Truth Is Beauty: A 55-Foot Tall Woman… Burning Man 2013

The sculpture Truth and Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

Truth Is Beauty. This 55 foot tall sculpture was a main attraction at Burning Man 2013– for a good reason.

There are two sets of greeters when you enter the Kingdom of Burning Man. The first are Border Guards. They check your passports, i.e. tickets. Then they ask the usual questions: “Are you carrying anyone else? Do you have a pet on board? Do you have guns?” Trying to sneak someone in can get you banned. Usually someone climbs on board and checks our bathroom. This time, the guy waved us on. We were disguised as middle-class retirees. We could have been someone’s grandparents. Heck, we are someone’s grandparents.

The second set of greeters serve as the Black Rock City equivalent of the Welcome Wagon. They even give you a package of goodies. These folks smile through the worst of dust storms, as do the Border guards. “I can see you are Virgin Burners,” the guy told Peggy. “Actually,” Peggy responded, “This is our tenth year.” There was a moment of silence. “Welcome home,” he recovered. “You are going to love the art this year. The artist who did Bliss three years ago has a new sculpture. It’s incredible.”

That caught our attention. Peggy and I had been blown away by Bliss, a 40-foot sculpture of a female dancer. So we were excited to learn that the same artist, Marco Cochrane from Mill Valley, California, had produced a new sculpture for Burning Man 2013, another colossal female named Truth Is Beauty. After visiting the Man and the Temple (always our first stops at Black Rock City), we cycled over to see the Woman. I’ve capitalized the W because the sculpture deserves it. Truth Is Beauty is 55 feet tall. We were awed. Peggy and I returned to visit several times during the week.

In preparation for today’s blog, I decided to do some research on Marco Cochrane and his art. The first thing that I learned was that Marco and I share a passion for Joseph Campbell. In fact the name for the whole Bliss project, which includes Bliss, Truth Is Beauty, and a third sculpture yet to be done, is taken from a quote by Campbell, which Cochrane has posted on his website:

Follow your bliss and doors will open where none existed.

The original Bliss sculpture from Burning Man 2010 now resides on Treasure Island, San Francisco, where Marco has his studio. The statue weighs 7,000 pounds, is 97% air, and includes 55,000 welds, all done by hand. The internal framework is based on a geodesic structure (thank you Bucky Fuller), and includes 4500 ball joints. The “skin” consists of a steel mesh stretched over the structure and screwed on.

The art at Burning Man can be spectacular, such as this tall, nude woman.

Bliss at Burning Man in 2010.

Marco used the same model, Deja Solis, a six-foot tall singer/dancer from the Bay Area, for both Bliss and Truth Is Beauty. His goal in working with a model is to have her relax, feel safe and be herself. He then works to capture her essence and recreate it in his works of art. His goal is to help us move beyond seeing a woman as an object and see her instead as another human being, a rather large human being.

If you would like to learn more about Cochrane and his projects I would recommend going to his website. There is also an excellent interview by Matador Network. Following are a number of photos designed to capture Truth Is Beauty from different angles and in different lighting conditions. Enjoy.

The toes of the sculpture Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

To provide perspective on the size of the statue, these are her toes and my foot. BTW, I wear a size 14 shoe.

Peggy Mekemson standing in front of sculpture Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

Peggy provides perspective on Truth Is Beauty’s foot. This photo also provides a good look at the inner construction of the statue.

A side view of the sculpture, Truth Is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013.

A side view of the sculpture outlined by the early morning sun.

Truth Is Beauty back view

Camera photography by balloon at Burning Man 2013.

As you might imagine, photography is big at Burning Man. 68,000 people probably means 68,000 cameras. This photographer attached his camera to a large balloon to capture unique perspectives on Truth Is Beauty.

Head shot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Head shot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

From the ground up, Truth Is Beauty almost becomes abstract.

From the ground up, Truth Is Beauty almost becomes abstract.

The magic of night at Burning Man, also applies to the art. Using a series of LED lights inside the statue as well as outside lighting, Truth Is Beauty evolves through a number of almost mystical colors.

Truth Is Beauty at night during Burning Man 2013.

Outside lighting gives the statue a sense of solidness.

Truth Is Beauty lit up by LED lights at Burning Man 2013.

The LED lights give the appearance that the sculpture is filled with stars.

I took the following three photos from the same perspective to show Truth Is Beauty as she changed colors.

Truth is Beauty at night, Burning Man 2013.

Truth Is Beauty one.

Sculpture Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013

Truth Is Beauty two.

Truth Is Beauty three.

Truth Is Beauty three.

Our friend Tom Lovering (AKA Adios) from Davis, California has a good eye for capturing unique photos. He was up before the sun to be out on the Playa for these pictures of Truth Is Beauty. I will conclude with these photos.

A properly placed sun provided Truth Is Beauty with a heart. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

A properly placed sun provided Truth Is Beauty with a heart. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

Truth Is Beauty photo by Tom Lovering at Burning Man.

The sun outlines Truth Is Beauty’s head and is captured in her arms. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

If you enjoyed this blog, you might want to check out my top five reasons for going to Burning Man in 2014.

NEXT BLOG: Two very unusual churches at Burning Man.

46 comments on “Truth Is Beauty: A 55-Foot Tall Woman… Burning Man 2013

  1. So you were ingenious enough to create a remote controlled balloon to attach your camera to?? Even if you didn’t, the photos are amazing…and the “heart” photograph… Please let Mr. Lovering know his art is appreciated…as well as your talented missus. (Don’t tell Peggy but when you wrote “These are her toes…”, I thought they were hers… Too many “hers”, huh.)

  2. Curt, this sculpture is outstanding! And the photos that you and Peggy took are exceptional. i love that you were able to capture her illuminated at night. Do you know if she’s going to be permanently installed anywhere? ~Terri

  3. So many avenues to go down, here…

    I didn’t know the “follow your bliss” quotation is from Campbell. To be frank, I’ve heard it used by so many people in such pedestrian ways I’ve grown a little tired of it. There’s nothing pedestrian about “Truth and Beauty”, and I suspect Cochran’s “Bliss” is equally compelling.

    Given the nature of its construction, I’m amazed by the fluidity of the structure, and the reality of the musculature. I can almost “feel” her stretching. I found myself thinking of Duchamps “Nude Descending a Staircase”.

    I understand why they’d light it at night as they did, but my favorite photos are those taken against the blue sky, and of course the last two. I just wish I could get Neil Diamond’s “Turn on Your Heartlight” out of my mind…

    I wonder if Cochrane has seen these photos of the Fukang meteorite. Comparing the first couple of photos of the meteorite with the status is just mind-blowing.

    • I do love the message in “follow your bliss.” Common, yes… but not trite, at least if you read it in the context of Campbell. I think of it as balancing whatever seems logical with what your intuition is telling you. I like to combine the two in decision making but i’ve gotten in trouble when I’v gone totally what seems logical.

      The lighting changes constantly, creating a dance within itself, but I agree the sculpture is most powerful during the day. I’ll check out your Fukang link.

      The heart shot by Tom was great. I enjoy having several people taking photos because each of us have different perspectives and are often out at different times of the day. –Curt

  4. Stunningly beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing what you have seen and learned about this brilliant artist and his work. I haven’t made it to BRC… not yet… It is art like ‘Truth is Beauty’ that inspires me to make the trip. I feel blessed and grateful!

    • Thanks so much. It is always a pleasure to share the art of Burning Man and Truth Is Beauty is one of my all time favorites. I believe that Burning Man has become one of the cutting edge sites for art today. –Curt

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  7. On this post I couldn’t find a ‘like’ button, so take it as given anyway.

    As for the statue, my mind is boggled—I love talented people and what they can do with their talents. And your photography is no slouch, either.

    • Thanks Crystal. Truth is Beauty is one of the most impressive pieces of art ever presented at Burning Man, at least during the ten years I have been going. And thanks for the link. –Curt

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    • Burning Man is definitely worth going to. And it sounds like all of your travels and camping have prepared you to deal comfortably with the desert environment. –Curt

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