Randell David Fleet says he grew up knowing he was special. He said he was a gay kid in a world where people wanted him dead. He said he tried to kill himself many times and he often tried to commit suicide. He said he often begged for God to come get him. He said he knew as much as a small kid as he knows today. He feels that he was born as old man and over time he says he grew younger. He thought that one day he would grow up, but today he says he feels he won’t.
Randell David said felt gay people had a hard time taking him and that most of his friends were straight men. His best friends have always been women. He has mostly exhibited his art in exhibits in El Paso, Texas. His work is autobiographical and mirrors the experiences he had growing up in Brownwood, Texas being different. Many of his paintings depict the harshness of his young life. Randell David exhibited in the first “Artist Against AIDS” exhibit that he and I organized and presented at the Bridge Center for Contemporary Arts on Stanton Street in downtown El Paso which coincidentally was across the street from present-day Pride Square.
He said he was one of the first artists who tried to raise funds for young men who were dying and had no one to take care of them. He said he remembers men in the bars would tell him that AIDS was a myth. He said they would get mad at him and they would spill his donation cup that he used to collect money for AIDS. Randell David remembers receiving a message on the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) Referral number. It was from a young man who told him that no one came to take care of him. He said he spent most of his day on the toilet, but what was worse was that he was dying alone. Randell David’s first partner Phil Osborne, who was a window dresser at Basset Center, died in Houston as one of Texas’ first AIDS cases. His partner of six years Rodney Rehm, died after contacting AIDS in Germany, in the U.S. Army.
Randell David had several art shows at the Bridge Center for Contemporary Arts. Some two-persons he participated in were with people from UTEP like the late Susan Klahr. He had an exhibit at the Ysleta Independent School District Art Gallery on Alameda. He was in two Vietnam Remembrance exhibits organized by UTEP Art student Thomas Daniel. He also exhibited in Chihuahua City. He remembers people lining up to shake his hands and a reporter crying.
Randell David exhibited art in the !Ya Basta! Exhibit which called attention to the war in Central America. The exhibit toured in the United States. He was also in an exhibit in Cd. Juarez. David participated in an exhibit of Day of the Dead Altars at the Chamizal National Memorial which I organized. He created a Drag Queen Altar with layers of dresses and literature on trans personalities. The Drag Queen Altar was about two stories of dresses. The Chamizal Superintendent wanted him to take it down. The altar was covered in glitter, high heels, eye lashes,falsies, lipstick, and eye makeup. Randell David said his friends were afraid to help him put it up, but that GLBTIQ Park Rangers were very helpful and they helped him finish it. After putting it up he felt redeemed because many people and they told him it was great!
Randell David created his Drag Queen Altar at a time when so may trans persons were being killed in El Paso (which has not changed). He said he wanted to create it in memory of their courageous lives. He also exhibited his work in several El Paso GLBTIQ exhibits.
Randell David stated that his art hangs in people’s homes from a Houston bankers wife’s home to other collectors who like his work. The Houston banker’s wife told him that his work helped her to reestablish her commitment to her church. His art also hangs in New Mexico and Texas. He exhibited his work at the Jorden Gallery, at an exhibit in Albuquerque and in another exhibit in Santa Fe. He also displayed his work at the Howard Payne University Art Gallery, at Southern Baptist University and at Martha Shelton’s Little House Gallery in Brownwood.
Randell David was an educator in public schools in El Paso and received his MA in Fine Art from the University of Texas at El Paso. He lived in El Paso for several decades mostly in Sunset Heights. He moved to Brownwood in 2015. He currently lives in Houston.
I asked Randell David to send me some of his images of his work. As you can see, he sent numerous. I then asked him how many I could upload? He said as many as possible. When he lived in El Paso, he remembers walking in Cd. Juarez with me when we went to visit Artist Manuel “Manny” Anzaldo Meneses’ at his house. He said he remembers the girls with high heels and the Brazilian guy playing Bossa Nova. Manny gave him a tiny dog with a penis, but it was later stolen.
He also remembered the protest songs about the man who had his hands and tongue cut out. Randell David said he remembers his many fans and friends he left in El Paso. We all remember you David. Don’t forget about us.
All images copyright of David Randell Fleet. Used with his permission.
If you are interested in David’s work, you can contact him at: Randelldavidfleet@google.com
He is also on Facebook.