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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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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