Magnificent Mutant Dragons… 11 Years of Burning Man Art

Burning Man green dragon mutant vehicle.
A green dragon waits patiently while its passengers climb off to admire a 30 foot high sculpture on the Playa at Burning Man.

I’ve been sorting through and categorizing my Burning Man photos, all 11 years’ worth including 2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17. As you might imagine, there are several thousand pictures. I’ve created 15 categories and will do posts on several of my favorites from each category over the next few weeks. My plan is to use Mondays and Wednesdays for my Burning Man posts and Fridays for my Pacific Crest Trail posts. Expect a few other subjects on Fridays as Peggy and I wander.

I debated with myself over how to kick the series off. Frankly, starting anywhere works when focusing in on the creativity of this annual event in the remote Nevada desert. Art is everywhere. Appreciating and enjoying it is the primary reason I have returned to Black Rock City again and again. Of course, people go to the event for many other reasons as well, such as dancing and drinking to the rolling thunder of heavy metal into the wee hours of the morning. They also go to see and be seen, to dress up in elaborate costumes, to attend lectures, to escape from their everyday worlds, and to participate in and contribute to Burning Man’s unique culture. The latter is central to the event. I consider photographing the art and sharing it with you as part of my contribution.

One of the most creative endeavors at Burning Man is the building of mutant vehicles, which is undertaken by both individuals and groups, or tribes as they are sometimes called out on the Playa. They are three ways to get around at Burning Man: to walk, to bike (which most do) or to travel in radically altered vehicles— i.e. mutants. Normal cars, vans, trucks, etc. must be parked. Mutant vehicles come in a variety of forms from bugs, to animals, to ships, to you name it. Today I am going to focus on dragons, most of whom breathe fire! Now, back to the green dragon featured at the top of the post.

Burning Man green dragon mutant vehicle.
The green dragon’s head and neck are operated by a series of pullies and springs.
A close up. I’d say that this fellow is about to spring into action. Note the dirty snout. That’s where the dragon breaths out its fire.
Burner uses cables to operate green mutant dragon at Burning Man.
The Burner here is preparing to take the dragon across the Playa at Burning Man. The chains are used for operating the head and neck. Imagine yourself in the driver’s seat!
Bikes loaded on a green dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
The dragon prepares to depart as a Burner climbs on board. The bikes provide passengers with an alternative form of transportation. Note how the tail has been lifted to provide a door.
Silver dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
This dragon appears eager. On your mark, get set…
Go! Wait, could that intrepid driver be the fearless Peggy?
Golden dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
It took me a while to decided that this sharp-toothed golden creature was a dragon. But the tube in its mouth persuaded me that when the sun went down, she would be breathing fire!
Large claws on golden dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
And check out those claws!
Golden dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man with baby dragon.
One year the dragon ran around on the Playa by itself. The next year it had a baby. Given all the dragons found at Burning Man, it hardly seems surprising.
Golden dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man with eyes glowing.
I caught an earlier version of the dragon with its eyes glowing at dusk. I’ve noted over the years that the same mutant vehicles may come back again and again, but they often morph.
Smiling dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Is this dragon smiling? I’d still be reluctant to get too near its mouth.
Lest you get taken in by its teeth as well as its smile. I would suggest that the weapon up on its back speaks to ill-intentions.
Car dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man photographed by Tom Lovering.
My friend and fellow Burner Tom Lovering caught this shot of a car dragon.
Frog eating mutant vehicle dragon at Burning Man.
Another low to the ground dragon. If you look carefully at its mouth, you can see that it is eating a frog. But maybe the frog is escaping.
Dragon sculpture on the Playa at Burning Man.
This dragon was personality plus, although it was more sculpture than mutant vehicle.
Silver and red mutant vehicle dragon at Burning Man.
And what about this beauty with its bright colors and proud wings… (Photo by Tom Lovering.)
Head of silver and red dragon at Burning Man.
A close up. That almost looks like a sword hanging down from its mouth. Maybe a dragon slaying knight met his untimely end.
Heavy Metal mutant vehicle dragon at Burning Man.
This impressive dragon was labeled Heavy Metal, which was probably the name of its tribe. I was sorry that I only got one photo of it.
I’m convinced that this dragon is one of the scariest at Burning Man.
Head shot of scary mutant vehicle dragon at Burning Man.
Here’s another head shot.
Very scary mutant vehicle dragon at Burning Man.
A full shot of the dragon. I would not like to meet it at night! Check out the size of those hind legs.
Mutant vehicle dragon at night in Burning Man.
Speaking of night, mutant vehicles take on different personalities as the sun goes down behind the desert mountains.
Mutant vehicle dragon with eyes glowing in the night at Burning Man.
Whoa! Eyes that glow in the night. Mr. Blue Eyes in the photo above this guy appears positively friendly in comparison.
Striking green head of mutant vehicle dragon at night at Burning Man.
Striking green dragon head with interesting teeth.
Red snouted mutant vehicle dragon at Burning Man.
Dragon with red snout!
Impressive blue-green dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Not sure that this creature was a dragon, but it was impressive. Maybe it is a mutant cat or?
Large dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
This night dragon wins the prize for size among the dragons of Burning Man. The driver is up on top.
Mega dragon mutant vehicle on the Playa at Burning Man.
A full view. People actually walk near the front and sides of these large mutant vehicles to guide them and make sure that they don’t run over anyone!
Four eyed mutant vehicle dragon at Burning Man.
A four eyed dragon, rather Asian in its look.
Alligator mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
And I will conclude with one of my favorites, which just might be a alligator. I found it hanging out near the New Orleans tribe’s camp. It either had green wings or was lurking under a palm tree, waiting for an unsuspecting victim.

NEXT POST: From dragons to bugs, to cats, and hippos! More mutant vehicles.

33 thoughts on “Magnificent Mutant Dragons… 11 Years of Burning Man Art

  1. Every now and then, something at Burning Man really catches my interest, and this time it was the alligator. Of course it was from the NOLA tribe. Most of the time, we use duct tape to wrap up that snout, but when you’re dealing with a BM gator, with that really substantial size and weight, you’d better bring in the chains!

    • Most of the beasties and much of the art have definite day and night personalities, Sue. In fact, the whole event takes on a different personality at night. Best to muzzle a dragon if you are planning on any personal encounters! 🙂 –Curt

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