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Sunny Side Up

Randy Polumbo is a softly spoken American artist who makes the snoozesome world of modern sculpture seem a hoot a minute.

Photo by Randy Polumbo

Randy Polumbo is a softly spoken American artist who makes the snoozesome world of modern sculpture seem a hoot a minute. We defy you to bring us the head of any other young sculptor working today who regularly exhibits giant condom zeppelins and wheelie penis hot dogs. If none of that last sentence makes any sense to you, go check out his website at for a heap of knob and naughty-stuff-strewn work that will tickle your funny bone and make your eyes happy.


Randy also co-organises the annual Art Queen fair in his native Joshua Tree, California, which sees a whole host of arty people pitch up and do fancy stuff in a field on Randy’s land for a month or so every winter. After letting a plot of land to the God-fearing folk of the Jesus House of Prayer, you can imagine Randy’s surprise when the local sheriff’s department covered up his main work with a blue tarpaulin after complaints from his Jesus-loving lodgers on the grounds of public obscenity.

The work in question is a huge sea anemone-esque installation called “Buttercup”, shaped like a flower and made out of over-sized dildos with a butt-plug for a stigma and solar panels for petals that allow it to suck up desert sun all day so it can glow at night. We caught up with Randy to talk penis sculpture and church persecution.

Vice: If you passed this sculpture in the street while walking with your grandma, surely you’d blush?

Randy Polumbo:

The pretty-but-ugly contrast is one of the best things in life. Some of the best foods are very near the threshold of being too gross to eat, like exotic cheese, raw meat or fish, not to mention beverages and sex acts.

Which sexual acts would you say are on a par with sushi?

The idea is more that it is powerful to wrap something ugly in a handsome cloak and make both aspects amplified by the juxtaposition. It is a challenge to make a poetic little flower out of tiny ejaculating real penises.


So what actually happened when they tried to close down your butt-plug oasis?

The tent full of the extremist revival-church guys who I’d given a plot to on the premise that they could use it as an office freaked out and called the police without even speaking to me. Their case to the police was that their parishioners and family folk would see my work as they passed. Then a guy from the sheriff’s department covered it up with the blue tarp. After some to-and-froing it’s all simmered down and it’s just one fellow who marches and yells about Jesus on Sundays now with this big placard about hell and punishment.

That’s it?

There were also some threats including violence and death. But talk is cheap, right?