Embrace the Dawn Burns… The Art of Burning Man 2014

Embrace the Dawn at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Monumental sculpture has become a tradition at Burning Man. 2014’s Embrace the Dawn by the Pier Group out of Reno, Nevada is a prime example.

Monumental art has become a tradition at Burning Man. Each year I return to Black Rock City excited to see the latest creations. Last year, the Truth Is Beauty sculpture pulled me to it like a moth to flame. This year it was the 72-foot tall sculpture called Embrace by the Pier Group out of Reno/Sparks, Nevada. Related groups in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, B.C. Canada also worked on the project.

Working out of a huge warehouse studio in Reno known as the Generator, the Pier Group has created several art pieces for Burning Man, including another one of my all time favorites, a huge sailing ship sunk partway into the desert.

Spanish Galleon created by the Pier Group for Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This Spanish Galleon, named La Llorona, was created by the Pier Group for Burning Man 2012.

This year the Pier Group had hoped Embrace would become the 2014 Temple. Matt Schultz, the lead artist, envisioned Embrace as a space where people could “sit, reflect, look up, feel the wind through the sculpture, and think about life and love.” Another project was selected. That didn’t stop Matt and the Pier Group, however; they went ahead and built the monumental sculpture anyway, much to the benefit of Burning Man and the 67,000 people present.

Embrace the Dawn Sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Seeing Embrace from the distance provides a perspective on the sculpture’s size. The Man looks on from the distant left.

The Embrace sculpture at Burning Man 2014 provided access to go inside and climb up into the heads. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

In this view, it appears the couple is kissing. (They weren’t.) The space on the bottom provided access to the figures where you could climb up into the heads and look out through the eyes.

The heart of the Embrace sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Each of the figures had a large, unique heart that had been created by artists in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC.

View form the eye of the Embrace statue at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Looking out at Black Rock City through the eye of Embrace.

Art inside the head of the Embrace sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Dramatic art inside the head of Embrace.

Mural sized art inside the head of the Embrace the Dawn sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

More head art. Light is coming in from the top of the head, which was left open so Burners could see the stars at night.

This night photo was taken by Don Green, a member of our camp.

This night photo was taken by Don Green, a member of our camp. The red high heel is a mutant vehicle.

The decision was made to burn Embrace at dawn, which, to my knowledge, was the first major burn at Burning Man to take place in the morning. A significant number of Burners present had partied far into the night and 7:00 a.m. had come awfully early. Some were up so late they decided to stay up all night. A few who had come to watch the burn slept through the event. It was amazing how quickly the 160,000 pounds of wood in the sculpture went up in flames.

Preparation for burning Embrace the Dawn at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Preparation for a major burn can take hours. Burners arrive early to get prime seats in the dirt. The trucks in the middle are all part of the preparation.

Preparation to burn the large sculpture, Embrace the Dawn, at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Another perspective on preparation for the burn.

Crowd gathers to watch burning of Embrace the Dawn at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I like this photo because it provides a view of the size of the crowd that stretched all the way around Embrace. The Burners in the right center of the photo are trying to catch up on sleep.

Mutant vehicles wait for the burning of the Embrace sculpture at Burning Man 2014.

Mutant vehicles, like these shown here, also stretched all the way around the burn circle. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Colorful crowd gathered to watch the burning of Embrace at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One thing is guaranteed, any group that gathers at Burning Man is bound to be colorful. Check out the leggings.

The beginning of the burn of Embrace the Dawn at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Two puffs of smoke announce the beginning of the burn. Firemen stand watch.

Flames begin shooting form the head and eyes almost immediately. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Flames begin shooting from the head and eyes almost immediately. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Embrace sculpture burns at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Shortly thereafter, the whole torso starts to burn.

Flames are so intense that mini-tornadoes, large dust devils are created. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Flames are so intense that mini-tornadoes, large dust devils, are created. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And soon only a skeleton remains. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

And soon only a skeleton remains.   An interesting dust devil outlines the head. (Photo by Tom Lovering.) Next Blog: I take another detour from Burning Man to travel back in time to UC Berkeley’s student revolution 50 years ago. I was there.

26 comments on “Embrace the Dawn Burns… The Art of Burning Man 2014

  1. Since I knew almost nothing about Burning Man and everything around, I’m fascinated. And your next post is already triggering my curiosity. UC Berkeley is a familiar place for me but certainly not fifty years ago. Very much looking to reading about the student revolution. Thank you, Curt.

  2. The sculpture as art is impressive, but the sculpture as conflagration is even more so. For whatever reason, I really like the last photo, with the superstructure revealed. But my favorite element of all? The dust devils. Those can be terrifying in a forest fire, but here? Maybe they’re the spirits of the couple, dancing off across the playa. You think?

    • Yes! I could go with the dust devil theory. Whirling dervishes works too. Either works great for Burning Man. The burns are always impressive. I have never seen one go up as quickly as Embrace, however. It was like poof. Except for the remaining structure (that looks like a Texas water tower); it wanted to stand forever. I had long since left when they pushed it over with the forklift. –Curt

    • Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the story. One of these days I am heading to Reno again to specifically visit the Generator art studio where Embrace, and many other creations were and are being born. –Curt

  3. I like Embrace! The sculptures move me, speak of tenderness. Shame it had to be burnt 😦 But that’s why it’s burning man! And the red high heel mutant vehicle, cute. Now, you make me wanna visit in 2015 🙂

    • The burns do have a ‘sad’ element to them Lynne, for those who get beyond the bonfire celebration. The philosophy behind the burns is the transitory nature of existence and a reminder of how important it is to appreciate each moment.

      I am seriously contemplating a book on Burning Man. I would probably use some of my photos as illustrations. Overall, my photos work well for my blog, but there are a number of world class photographers that attend Burning Man. I am more competitive with words. (grin) –Curt

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