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.


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.

36 thoughts on “Ten Major Art Installations from Burning Man’s History

  1. I never get tired of Burning Man photos, Curt!! That White Tower is remarkable and I can not imagine what it took to build the Big Rig!! The artwork in the head shows just how much talent goes into these pieces and the ship with its detail!!
    Okay, I see I’m beginning to ramble……

    • I like your rambling, G. As many times as I have seen the photos, I always enjoy seeing them again as well, which is one of the reasons my followers get so many Burning Man posts. 🙂 –Curt

    • The Black Rock Desert is miles from nowhere, Andrew. 🙂 Google it. A whole city (Black Rock City) grows up more or less overnight. For a week, it is the third largest city in Nevada. People stay in elaborately built structures, tents and RVs. I always take my small, 22 foot RV. –Curt

  2. I did give it a try, once again, to buy a regular ticket to BM. Apparently I was 2 minutes too late by the time I was sent to the ticket site…..at least according to BM News. I did enjoy a latte while waiting, waiting,waiting…….apparently Curt will have to carry both cameras for this last trip! I do enjoy reliving BM thru Curt’s blogs…Medusa? That is pretty much how my hair looks in the morning so I relate to her….Curt’s other half, Peggy

  3. Wow!! These sculptures are absolutely magnificent! And not easy to capture in a photograph due to size, but you obviously did a fabulous job of it! Have been wanting to go to the burn for years, mostly for the art 🙂 so thank you for sharing this as living in Asia it has always just seemed too complicated and expensive an endeavor.

    But really… WOW!!!


    • Thanks, Peta. Burning Man has driven something of a Renaissance of large scale art on the West Coast. I am always excited to go and check out the latest creations. It is easy to spend a whole week doing nothing but checking out the major and minor art pieces, not to mention the 24/7 performance art. –Curt

  4. More fascinating art — Loved the two gold busts of man and woman and, of course, the big rigs (can’t figure out how it stands, but I’m no engineer). Going alone might not be all bad — you’ll have time to gawk at your faves long after friends might have wanted to move on. Looking forward to seeing what you find.

    • I am looking forward to ‘time alone’ at Burning Man, although I will certainly miss Peggy and other friends. You are right about having the time to explore and enjoy without a schedule. –Curt

  5. That coyote!! Haven’t seen that one yet and I love it. Again, I am struck by the fact that most of the sculptures seem to encourage climbing. This would add a significant challenge to the engineering work for the artists. It needs to have a message *and* stand up to weather *and* stand up to people for days on end.

    • They closed the coyote down for climbing after somebody fell off, if I remember correctly, Crystal. So, there is a safety issue. Some of the sculptures are quite challenging. Nothing seems to stop the Burners, however. My friend, Don, wants to climb them all. Some sculptures that are more delicate have no climbing signs! –Curt

      • I’ve only seen the sculpture park in Sheffield england. It’s not quite on the same scale.. but the effect was profound. I like things that shift your perspective. Especially on that scale.

      • Shifting perspective, to me, is one of the most important functions of art. I checked out photos of the sculpture park in Sheffield. I think the sculptures would fit right in at Burning Man. 🙂 –Curt

      • I think, this is something I not only need to see… but experience. Words/images often don’t do these things justice. But I love huge sculpture or installations .

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