoint pen drawings and in another, a miniaturized version of ROBOLIGHTS, including various robotic and extraterrestrial figures, a life-size flying saucer with a spinning carousel and LED color-changing portals. Irwin’s creations will be on exhibit for one year.

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