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Last updated September 18.

Oct. 14, 2013 issue

Artist builds on Anabaptist background to dream of yesterday’s tomorrows today

By Tim Huber Mennonite World Review

WICHITA, Kan. — A rocket-powered scooter is taking shape in Randy Regier’s downtown studio.

Randy Regier holds a piece from his 2011 NuPenny Toy Store installation in his Wichita, Kan., studio.

Randy Regier holds a piece from his 2011 NuPenny Toy Store installation in his Wichita, Kan., studio. — Photo by Vada Snider

A good deal of the rear half is made from some old fenders he bought from a fellow up the road in Goessel. The rocket — being fabricated by a rocket builder in Oregon — will be added last.

The artifact is the world’s first rocket scooter, a prototype pieced together at the deadline for a trade show decades ago.

But in reality it’s the product of an artist who works in the space between fact and fiction. The rocket scooter will function, but only look old.

Like all Regier’s works, it’s art with a fictional backstory that’s genuine. In his quest for authenticity, he’s leaving himself and his collaborator only two days to piece the scooter’s two halves together.

He’s not sure what will happen, but the result will be better — and more real — than refining it well ahead of time.

Regier has built a few larger works: a spaceship once, and a somewhat itinerant NuPenny toy store that never opens. But a bulk of his art takes the form of toys — and packaging — that appear to be from an earlier golden era of robots, spaceships, cars, jets and action figures.

His background in auto body work makes for a collection of whimsical robots and vehicles that can stand on their own simply in terms of craftsmanship. But much deeper forces are in play — themes of imperialism, promises broken, consumption and the American dream.

“My toys are no more about toys than the Trojan Horse is about ponies,” he said.

Instead, they are a medium Regier uses to seek a place. For the moment, he’s “comfortably in exile in Kansas” after a life spent between Nebraska, Oregon, Maine and Spain.

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