Ten Major Art Installations from Burning Man’s History

The Big Rig Jig was made up of two oil tanker trucks, taken apart and put back together.

I’ll be journeying to Burning Man alone this year. I obtained my ticket in February. Peggy joined the long queue for tickets on Wednesday, all to no avail. When she was finally moved to the ticket purchase site, the message was that all 30,000 tickets had been sold out. (The other 40,000 tickets are distributed in other ways.) Neither are other members of the Horse Bone Tribe going this year. So, it’s back to me, like it was in 2004, when I went by myself except for my friend Ken Lake. I’ll miss my friends, especially Peggy, but I am okay with going alone. I can easily spend eight days exploring and photographing the art.

Today I am featuring ten of the major art installations I have enjoyed the most over the years. This doesn’t include buildings like the temples, which will have their own posts. Since I missed four years when I was off wandering or had ended up on the wrong end of the Burning Man ticket circus, there are undoubtedly other pieces I would include.  Also, I already included a post on the 40 to 60-foot-tall sculptures of women that are definitely among my favorites.

Another view of the Big Rig Jig. I felt a bit nervous standing underneath it.

Often the major art installations are tied into Burning Man’s Theme for the year. In 2007 the theme was “The Green Man,” which had an environmental emphasis. The Big Rig Jig tied into the impact of oil.

I’ve always considered this intricate white tower beautiful.

A close up of the top.

This massive sailing ship appeared to be sinking into the Playa.

A front view of the sailing ship. I thought that the detail was incredible. The ship was built in Reno.

As is often the case at Burning Man, what was inside the art piece was also fun and interesting. I like the stylish hat.

Dragons are common at Burning Man. This one, protecting its egg, is my favorite.

I don’t think I would be tempted to harm its baby.

Especially at night.

Buck Rogers would have been happy with this rocket ship. Peggy provides perspective.

Medusa with her snaky hair was one of the most unusual sculptures at Burning Man.

Her wiggly hairdo from the back.

And at night.

The inner children of these two estranged adults reach out to each other.

I have always liked this bike sculpture that was located in front of the Center Camp Cafe because of the significance of bikes for transportation at Burning Man.

The top of the heap, so to speak.

This giant couple embraced. The Man looks on from the left.

A close up.

This art was located in the head of one of the sculptures.

At night.  A red, high-heel mutant vehicle is in the foreground. (Photo by Don Green.)

A coyote raises its head to howl. (Photo by Tome Lovering.)

A tail view of the coyote.

I chose the coyote at night for my last photo today. The two bright lights on his head are from headlamps of people climbing the sculpture.

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: Back to the Oregon coast with a visit to the town of Astoria on the mouth of the Columbia River.

Wednesday: I’ve often mentioned the Horse Bone Tribe and Camp at Burning Man. This is the story of the horse bone, or Bone, as he prefers to be known.

Friday: A continuation of my Burning Man art series with a final look at sculptures.

The Art Of Burning Man 2014— From Praying Mantis to LOVE

Giant praying mantis at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This giant praying mantis was one of many art works featured at Burning Man 2014.

The praying mantis appeared out of a dust storm with wings flapping. He was one big guy. Think humongous. Think scary. Peggy and I had to go check him out. It was art— and art is our primary reason for attending Burning Man.

When you arrive at Burning Man, the greeters give you a map that shows where most of the art is. The 2014 art map showed 233 installations scattered across the Playa and throughout  Black Rock City. Since weather had delayed us by two days, there was no way we could see it all. So we decided to go “random.” We would wander around and check out whatever caught our attention. Following are a few examples.

Bird with wings lowered and raised by pedals. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Much of Burning Man art is interactive. This bird immediately attracted Peggy. She climbed up the ramp and into its stomach. The bird’s wings were designed to be raised or lowered by pedal power.  Peggy went to work. A crowd urged her on.

Large bird sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Another view.

Geometric sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The geometric lines of this sculpture caught my attention.

Geometric Sculpture and Man at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Shooting from a different angle, I caught the Man in the background.

Much art at Burning Man incorporates a sense of humor. I called this guy big ears. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Much art at Burning Man incorporates a sense of humor. I called this guy Big Ears. He was wired for sound. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Love letters in the dust at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Love is big at Burning Man. (grin) The Embrace sculpture can be seen in the distance through the E.

Peggy caught this interesting reverse perspective on the love letters. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy caught this interesting reverse perspective on the love letters. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Big O in Love sculpture at Burning Man 29014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The big O in Love was hard to resist.

This sculpture reminded me of a Hollywood set piece.

This sculpture reminded me of a Hollywood set piece.

Climbing up a sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Burners love any sculpture you can climb. Often, as in this case, climbing is encouraged.

Wind operated kinetic sculpture at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Wind operated this kinetic sculpture.

These cubes created the illusion of climbing far into the sky. (Photo by Don Green.)

These cubes created the illusion of climbing far into the sky. (Photo by Don Green.)

Alien at Burning Man 2014. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

For the past several years, strange alien creatures have been found far out on the Playa near the perimeter fence.

NEXT BLOG: Wandering around Black Rock City.

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.

Burning Man 2013… Three Million Photos Later

The Man and his flying saucer at Burning Man 2013

I’ve had another thought about the flying saucer the Man was perched on for 2013. Maybe it was a huge clam. BTW, do you see the two small feet extending out from each side. Those were slides you could exit the Man on. I clocked myself at 60 MPH after Tom/Adios Lovering guaranteed it was a gentle ride down. Note to self: Never believe anything Tom tells me. But I knew that.

Having burned the Man in my last blog, it is time to wrap up Burning Man for another year. I decided to do so with photos. Enjoy.

Burning Man is located in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada.   These roads can be very lonely– except when Burning Man takes place. Local jurisdictions use the Burning man traffic count to justify their highway budgets.

Burning Man is located in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada. These roads can be very lonely– except when Burning Man takes place. Local jurisdictions use the Burning Man traffic count to justify their annual highway budgets.

There is nothing lonely about the road when you arrive at the entrance to Burning Man. We lined up with umpteen thousand other people on Monday. The drive from our home in Oregon to Burning Man was eight hours. The last four miles: four hours.

There is nothing lonely about the road when you arrive at the entrance to Burning Man. We lined up with umpteen thousand other people on Monday. The drive from our home in Oregon to Burning Man was eight hours. The last four miles took four hours. Did I mention dust?

Black Rock City, Nevada

A city of 60,000 grows up over night, literally. Black Rock City, for its one week of existence, is the third largest city in Nevada. I suspect the coyotes say, “There goes the neighborhood.” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

People come to Burning Man for numerous reasons, but one of the most important is the art. It can be monumental such as this 60 foot tall woman, and...

People come to Burning Man for numerous reasons, but one of the most important is the art. It can be monumental such as this 60 foot tall woman (Truth Is Beauty) and…

Seven ton coyote at Burning Man.

…this seven ton coyote. Someone is standing in his mouth with a flashlight. Maybe it’s a dentist. People crawled all over the coyote until a few too many fell off. Equation: Number of beers = odds of falling.

Tail of Coyote at BurningMan 2013

A tail’s-eye view of Coyote during the day. Need a wire brush? One person rests in Coyote’s belly while another climbs up the sculpture.

Oriental art at Burning Man

The art of Burning Man is as different as the artists that create it. We discovered a whole tent full of beautifully rendered paintings with mythical/Eastern themes.

Art collage ar Burning Man 2013

Art is often humorous, such as this collage featuring a puffy cloud with a Cheshire Cat  grin and silverware.

Burning Man art

Admittedly, much is strange.

Art at Burning Man 2013.

And stranger.

Mural at Burning Man 2013.

Every blank wall begs for a mural. And usually gets one– or several.

Metal snake at Burning Man.

This blank floor space demanded a snake.

A photo op of a photo op. Tom needed a photo and somehow decided that Peggy resting on his shoulders was better than me resting on his shoulders. I wonder why?  Anyway, 60,000 people at Burning Man pretty much guarantees 60,000 cameras. Let's assume for the moment that each person takes an average of 100 photos, which is a conservative estimate in today's world of digital cameras.  That means a conservative 6 million photos were taken at Burning Man 2013.

A photo-op of a photo-op. Tom needed a photo and somehow decided that Peggy resting on his shoulders was better than me resting on his shoulders. Anyway, 60,000 people at Burning Man pretty much guarantees 60,000 cameras. Let’s assume that each person takes an average of 50 photos, which is a conservative estimate in today’s world of digital cameras. That means upwards to 3 million photos were taken at Burning Man 2013.

Skull tree at Burning Man by day.

What you see by day…

May appear considerably different at night.

May appear considerably different at night. Are you ready for Halloween?

El Pulpo at Burning Man 2013.

Strange creatures wander the Playa at night. In the streets of New York City, or London, or Tokyo… El Pulpo Mechanico would create a panic. Here its, “Oh look, here comes the octopus.”

Rooster mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2013.

Or maybe a giant rooster will come to visit.

The Toilet Bowling Alley at Burning Man 2013.

If you need a break, there are always games to play. I knocked down nine of the ten pins at the Toilet Bowl. (Next to the Toilet Bowl was a long string of port-a-potties.) 

Decapitation warning sign at Burning Man.

Some games can be injurious to your health. Here’s a Burning Man style caution sign.

Metal man at Burning Man.

“Ouch, I think I’ll keep my head.” (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

You reach a point at Burning Man when your mind goes on overload, when you believe you have see it all.

You reach a point at Burning Man when your mind goes on overload, when you believe you have seen it all.

Church of the Jerk at Burning Man.

And then something happens to blow your mind. A man and his friends built this church to last for the week so he could get married.

Church of the Jerk wedding at Burning Man 2013.

We crashed the wedding. Well, we did ask, sort of.

Burning Man 2013 wedding at Church of the Jerk.

Vows were determined by spinning the wheel.

Later, we attended the wedding of Bone and Bonetta at the church. Bone has been wandering the world for 45 years. He rescued Bonetta from a Florida swamp four years ago. They finally decided to get married.

Later, we attended the wedding of Bone and Bonetta at the church. Bone has been wandering the world for 45 years. He rescued Bonetta from a Florida swamp four years ago. They finally decided to get married. Bone’s kilt was made by Ann Baughman, an 80 plus year old woman who lives in Kansas. Punkin aka Beth Lovering made Bonetta’s gown. Both are members of the International Society of the Bone.

Ken Axon of New York provides Bone with a pep talk just prior to the wedding.

Ken Axen of New York provides Bone with a pep talk just prior to the wedding.

Punkin solemnly recites the wedding vows.

Punkin solemnly recites the wedding vows.

The Cradle of Mir burns at Burning Man 2013.

A final burn. The Cradle of Mir.

Sunset at Black Rock City, Burning Man 2013.

The sun sets on Burning Man 2013.

Until next year. I hope you've enjoyed this series on Burning Man.

Until next year. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on Burning Man.

NEXT BLOG: I am close to finishing “The Dead Chicken Dance,” my book on the sometimes scary/sometimes humorous adventures I had as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the jungles of West Africa. I’ve posted several blogs on the experience. My next blog will be the introduction to the book.