A Shoe, a Serpent and a Fish— Plus… The Intriguing Sculptures of Burning Man

Serpent mother sculpture 8 at Burning Man 2015

Serpent Mother lights the night sky at Burning Man in 2015.

The art at Burning Man is what pulls me back to the event year after year. Its unending creativity, sense of humor, quality and sheer quantity capture my imagination. I can’t get enough. My next three blogs will focus on what I consider Black Rock City’s most powerful art form: sculpture. I have already done posts on Medusa and R-Evolution. Today I will feature a 168-foot flaming serpent, a unique and moving sculpture from the Ukraine, a massive fish monster that emerges from the sand, a series of strange bronze sculptures with an out-of-world beauty, and a huge storybook shoe.

The first time I met Serpent Mother coiled around her egg was in 2006. To say she caught my attention is an understatement. I was delighted to see her back at Burning Man in 2015. Created by the Flaming Lotus Girls (and guys) out of the San Francisco Bay Area, the large-scale, fire-breathing snake is a classic example of the group’s work.

2 Serpent mother sculpture 15 at Burning Man 2015_edited-1

Serpent Mother on guard duty. I don’t think she is in danger of anyone messing with her egg.

3 Serpent mother sculpture 9 Burning Man 2015

Her impressive head with its flaming teeth can rise 20 feet above the desert floor.

4 Serpent mother sculpture 11 at Burning Man 2015

A crowd of Burners gather to watch her egg hatch. She appears to be warning people to back off.

6 Serpent mother sculpture 4 at Burning Man 2015

As the egg opens, it shoots flames 40 feet into the air. Check her head. I think she is smiling.

Alexander Milov from Odessa, Ukraine titles his sculpture of two people sitting back to back, Love. While communication between the two adults has broken down, their inner children are reaching out to each other, touching hands and hoping to reestablish contact. How often do we let out anger, or pride, or jealousy get in the way of our friendships and love?

I felt that this sculpture was quite moving. The seated people provide perspective on size.

I felt that this sculpture was quite moving. The seated people provide perspective on size.

Rebecca Anders from Oakland, California is responsible for creating the Illumacanth, a huge fish that rises out of the Playa and is obviously hungry. Walking into the monster’s mouth reminded me of Jonah and his whale. Too bad Rebecca didn’t give her fish jaws that snapped shut. But that probably would have been a heart attack waiting to happen.

9 Illumancanth sculpture 4 at Burning Man 2015

Hard to imagine something with a bigger mouth than Illumacanth.

Illumacanth 1 at Burning Man 2015

Don caught this photo of Illumacanth at night. Are the Burners about to be eaten? (Photo by Don Green.)

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe— She had so many children she didn’t know what to do. I can never keep myself from adding “obviously.” Five Ton Crane, which is an interesting name for an art group, created this rather large boot of a home. Maybe they needed a giant crane to move the boot. I was really hoping to get inside, treasures were promised, but the doors were not open the two times I visited. Still, I was hardly disappointed.

11 Storybook shoe sculpture 9 at Burning Man 2015

A Burner is peaking in a window on the left, hoping for a view inside. This boot had a lot of ‘sole,’ so to speak.

12 Storybook shoe sculpture 7 at Burning Man 2015

So, do you think you could live here? The sun behind the shoe provided dramatic lighting for the photo.

I was intrigued by how well the two-ton bronze sculptures created by Mario Martinez in Berkeley, California fit into the Black Rock Desert landscape. Each of the molecule-like structures took three to four months to make. Designed on a 3-D printer, Martinez used the ancient lost wax method to create the sculptures. They were among my favorite pieces at Burning Man in 2015.

13 Molecule sculpture 7 at Burning Man 2015

The ‘molecules’ felt like they belonged in the Black Rock Desert, left behind by an alien race.

14 Molecule sculpture 3 at Burning Man 2015

Another view of Mario Martinez’s art.

15 Molecule sculpture 5 at Burning Man 2015

Black Rock City and a mountain provide the back drop in my last photo for this post.

42 comments on “A Shoe, a Serpent and a Fish— Plus… The Intriguing Sculptures of Burning Man

  1. This series of photos that you are sharing on Burning Man are so spectacular that I am beginning to really consider that I MUST GO TO BURNING MAN.

    I’ve known of this event for many a year and never considered going previously. So persuasive is your capture of the art and creativity gathered there.

  2. The molecules rock! They’re my very favorite, and for some reason, maybe my favorite of any sculptures I’ve seen from Burning Man. Of course, I see there’s another post to come, so perhaps I shouldn’t judge so quickly.

  3. These really are the aspects of Burning Man that fill me with most delight too. The dragon/serpent and the stranded illumacanth appeal to the wild creative and fun part of my brain and the Milov and Martinez sculptures have both aesthetic and intellectual appeal so satisfy the brain all round. Thanks.

  4. The molecules are captivating. At once alien and naturally suited to that environment. Your photos of them are stunning.

    The second photo of the boot is also stunning. Love how you presented that one. Do the creators get to live inside their artwork while there, or are there rules about staying in a designated living area? Because I would like to live in the shoe. Or, in the cat car…

    The sculpture Love brought tears to my eyes. It is powerful indeed.

  5. Here again, I’m blown away. These mammoth sculptures are not only artsy; they’re downright phenomenal. Loved your photo of the shoe with the blue sky background. And, I, too, am smitten by the wire figures with inner children communicating. Thanks for sharing.

  6. The photo of the soleful shoe with the dramatic sky was superific, Curt. I still don’t know how these art pieces are transported there… And a question: where’s the pictures of Peggy??? 🙂

    • Part of the transportation is on big trucks, Koji. Most are taken apart, containerized, brought here, and then put back together. As for my favorite model, she had just returned from England on a trip with her sister. –Curt

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