Building A Robotic Christmas Wonderland Of Trash

On a perfectly manicured street in Palm Springs, Calif., one man has turned his four-acre yard into a post-apocalyptic Christmas wonderland. Outsider artist Kenny Irwin uses every piece of trash he can get to make giant robots in a fantasy-scape that is part Christmas light show, part installation art.

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We all know the neighbor who goes a little bit overboard with the Christmas lights display. Well, we now take you to a perfectly manicured street in Palm Springs, where artist Kenny Irwin has taken holiday decorations to a new extreme. Sandhya Dirks of member station KPBS has this tour of a post-apocalyptic fantasy land.

SANDHYA DIRKS, BYLINE: Walk into Kenny Irwin's winter wonderland and you soon recognize it's not like anything you've ever seen before:

KENNY IRWIN: This here is Santa's battle wagon, complete with 12 highly advanced robotic deer. And the reason it has to use 12 deer instead of nine is because it's a much heavier model of sleigh and it's battle armored. So, this is for everyone that's been on Santa's naughty list.

DIRKS: And if you are on Santa's nice list?

IRWIN: If you are on his nice list, you know, whatever you put on his list, no matter what, you're going to be getting a pink robot whether you like it or not.

DIRKS: Because in this world, in this story, Santa only gives robots to all the kids.

IRWIN: Only pink robots.

DIRKS: The world Irwin has created fills the grounds of his childhood home - two acres in which he has built colored statues of robots, aliens and robo-Santas out of trash. He's bolted together microwaves, tennis rackets and arm chairs to create 30-foot-tall robots - and he's painted them in vibrant colors. Like, on what used to be the home's tennis court?

IRWIN: This is Santa's elf village here, and basically you've got post-apocalyptic extraterrestrial nuclear elves down here.

COURTNEY SCOTT: It's slightly Donnie Darko meets, you know, Transformers meets, you know...

DIRKS: Santa Claus.

SCOTT: Santa Claus with a little bit of color and a lot of love.

DIRKS: Courtney Scott is visiting from Montana. She says she didn't expect to find something like this in Palm Springs. It's a city better known for golf courses and mid-century modern homes. And you wouldn't necessarily expect Irwin to be the creator of this Christmas spectacle. It's not even his holiday. He's Muslim.

IRWIN: I don't believe in the principles of Christmas, but I believe in the creativity that springs out of a holiday, which has nothing to do with Christmas itself. I just love the colors and the glows and the lights and all the funny characters and everything.

DIRKS: Characters like a giant robot with a working microwave for a heart and a casino slot machine for a brain, or Santas who ski down palm trees rather than snowy mountains. As Irwin says, this is the desert, after all. For NPR News, I'm Sandhya Dirks in Palm Springs.


MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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