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Randy Hage Uses His Talents For Good
Posted by Irena Taylor on Oct 12, 2013 - 6:50:50 AM
Randy Hage's Workshop
LOS ANGELES—If you’re a long-time fan of “Gilmore Girls,” or watched the classic “
JurassicPark” films, you’ve seen the Artwork of Randy Hage. Admittedly, you were probably seeing his artworks being destroyed; but that’s only because of how you were viewing them. Randy Hage specializes in recreating miniature versions of mom and pop storefronts of
New York City. Though the California Native has a love for the Big Apple, it didn’t keep him from giving back to the people who needed it. At the turn of the century, Hage created the Rachel Ann Hage Neuro-oncology Fund at the Children’s Hospital in
Los Angeles in the memory of his daughter who fought against cancer for seven months. Canyon News reached out to Hage to ask him about his love for
New York, his fundraising for the Children’s Hospital and what he’ll be working on next.
The 51-year-old artist told Canyon News he loved
New York because, “The city is beautiful, alive with excitement and brimming with culture. Most importantly, the people are amazing. I think that in their situation, where they are forced to live and interact in close proximity to each other, that they have a tolerance and a sense of community that is admirable. The cultural diversity makes the city very interesting. More than that, it just feels like home to me. Things are right when I am there. It’s like when you fall in love, or eat your favorite food, or meet with a friend. Its home.”
The La Cañada Flintridge resident elaborated, “I love the city and its architecture and knew that I wanted to do a series of works inspired by
New York. It was the dramatic loss of “mom and pop” storefronts and the changes in the communities that really led me to hone in on the storefronts. The project went beyond the art as well. I began to study the communities, politics, cultures, and issues that were affected by the rampant gentrification/urban renewal. I tried to put myself into the shoes of those who lived there. In NY the stores, parks, buildings, museums, and theaters are an extension of their homes. The loss of a favorite restaurant or shop can be likened to losing part of your house. The feeling of loss that I witnessed by the locals when a store went out, was intense. I tried to imagine what it would be like to see the changes coming in the neighborhood. To know [those] infrastructure improvements, lower crime rates, and other benefits were coming, but that as a resident, I would not be able to enjoy [that] improvement due to increased rents. The owners of these storefronts knew their customers by name, lived in the area, [we’re] local activists. They were like part of the family to the locals. The diversity of the neighborhoods was changing as well and with that change, a loss of the cities soul.”
Hage elaborates on his concept of the “loss of soul” saying, “I have always been fascinated by the character and often overlooked beauty of old structures. In the late ‘90s, I was spending much of my time photographing the cast iron facades in the SoHo area of
New York as possible subjects for projects. I soon found that I was much more interested in the street level, mom-and-pop storefronts. Hand painted signs, layers of architecture, and wonderful patinas create a colorful mosaic which is amazing to me. Not only do they convey a wealth of visual interest and character, but there is also a social and community component which gives them a sort of soul.”
“As I continued to photograph these structures, it became clear that it was more than just an art project, it was becoming a documentary project as well. These neighborhood storefronts were closing at an alarming rate, falling victim to large scale redevelopment that was visibly exceeding the normal pace of neighborhood change. My storefront project reflects a love for these iconic structures as well as my passionate interest in the communities that they serve,” he added.
“Documenting these iconic
New York storefronts is my way of preserving the past and calling attention to the unique qualities that they possess. The loss of a local business is like losing part of what defines “home” in
New York. These shops are places that we rely upon and many of these shops have served area families for generations. While the loss of these businesses is indeed unfortunate, the greater concern is the parallel loss of the established and diverse communities that they serve. Urban renewal and gentrification introduce chain stores and residential developments to an area that replace mom-and-pop operations. Housing costs increase, which forces long time residents to move as well. It’s easy to embrace the idea of improvements that might be brought about by urban renewal…safer streets, new amenities, etc. Often, though, the unfortunate result of the incredibly rapid and somewhat unbalanced redevelopment of many NY areas is that these changes are displacing communities. The soul of the city comes from its residents and their diversity. These storefronts and the diverse community that they serve are unique, and it is this quality that makes
New York special. The change that comes with urban renewal must be well balanced and implemented with the welfare of the current community in mind. We are experiencing a period in time when the old is easily discarded for the new. My work isolates and highlights the value and importance of these beautiful and iconic structures. We live in a disposable society and I fear that in time, society itself may become disposable,” Hage said.
Hage’s documenting came to a halt when doctors found that his 4-year-old daughter Rachel Ann Hage had a brain tumor.
“In 1999, my pursuit of this
New York inspired work was abruptly put on hold when my 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” he said. He described her as being very loving, intelligent, and having an old soul. “She passed following a seven month battle with the cancer. After her death we started a fund at the hospital, the Rachel Ann Hage Brain Tumor Research Fund. It was important to us that we help in this way. It has been emotionally hard for us to be directly involved with Children’s Hospital, so we often find less direct ways of raising money for the fund. Earlier this year, my wife was asking me about my New York Storefront series, and whether or not I thought there were parallels between the loss and decay of the storefronts and communities and the loss that we had experienced. She wondered if the work had been healing. As I thought about her questions, I realized that the work had indeed been healing and that there may be emotional connections. It was at this point that we decided that my gallery show this year would be a great opportunity to raise money for the fund,” said Hage.
Despite his melancholic past, Hage has positive hopes for the future, saying “for my first solo show in 2012, I spent 3 years developing and creating the first 7 pieces in my storefront series. For this year’s show, I created 14 major pieces and produced nearly 50 photographs in one year. Response to my work has been amazing, and my work sold out 2 weeks prior to the opening night. So, I am beginning to make my plans for the next set of storefronts for my next show as well as working on a couple new series. My solo show at Flower Pepper Gallery in
Pasadena, CA. is running from October 5, through November 15. The gallery is hosting a ‘Meet the artist Day,’ on Saturday, October 19. I will be at the gallery from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. 100% of the proceeds from the shows sales will be donated to Rachel’s fund,” Hage said.
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