From the Sublime to the Weird… Burning Man Murals and Paintings

T-Rex looking for dinner at Burning Man back when the playa was an ocean.

As you might expect, mural art and paintings at Burning Man reflect the event. Much of the art has a mystic feel about it with both Eastern and Western influences. Surrealism also seems to have found a home at Burning Man. Then there is the fun— bordering on strange— art that always appeals to my sense of weird. Following are examples of what I see as I ride my bike or walk around Black Rock City and out in the Playa.

I am going to start with what I call Chakra art that takes its inspiration from Eastern mysticism. A Chakra, simply put, represents seven levels of awareness or spiritual power in the human body that work their way up your spine starting with basic urges and ending with higher consciousness. Meditation is the primary tool that mystics use to reach the higher levels.

Chakra art doesn’t get much clearer than this. Beyond the primary chakra points are a multitude of secondary points. This fellow also comes with an aura.

Maybe you can even get high enough to earn a halo. This one features several languages.

An eagle and a buzzard have arrived here.

This mural portrays a woman meditating. Off to the left is a chakra.

Mandalas are aids in meditation. I feel like this one could take me into infinity.

Of course there is much more to eastern mysticism and myths than meditation and chakras. Traveling farther east to China, we have this magnificent dragon.

What I call Nature art focuses on our deep connection with all life on earth and has a more Western/shamanistic feel to it that is more reflective of what we find in Native American, First Nation, and South American native traditions, as well as other animistic cultures throughout the world.

A shaman sits in a meditative pose while jaguars peer out of the jungle and a snake circles his body. I was amused to see that he is wearing a watch.

This painting also makes me think Shaman.

I am fascinated with the art at Burning Man that combines people and the natural world.

Another example.

How about this for a hair do?

This woman is morphing into an owl, or vis-versa.

Bird eyes.

A touch of green.

The tree of life and death with the left side representing nature and the right side our industrial civilization (sort of like a page out of Dante’s Inferno).

Surrealism is, well, Daliesque.

Mr. Surreal, himself.

A surreal landscape featuring Burning Man founders, I believe, along with several Burning Man icons such as El Pulpo Mechanico looming in the background.

A surreal dragonfly.

And a sort of surreal painting featuring lips, a red candelabra, light fixtures and speakers as UFOs, and apparently people worshipping all of the above.

I will conclude with several paintings/murals that fit my description of fun, funky, and possibly weird.

This mural should easily qualify as weird.

As does this painting of ‘children’ playing.

Peggy stands next to a giant rabbit. One of the events at Burning Man includes a thousand or more people dressing up like rabbits and parading around Black Rock City.

How about ostriches with people heads?

One year Burning Man had a circus theme that led to the creation of all kinds of strange circus art.

My favorite from the circus art.

The fish were fun, especially the one on the right with the teeth.

This was strange…

As was this beetle.

I’ll conclude with another favorite of mine: a 3-D Bossy.


Monday: It’s back to the Oregon coast to visit a cave filled with sea lions, plus another lighthouse.

Wednesday: Bone is found and a rattlesnake threatens to bite me on the butt.

Friday: Burners and their costumes at Burning Man.


31 thoughts on “From the Sublime to the Weird… Burning Man Murals and Paintings

  1. As I was going through your post I wondered something Curt. How big is Burning Man? All this amazing art, the buildings and the vehicles…it’s hard to fathom the monstrous size of it all.

  2. As I scrolled down, I kept picking out a favorite until it got to be like the Oscars where I would have to have categories!! The most colorful: the Dragon, Favorite subject: Salvador Dali, Most Mystical: The Bird Eyes and the Funniest: The Drag Queens from Outer Space. ‘The Eyes have it’ played games with my own eyes like a kaleidoscope!! You sure get tons of material from your trips at Burning Man!!

  3. Surreal. Have you ever been to the McMenamins Edgefield hotel in Troutdale (just outside Portland)? The walls, even the pipes are filled with funky paintings.

    • You may get two replies here, Timi. The first one didn’t seem to send. Anyway, I liked the connection with Avatar. The message of the nature art at Burning Man is close to the message of the movie. As for the fish, I am a fan of quirky. 🙂 –Curt

  4. The art is just as other-worldly as the sculptures and machinery. Oh, my. So many people have so much more talent than I have! Thanks for sharing the pictures and for teaching me about Chakra. I’m not much into meditation, but maybe I need to give it a whirl!

    • Beyond my talent as well, Rusha! 🙂 I’ve practiced meditation on and off, but never seriously. We do Qigong every morning however for 15 minutes, which is both exercise and meditation. –Curt

  5. Oh Thank You, Curt, for sharing these. I love murals and these are some of the strangest I have ever seen. Must have been just so much fun to photograph them. The lady turning into an owl, or the owl turning into the lady is my favorite. No the ‘Red Lip Worshipers’…or maybe Peggy & the Rabbit.
    Great post! JoHanna

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