I am wrapping up my coverage of Burning Man art today. Only the Man remains. This post will be mainly photos. Enjoy.
NEXT BLOG: The Man at Burning Man and his fiery end.
I am wrapping up my coverage of Burning Man art today. Only the Man remains. This post will be mainly photos. Enjoy.
NEXT BLOG: The Man at Burning Man and his fiery end.
It seems strange to talk about the trees in the Black Rock Desert. The Playa stretches out to the distant mountains, flat and featureless, immense in its nothingness. But this year’s theme, Radical Ritual, encouraged a number of artists to imagine trees in the desert. And they imagined some very interesting ones. They ranged from Methuselah, a 4,848-year old Bristle Cone Pine that lives in the White Mountains of California, 325 miles south of Black Rock City, to the Tree of Ténéré, a solitary acacia that was once described as the most isolated tree on earth and lived some 7000 miles from Burning Man in the vast Sahara Desert of northern Niger.
Sysimetsä was a poignant reminder of the forest fires that have been plaguing the West for the past several years. Put together by artists from Lake County in Northern California, it was a memorial to a fire that had destroyed their county and the Raven’s Landing Art Space in 2015. As I walked through the display at Burning Man, fires were threatening my home in Southern Oregon. As I write today, the terrible conflagration that has destroyed so much of California’s beautiful wine country and taken numerous lives, still rages.
Malcolm Tibbett’s’, Wood Carver’s Dream, reminded me of the beauty of wood. This gracefully curving art piece is made up of wood from a number of different tree species reflecting their different colors, textures and grains. As Tibbetts notes on his Web site, “Segmented woodturning is an art form with few limitations. By combining components, I can create just about any shape or size and by arranging different wood species, I can create just about any type of surface design. There are few art forms with this much freedom.”
Machina Naturale by Dave Boyer from Reno, Nevada brings us forward in time to a kinetic wind sculpture that resembles a tree and captures the wind, mimicking, or bringing together our natural and mechanical worlds.
It isn’t hard for me to imagine trees as being sacred, to understand how they have been involved in humankind’s rituals down through the ages. The heat from their fires provided warmth, a means of cooking, and a way to keep wild animals at bay on dark nights for ancient peoples. Spreading limbs and leaves provided shelter from rain, snow and hail— and the wood itself was used for making shelters. Many trees provided food necessary for survival. And finally, there is the awe that the size and beauty of trees can bring.
Peggy and I watched with dismay as several of the stately Ponderosa Pine trees on our property in Southern Oregon teetered on the edge of death, victims of pine beetles and the drought brought on by global warming. It is a story told over and over in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada where the US Forest Service reports that over a hundred million trees have suffered a similar fate.
This year’s Temple at Burning Man was a reflection on the devastation caused by global warming. The Temple was made from trees that had died. The write up on the Burning Man site described the structure of the temple:
Interlocking timber pieces in formation become a Temple that is both cloud and spire; inverted pyramidal columns suggest the negative-space of a forest canopy, simultaneously supporting a vast pagoda-like ‘cloud’ framework which in turn supports a central spire. In this way disorder gives way to harmony, and a group of dying trees is re-ordered into a cathedral of timbers stretching toward the sky.
The Temple is not a religious edifice, like a church, but it is a spiritual refuge. Burners come to mourn those who have passed on and seek peace. Thousands of messages are left for loved ones. I always make a point of working my way through the temple while enjoying the sense of peace, reading the messages, and quietly supporting those who mourn.
People also leave messages for their four legged friends that have died. The memorials almost always include photos and often include favorite toys, like a well-loved tennis ball. I am always moved by these memorials but I was particularly touched by the written memorial to Kozmo this year, as I am sure you will be.
The Temple is always burned on Sunday in a solemn ritual that sends the messages skyward and provides an element of peace for those left behind. For once, the always boisterous, always noisy Burning Man is silent. The music has stopped, the dancing has stopped, the drinking has stopped; there is only silence and respect broken occasionally by the sound of someone crying or calling out the name of a loved one who has passed on.
NEXT POST: More sculptures from Burning Man 2017 with a special focus on trees in honor of the world’s remaining forests.
Each year, Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man, determines what the theme for the annual event will be. While it isn’t required, artists are then encouraged to reflect the theme in their work. Most major tribes and many of the smaller ones as well, also emphasize the theme in the design and decoration of their camps. Themes from past years have ranged from the environment, to evolution, to rites of passage. This year’s art theme was Radical Ritual. I pulled the following out of Burning Man’s description:
Beyond the dogmas, creeds, and metaphysical ideas of religion, there is immediate experience. It is from this primal world that living faith arises. In 2017, we will invite participants to create interactive rites, ritual processions, elaborate images, shrines, icons, temples, and visions. Our theme will occupy the ambiguous ground that lies between reverence and ridicule, faith and belief, the absurd and the stunningly sublime.
Sacred things appear to come from some profoundly other place that is beyond the bounds of space and time. It is as if a window is thrown open on another world that is more real than real. This absolute uniqueness of all sacred things releases powerful emotions: joy, awe, wonder, dread, and, in its most transcendent form, pure exaltation. The sacred speaks to us of vastness and of union with a power larger than our conscious selves. The sacred gives us access, it is felt, to greater being.
I always look forward to seeing how artists interpret the theme. For example, the Big Rig Jig, which I have included in several posts, was featured as part of Burning Man’s 2007 environmental theme, The Green Man.
As I read this year’s description, I was amused by the sentence: “Our theme will occupy the ambiguous ground that lies between reverence and ridicule, faith and belief, the absurd and the stunningly sublime.” That, I thought, provides a heck of a lot of latitude. And I was right. I’ve already provided an example of art that bordered on the sublime this year: The Flower Tower. But where does a giant toilet fit in?
The artists named their large toilet Morning Ritual and declared it was “a dedication to the most unsung hero in our homes.” Okay, I decided, it doesn’t get much more absurd than this. The artists pointed out, however, that the toilet is often used as a place of refuge. Think of the parent wanting to escape from rambunctious kids for a few moments, or a date wanting a break from a boring partner. Or how about when the toilet becomes an absolute necessity, like when you are suffering from a severe case of Montezuma’s Revenge. Is there anything more important in your life at that particular moment than finding or hanging out with a privy? I am pretty sure that Burners who have overindulged— like drank all night— regard the long lines of port-a-potties found throughout Black Rock City in a similar vein.
Martin Luther, the fellow who created the Protestant Reformation, took the analogy a step further. He considered the toilet an important ally in his fight against the devil. He’d sit on the pot, let go, and declare, “Take that Satan.” He was also reputed to use pamphlets that were written in opposition to his campaign as toilet paper.
For whatever the reason, Harvey and Company decided that the toilet deserved a special place among the shrines that were surrounding the Man. Here are some of the other shrines I found placed around the Man and throughout the Playa.
NEXT BLOG: Since we have been focusing on ritual and shrines, I will feature this year’s Burning Man Temple.
Surrounded by a white picket fence and standing on fake grass, the 40-foot-tall Phoenicopterus Rex brought to Burning Man by Josh Zubcoff from San Francisco could be seen from almost anywhere on the Playa. Phoenicopterus, BTW, is the scientific name for flamingo, and in this case, a heck of a big bird. Peggy and I have met many of its smaller cousins in the South, both the beautiful wild kind you find standing around on one leg in swamps, and the more domesticated plastic kind you find adorning patches of grass on many a home. Our daughter, Natasha, loved these birds and decorated her room with them briefly as a teenager. I don’t remember whether that was before or after her Goth stage when she painted her walls black. I gave the room wide berth then, realizing that I might be painted as well.
The Flamingo was just one of several appropriately weird sculptures with a sense of humor found at Burning Man in 2017. I’ve included several for your entertainment, today.
NEXT BLOG: I intend to look at some of the art pieces that were built with the 2017 theme, Radical Ritual, in mind. Peggy and I are traveling again, this time to Connecticut to visit with our son and his family, however, so blog work will depend on available time.
Camps at Burning Man range from miniscule (mine this year) to well over a hundred participants. Camp Mystic fits the latter category. Its founders made their first journey out to the Black Rock Desert in 1998, six years before I did, and have been returning ever since. I always make a point of visiting the camp to check out its other-worldly art. I am never disappointed.
This year, I also went on the camp’s website. If you would like to gain an insight into how the larger camps function at Burning Man, you might want to visit http://campmystic.org. Take some time and peruse through the different categories.
Camps in Black Rock City perform a dual function. The most important is to serve as a home for their members. They provide a supportive community with common values and friends to share the Burning Man experience with. Part of the support is help with logistics. A camping location (usually with structures to provide shelter), food, power supplies, and bathing facilities are fairly common. Participants are expected to help cover common costs, and, even more importantly, to share in the chores. Burning Man is a participatory experience. Some, like Camp Mystic, even hope to give their members a transformative experience. Here’s what the theme camp has to say about itself.
We are a medley of creative talent and energy. Inspired by a sense of mystery and wonder, we perceive the consciousness of “We Are All One.” Mystics encourage the enigmatic spirit to explore a deeper connection, not only on this planet and all that exists within, but the realm of the entire Universe. Camp Mystic is an ongoing experiment in the power of friendship, love, artistic expression, commitment, and exploration into the farthest reaches of human development and beyond.
Reminds me of my youth in the 60s and 70s— “It is the dawning of the age of Aquarius.” Remember that song by the 5th Dimension? “Let the sunshine in.” Parts of my soul still exist in that time warp, back when magic was real, back before the wars and politics and greed and fanaticism of the last 50 years created the malaise and cynicism that exists today. I suspect that the magic still exists for members of Camp Mystic, and hopefully it is being reborn into today’s younger generations. That’s a good thing. We need all we can get.
The second major function of large camps, and most small camps, is to give back to the community. This is done by contributing and supporting art, offering workshops, providing drinks and food, and hosting events— a dance venue with large speakers and top DJs, for example , or a bunny parade. The number of things that people contribute is limited only by their imaginations. When I was there three years ago, I came across a peanut butter and jelly bar. It was filled with several types of bread, jelly and peanut butter. You were free to make your own sandwiches. The KFC Camp from Kentucky close by was offering fried baloney sandwiches and a shot of bourbon for breakfast. Woohoo!
I stopped in front of a large sign at Camp Mystic that listed the events and workshops taking place at the camp. As you can see from the photo, there were a bunch. I also took a close up to provide a perspective on the variety. For example, you could participate in an immersive light and sound experience that was reportedly similar in nature to taking DMT, a drug found in many plants that leads to a short, but intense, psychedelic experience where you might encounter anything from geometric forms, to aliens, to elves, to God.
Much of the art of Mystic Camp seemed to reflect what a DMT experience might be like. Other paintings featured our close association with nature, a vision of the future connection between humans and machines, and mystical contacts between men and women. There was also some fine ceramic work.
If you would like to learn more about the art and artists of Camp Mystic, go to the Camp Mystic site listed above and click on Art and Performance.
Continuing to read down the list of events and lectures offered by the camp, I found that I could participate in workshops on “What the Heck is Leadership,” and “Humankind, Where Do We Go from Here.” The leadership course was offered by Jason Gore who works as a coach for CEO’s who have start-up businesses. It was a practical, hands-on lecture where people could learn communication and organizational skills critical to leadership and included some of the same skills used by Burners in developing their camps. I’ve mentioned before that Google is one of the companies that considers Burning Man a valuable experience for its employees.
Henk Rogers’ course on Humankind was a bit more ambitious. He was discussing topics like how to eliminate our dependence on carbon based fuels and how to end war. He was also interested in how the Universe might end and what we could do about it. (Burning Man has never been shy about its desire to change the world.)
I was amused to find that there would be “Critical Tit Adornment” for the Mystic Camp women who would be riding in the Critical Tit Parade. Neither I nor the public was invited. The parade is an annual event where several hundred women go on a topless bike ride through Black Rock City. I’ve watched a few; the participants obviously have a lot of fun and part of the experience is to have their breasts painted and/or adorned with pasties and even tassels.
I’ll conclude with a couple more shots I took around the camp.
NEXT BLOG: I will continue my exploration of Playa where we visit a pyramid made out of 100,000 Gummy Bears and a 40-foot tall flamingo, along with aliens and several other art works. It’s possible that we will even be able to answer whether the chicken or the egg came first.
For today’s post on Burning Man 2017, I have picked out a series of sculptures that reflect a variety of approaches by Black Rock City artists to the human form ranging from the abstract to the realistic while using materials including metal, wood, plastic and cement. Many of the pieces have a spiritual component and most of the artists have had work at Burning Man in previous years.
TONGLEN by Ryan Mathern from Atlanta, Georgia
My wife, Peggy, picked this sculpture out from my photos as one of her favorites at Burning Man this year. Tonglen is a Buddhist meditation practice of receiving negative energy when breathing in and releasing positive energy when breathing out. You breathe in suffering; you breathe out compassion. It is a form of meditation practiced by the Dalai Lama.
Mathern’s work incorporated this idea by including a diamond-shaped burning chamber with a heart-shaped bellows underneath. Fire would come out of the sculpture’s mouth and light up the Tibetan script that encircled the face. I didn’t see this piece lit up but found it quite striking in the day.
THE BRIDGE AND THE CAGE by Valerie Elizabeth Mallory from Oakland, California
This diorama by Elizabeth Mallory represents people crossing a bridge from one stage in life to another— responding to the human condition of wanting to improve their lives, to cross over to a better existence. The cage reflects a metaphor that people occasionally get stuck, are imprisoned on their odyssey toward a different life by ignorance and a tendency to see the world in black and white.
The casts for this sculpture were made from volunteers by using cold cast resin and alginate. Each cast took 12-36 hours to complete. Art doesn’t get any more real.
MAYA’S MIND by Mischell Riley from Carson City, Nevada
I didn’t recognize the sculpture for what it was, a bust of Maya Angelo. I saw a tall, powerful figure done in classical style. Once I read about Riley’s work, I became even more impressed. Her intention is to capture a number of women who are making or have made a difference in the world. Her next piece will be Jane Goodall. She works out of the Generator, a large warehouse space in Reno where a number of art pieces for Burning Man have been created.
THUNDERBIRDS by James Tyler from Haverstraw, New York
The Thunderbird is a common theme in both Native American and First Nation mythology. Peggy and I have found them represented in the Totem Poles of the Northwest and the petroglyphs of the Southwest. Tyler’s unique work provides another, more human perspective, but I felt that it was true to the spirit of the early natives who saw them as a powerful force in their lives.
SOLACII by Tigre Bailando and Anastazia Louise Aranaga from Oakland, California
This 20-foot tall sculpture rising out of the desert pulled me to her. When I climbed off my bike, a woman who was sitting inside the sculpture said, “You have to come in here and listen.” I looked up at the three expressive faces, the four hands, and the tattered, pieced together garment and could only wonder what I would hear. It was like being inside a person’s body listening to her beating heart and breathing, very peaceful, a refuge— a womb with a view (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
TARA MECHANI by Dana Albany from San Francisco, California
I stopped off to see Tara mechani several times as I made my way out into the Playa. It seemed like there were always women standing there, staring up at the sculpture, and taking photos. The Tara part of the sculptures name comes from the female Buddha, Tara. The mechani came from the fact that her body was also robot like, fusing the past and the future.
ACTION FIGURE FAMILY by Jallen Rix from Palm Springs, California
“Imagine walking across the Playa and seeing a set of colorful shapes in the distance. As you are drawn closer, you see those shapes to be life-size statues, and the closer you get the more you begin to see that they are all covered in small toys. But not just any toys: hundreds of action-figures of all kinds of styles, backgrounds, comic books, and genres.”
I read this description from Burning Man’s review of 2017 art and knew that I had to go find Rix’s work. I’d missed it on my first ride through the Playa. I was not disappointed. Strange stuff.
PROMETHEAN PASSION (The Fire Inside) by Matthew Welter of Carson City, Nevada
The first time I became aware of Welter’s work was a Statue of Liberty he had carved for Burning Man. It was an impressive piece, reaching skyward with her torch proudly displayed. Liberty has been a consistent theme of Welter’s over the years. As has been fire. His sculptures are burned from the inside out, but are not allowed to burn completely. Thus creating a new piece of art. This year’s work, Promethean Passion, is named after the Greek legend Prometheus who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humanity. Zeus was not happy. He chained Prometheus to a rock and had an eagle eat out his liver. Each night Prometheus would grow a new one and each day it would once again be eaten by an eagle. Not nice.
And, in conclusion for this post, four other sculptures.
NEXT BLOG: The mystical art of Mystic Camp.
I was riding across the Playa when I spotted a giant, multi-colored dragon making its way over the desert. That’s a photo I must have, I thought, and climbed off my bike. It must have spotted me as well, since it changed directions and headed straight for me. I assumed it would stop, that I had the right away, that running over a Burner was a no-no. But those weren’t assumptions I was willing bet my body on. I’d make a small bite, a tidbit, an hors d’oeuvres. I climbed back on Horse with No Name and got out of the way. Fortunately, the dragon didn’t change directions again. That would have been scary.
Mutant vehicles come in all shapes and sizes at Burning Man, from humongous to petite. You have to have one if you are going to drive out on the Playa or in Black Rock City. Otherwise, you are required to park at your camp and walk or bike. To qualify as mutant, your vehicle has to be radically altered; the instructions are clear. You can’t just take a red ball, stick it on the hood of your car, and call the new creation Rudolph. Safety rules apply as well. It’s expected that you will be able to stop and not run over a Burner, that your vehicle can be easily seen at night, that passenger accommodations are safe, and that fire-breathing dragons, or other fire producing vehicles, meet stringent fire safety standards.
To assure that all of this will happen, Burning Man requires that you apply for permission to bring a mutant vehicle to Black Rock City. Alterations have to be described in detail. Deadlines have to be met. A committee reviews each proposal. A limited number are allowed and there are no guarantees that yours will be one. Upon arrival at Burning Man, you are required to stop at the DMV, the Department of Mutant Vehicles, and have your vehicle checked for safety before driving on the Playa or around Black Rock City.
I look forward to checking out the new vehicles each year I attend Burning Man. They are an important part of the event’s creativity and art. Following are some of my favorites from this year.
NEXT POST: A return to Burning Man sculptures.
Being ‘out on the edge’ at Black Rock City can mean many things. For example, you might take a class in quantum theory. There are a number of serious scientists at Burning Man and they are eager to share their knowledge, to introduce you to the world of Schrodinger’s cat and ‘spooky action at a distance,’ as Einstein described quantum entanglement. Science doesn’t get much edgier.
But I mean ‘being on the edge’ literally. I am talking about the far-out border of Burning Man where only a plastic fence separates you from the seemingly infinite desert, out where the pounding beat of industrial music and crowds are a distant memory, out where the buffalo roam. Except I’ve never found any buffalo. I have, however, discovered many weird things over the years ranging from bizarre cats to strange aliens. Heading out there is a must for me. And Horse with No Name is always raring to go. “Clippity clop, clippity clop, neigh, neigh, snort, snort!” (Remember, that’s the sound he makes when you pinch his ear.)
This year, I found the amusing border sign I placed at the top of this post, the gorgeous Flower Tower, a giant Victrola, a speak-easy/den of inequity, and range cattle— the latter two are something you expect to find in rural Nevada. But first, the sign. I was assuming I’d find a fair amount of Anti-Trump stuff at Burning Man. It isn’t like a lot of the President’s supporters attend the event. But the sign was the only thing I saw. (Admittedly, I missed a lot of Burning Man.) I speculated that, one, Burners were trying to escape from the world of pro and anti-Trump with its endless media barrage, or, two, BMORG wasn’t eager to twist any tails in Washington due to the fact that the event is held on federal property. Permits are always iffy at best, even though the organization pays dearly for the privilege of using the land.
I do think Washington could learn a lesson from the fence, however. Nobody, but nobody gets in or out. It appears to be much more effective than anything the US has built or might spend billions on building along the US/Mexico border. I crossed over it once as a test. Within seconds, a BMORG vehicle was charging down on me. I quickly retreated and was long gone when the vehicle arrived. Horse with No Name can run really fast with the proper motivation. Maybe the President should hire Burning Man to run his border security…
Now, on to the den of inequity. Boy, doesn’t that sound biblical? Bordello, brothel, and cat house seem a lot less damning. And who can forget The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? Prostitution, as you may know, is legal in Nevada. There are several brothels found out on the state’s lonely highways. Peggy and I have passed by most of them on our jaunts through Nevada. One of the most famous, the Mustang Ranch, is located just outside of Reno on I-80. Thousands of Burners go by it annually. If you know where to look, you can see the trailers lined up— and a large parking lot. I first heard of the Ranch back in the 70s when Joe Conforte, its owner at the time, was a leading Reno businessman. He was serving as chair of the city’s annual Valentine’s Day Ball, which was dedicated to raising funds to fight heart disease. As I recall, the Heart Association got a bit embarrassed over that one. Conforte fled to Brazil in 1991, barely escaping ahead of the G-men. He never did like paying taxes.
The Black Rock Blind Tiger’s rickety speak-easy/brothel at Burning Man was located next to the fence. A group out of Austin, Texas was responsible for building it. When I stopped by, Burners were charging around looking for clues that were supposed to give them entrance to the Prohibition era speak-easy. I was reminded of the Ella Fitzgerald song, Hernando’s Hideaway. “Just knock three times and whisper low, that you and I were sent by Joe.”
As for the “Playful Pussy Tiger House,” it was closed. What else could the Madame expect? You are not allowed to sell anything at Burning Man. It’s a gifting economy. I wandered around and took photos. I even managed to persuade a Burner to pose for me in a large bathtub.
Enough on the shady side of the fence, however. Let’s move from the sinful to the sublime, from our slightly titillated look at the world’s oldest profession to the lovely Flower Tower. I featured a photo in Part 2 of this series. The Tower is another creation from the incredibly fertile imagination of Kevin Clark and his talented group of artists at Reared in Steel located in Petaluma, California. Two of the groups earlier Burning Man works— Redemption Rhino and Medusa— are among my all-time favorite art pieces at the event.
The Flower Tower was described as a cathedral devoted to happiness. Reaching 70-feet into the air, it was covered with thousands of colorful metal flowers, each made by hand and each unique. Like so much Burning Man art, it looked quite different at night than it did during the day. It was even supposed to shoot flames out from its steeple at night, but I missed that.
I grew up in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Our house had a basement, sort of. It was more like a crawl space with a dirt floor. It served as our attic, however, and was filled with ‘treasures.’ And black widows. More than once I imagined one crawling up my leg and charged out, ripping my pants off as I went. This story isn’t about the scary spiders and naked little boys, however, it’s about a Victrola phonograph we found there that came with a horn for a speaker and records that were etched on cylinders. It was an antique even in the 40s. I suspect it had been my mother’s when she had been a teenager. I’d love to have it now.
So, it was fun for me find the large Victrola out in the Far-Playa with its magnificent horn. The 30-foot tall structure was made of wood and steel by artists at the American Steel Studios in Oakland. And the music was marvelous… straight out of the early 1900s: blue grass, country, jazz and blues. I could picture my mother twirling away. Once again, I was reminded of the creativity of Burning Man artists. I was also reminded of a different era, back before music was digital, back before you could fit a thousand songs on the I-pod that I am listening to now with its Blue-tooth Bose speakers. John Coltrane and his jazzy Blue Train is helping me write.
Some Nevada ranchers consider it a God-given right to run their cattle on public lands, for free. Just ask Clive Bundy, who had an armed standoff with federal agents over the government’s expectations that he would pay the $1 million in back fees he owed for running his cattle on BLM lands for 17 years. You and I subsidize his profits with our taxes. Be that as it may, I expect to find cattle chowing down on public land. I found them up in the Sierras when I was backpacking this summer and I found them on the open range when I was driving from Cedarville to Gerlach on my way to Burning Man. I didn’t however, expect to find them out on the Playa. I’ll conclude today’s post with a couple of photos of the Sierra and Black Rock City bovines.
NEXT POST: In my effort to keep you entertained and provide variety, I’ll introduce you to some of this year’s mutant vehicles where rapid transit becomes rabid transit. Stay tuned.
Murals have been around for a while. Try 30,000 years. Those ancient cavemen and women painting on the dark walls of their caves in Europe had a message they wanted to pass on, as did the prehistoric artists of the Southwest pecking out their messages on rock 3000 years ago. In modern times, graffiti artists have used their spray cans to mark out their territories and declare “I was here,” irritating competing gangs and the public as well, which, I’m pretty sure, was the point.
Street art has become more sophisticated today, and more acceptable. Major cities and small towns alike want a piece of the action. You are as likely to see a mural in a small Midwestern town as you are in Paris, Moscow, Rio or New York. The best of the street artists have found fame, and even a bit of fortune.
Not surprising, street art has made it to Burning Man. Murals may show up anywhere in Black Rock City, but a special place is reserved for them on the back wall of the Center Camp Café. I always try to include a few in my review of Burning Man art because it is representative of the art form, and, more importantly, I am fond of murals. They often show up in my blogs when I travel, and, I might note, they often show up in the blogs of the people I follow.
As you might imagine, Burning Man art can get a little weird. Take the cat below, for example. If you have a cat, you have noted their hygiene practices, and possibly even been a little embarrassed by them when the boss or the in-laws are over. But cats are cats, and, for all I know, they may do it on purpose during awkward moments. You might make your dog feel guilty about the practice, but never your cat. Speaking of dogs, they were featured on a mural as well.
I can easily get lost on the Net when I try to find a particular Black Rock City mural artist. I never know where the search will take me, if anywhere. For example, Papa Witch caught my attention. I watched him work, found his monkey/ape charming, and was intrigued by how he signed his work.
My Papa Witch search eventually took me to Chokae Kalekoa, who was doing a fundraiser for a 2000-mile bike ride he was going on through the West. He declared, “The Conscious Relaxation that is achieved By Shutting my Monkey Mind, reveals a state of ok-ness that allows me to Mindfully Work, Artistically Create and Frolic to the best of my ability.” He taught meditation and promised, “I hereby pledge that on this 2000-mile odyssey bicycle ride, I will get 2000 people that I meet along the way to frolic and meditate with me.” He was shooting to raise $5,000. Darn, I thought, why didn’t I think of that for the 10,000-mile ride I did around North America. An equivalent amount would have been $25,000! But it wouldn’t have worked. I didn’t have the desire to frolic with 10,000 people, and I certainly didn’t have the stamina. Can you imagine frolicking with 100 people at the end of a 100-mile day on your bike?
Like much art work, most of the murals leave the viewer to make up his own interpretation of what he is seeing. So, I have, liberally. My apologies to the artists in advance. They are certainly free to correct me. Do you have any unique interpretations you would like to add?
NEXT POST: I wander around the outer edges of Burning Man.