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.
24 thoughts on “Human Form and Sculpture at Black Rock City… Burning Man 2017: Part 7”
When I was reading about the mutants the other day, I was thinking.. so much imagination and ingenuity!! But today I can see the spiritual side of the “burning man”. The Bridge and The Cage is my favorite! Spectacular!!
I was really taken by The Bridge and The Cage, as well Christie. I liked both the concept and the art. Casting actual people adds another dimension. Be sure you catch my post on the Temple, to get another view of spatiality at Burning Man. –Curt
Once again, remarkable – and I can not pick a favorite!!
Always a challenge, G. 🙂 And there’s never a requirement. There were lots of choices this time. Thanks. –Curt
Some good stuff here Curt, almost too much for just one post, my favourite I think is the Mirage!
Always the question of how much to include, Andrew. I seriously considered breaking it in two. When I started blogging, I tried to keep my posts to 500 words and photos to 10-15 max. I often hit 1000 words and 20-30 pictures these days. I’ve been surprised that some of my longer pieces get more hits and comments than a lot of shorter pieces! As we discussed the other day, you just never know. I enjoyed Mirage, as well. Sometimes, the simpler pieces are more interesting. –Curt
It is frustrating not understanding the logic behind visits and stats. My post on the armistice train bombed but next day five pictures from Portugal attracts plenty of interest!
And your piece on the armistice train was really interesting!
Incredible pieces—all of them. Thanks for showing so many.
I’m always torn, Peggy, in terms of how many pieces to include. But I hate to leave out artists and I’ve promised my self that I am going to wrap up Burning Man in a couple of months this year. 🙂 Thank you. –Curt
The human mind is a wellspring of ideas and imagination.
The beauty of something like Burning Man, Suan, is that it encourages and supports creativity in numerous forms. It thrives at the event, in a way that is rare in our world today, or in any era. –Curt
Indeed it is getting rarer the way the generations that come get stuck with social media
Yes. I am pretty sure there will come a time in the not distant future where it is hard-wired into our brains.
Unbelievable. I would love to see all of this in person. Just spectacular. Thank you for sharing your photos and your experiences at Burning Man Curt.
It’s my privilege, Sylvia, to travel out to Burning Man, experience it in my own way (there are innumerable ways to approach the event) and then share my experience in words and photos. Thank you. –Curt
Absolutely stunning work, Curt. Your photos are excellent in composition, light and lines. Thanks for taking us there. I’d go klicking mad with my camera if I’d chance to see this for myself. 🙂
Have a wonderful Sunday,
I certainly go ‘kicking mad’ with my camera, Dina. Burning Man is a photographer’s dream. And I only had three days at the event this year! Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for your kind words. –Curt
My absolute favorite is the Burning Woman. I suppose it’s my taste for simplicity coming through. It’s the same quality that makes the thunderbird so appealing. While I admire the creativity of these pieces, sometimes I feel like the artist thought, “Well, if a little is good, a lot more will be even better.” Still, BM is over the top generally, so it all works.
I certainly can understand how difficult it would be to make choices about what to present!
I liked the sense of humor and play that the Burning Woman represented, Linda. It served as a counter to the seriousness of some of the other pieces. Today’s post focuses on mystic art at Burning Man, but my next post will get back to the light side.
I crammed a lot into the three days I was there and saw a lot of art. And I took close to a thousand photos. But there was a lot of repetition, trying to get different perspectives, photographing the same piece at night and during the day, etc. That’s the easy part. The challenge is in making the choices and then working on the photos until they show what I want. –Curt
Wonderful sculptures! Thank you for sharing.
You are very welcome, Jane. And I am not the least bit surprised that you enjoyed the sculptures… –Curt
wow of the total wow, Sir… all the pieces are kinda “masterpieces”!!! 🙂 MERCI, Monsieur! 🙂
You are welcome, Melanie! It’s always interesting at Burning Man. 🙂 –Curt