The Fiery Demise of Regional Art… Burning Man 2012


Fire is a powerful force of nature. We are drawn by both its beauty and danger. But it can also be a symbol of impermanence. This photo shows people with a ‘front-row seat’ at Burning Man 2012 watching flames devour one of thirty-plus regional effigies burned simultaneously.

One explanation for burning art at Burning Man is that it reflects the impermanence of everything in life. Things don’t last forever; they decay and fall apart. Fire speeds the process along. You have construction and you have deconstruction. Let go. It’s an Eastern philosophy that has made its way into western thought.

But fire has it’s own attraction. We are drawn to its beauty and danger like moths. Our brains are hard-wired with the fascination of watching things burn.

When I was growing up, my father served as a volunteer fireman. He was an electrician and it was his job to show up first at fires and disconnect the power to burning houses so firemen didn’t have live wires bouncing around. That explained his presence at the fire… but not that of his wife, three kids and cocker spaniel.

Mother never missed a fire in our small town. It didn’t matter if we were in the middle of dinner or it was 3 AM. Pop was out of the house and running for the fire station when the siren went off. Mother was gathering us up and dashing for our well-used car. Tickle the Dog jumped in first.

I’ve often wondered if Pop found our presence embarrassing. I do remember him telling Mother once that he preferred that she not be the first car behind the fire truck, which is where she liked to be.

Mother would have loved the excitement of watching things burn at Black Rock City. I suspect that the majority of Burners are closer to her reaction to fire than they are to the philosophical and psychological implications of deconstruction and Zen.

Still, there is a definite release of emotion at the climax of a fire when the structure finally crashes down, when ultimate deconstruction takes place. It was powerful feeling when I was growing up and it is powerful at Burning Man.

Burning Man 2012 added a new twist to its art of burning (or burning of art). Over thirty effigies built by regions from Lithuania to Maine and placed in a circle around the Man were put to torch simultaneously on Thursday evening. It was a spectacular event. Those responsible for creating the art were responsible for burning it.

Because the burn was spread out over a large section of the playa, spectators had a front row seat as is demonstrated in the photo at the top of this post.

Members of the Horse-Bone Tribe ended up focusing on two of the effigies: Kokopelli and the Lighthouse. Punkin Beth and Adios Tom’s home in Davis California is crammed with Kokopelli art. Peggy and I wander the West photographing Native American rock art including Kokopelli. All of us love the rugged coast of Northern California and its lighthouses.

The following photos feature the burning of the Lighthouse, Kokopelli and other nearby art.

Kokopelli was a trickster and a god of fertility of Native American and First Nation tribes from Canada to Mexico. New Mexico Burners chose him to represent their region at Burning Man 2012. Here he is in her first stage of burning along with 30-plus regional effigies.

In this picture, Kokopelli Rising is close to being totally engulfed in flame but he continues to play his flute, working to entice fair indian maidens.

Baby Brulee, New Orleans’ contribution to regional art at Burning Man 2012, lit up the sky next to Kokopelli.

Baby Brulee in his final stages.

I included this photo of the Queen Bee (Secret of the Bees) created by Utah Burners for Black Rock City in my last blog.

Here, the Queen Bee burns down.

As Kokopelli fell into the flames we turned our attention to the Lighthouse or the Twisted Upright House as the North Bay Burners from California referred to their work of art.

The Lighthouse was designed to burn for a long time and provide a beacon in the Black Rock Desert.

As more and more of the regional effigies completed their burns, Burning Man participants gathered around the Lighthouse. The mutant vehicle known at the Octopus lets out a fiery blast in the background.

The Twisted Upright House was still burning when we finally left. The colored  lights are from two mutant vehicles. The red one displays a long shark’s body.





From South Africa to Texas… Burning Man 2012 Regional Art

This bull rising out of the sand is titled ReinCOWnation by the Houston, Texas Burners who created him for Burning Man 2012.

Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man, is a visionary with long-term plans. What started as a local burn on the beach in San Francisco in 1986 has grown into a worldwide phenomenon with local Burners from South Africa to Texas reproducing regionally the experiences they have had in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada.

This regionalization was demonstrated at Burning Man 2012 when 34 wooden effigies designed and built by local groups were placed in a circle around the Man. They were burned simultaneously on Thursday night in an impressive ceremony of just how far Burning Man’s roots have extended.

I am going to introduce several of the regional art works today and include links to where more information can be found about each piece. In my last blog on Burning Man’s 2012 art, I noted that I was limited to a few representative pieces. This is also true of the regional art. Go to Burning Man’s art core project to learn about the overall effort and other included effigies.

In my next blog, I will cover Thursday’s fiery end of the regional art.

I never realized that queen bees were amply endowed. But apparently they are according to Utah Burners who built this sculpture named the Secret of Bees. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

This was my view of the lady bee. Each year Burning Man selects a theme for the year. In 2012 it was fertility. Most of the regional art is tied to this theme.

Speaking of fertility, South Africa Burners brought Jozi to Burning Man 2012. This sculpture is a replica of an African fertility god.

Native Americans historically turned to Kokopelli for help with fertility. Ancient rock art representations of this trickster god and his large, um appendage, can be found from Canada to Mexico. Versions found in gift shops throughout the West have been sanitized. New Mexico Burners were responsible for bringing Kokopelli Rising to Burning Man. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

The end result of all this emphasis on fertility is of course a baby, or Baby Bon Temps Brulee, as named by New Orleans Burners. It is easy to picture King Baby on top of a Mardi Gras float.

Moving away from the Fertility theme, the Burners of the Great Lakes region created Soul Train for Burning Man. (Photo by Beth Lovering)

Making its way across the Ocean and US, the Viking ship Naglfar sailed into the Black Rock Desert courtesy of Burners from Denmark and Sweden.

Maine Burners appropriately brought “Happy as a Clam” to Black Rock City. In fact many of the regions, like the Danes above, created art that was representative of their area.

If you have ever driven or walked through downtown Reno, you will certainly recognize the inspiration for “Gateway” created by Nevada Burners. Reno has claimed the title “Biggest Little City in the World” for decades.

Dallas Burners brought a sculpture, the Hatchery, to Burning Man 2012 that produced fire art at night. Much of Burning Man art is designed to light up the night.

The Dragon Lotus from Denver.

My favorite among the regional art pieces was the lighthouse created by Burners from Northern California. This work of art was created from driftwood found along the North Coast, one of my favorite playgrounds.

Another view of the lighthouse. North Bay Burners titled their work “The Twisted Upright House.”

A final view featuring the stained glass windows on top. The windows were removed before the lighthouse was burned on Thursday night, an event which I will show in my next blog.

From a Sinking Ship to a Huge EGO… Burning Man 2012 Art

Whimsical always wins me over. This is one cool cat… or is that cat woman. I had to travel far out on the Playa to find the cat sculptures.

Face it; I am frustrated. It is impossible to cover all of the art featured at Burning Man. In fact with over 300 works of art scattered over the seven square miles that constitutes Black Rock City, it was impossible for me to even get around and admire each piece. Maybe if I had devoted 24/7… but Burning man provides many distractions.

All I can offer is a tantalizing sample… and a recommendation: if you enjoy this art and you have never been to Burning Man, put the event on your schedule for the future.

A final note before I jump into photographs: this year featured regional art from groups that are organizing local Burning Man activities from around the US and world. I will cover this art, and its fiery demise, in my next blog.

Another photo of the denizens of the outer Playa at Burning Man. One gets a sense of how far out they are by the lack of people in the background.

Imagine cycling across the desert and seeing in the distance a partially sunken 16th Century Spanish galleon. It’s almost unbelievable but at Burning Man you learn to expect the unusual. Artist Matthew Schultz headed up this project.

What amazed me even more was the attention to detail, right down to the masthead. The story behind the sunken ship is that it crashed into the pier.

Further attention to detail, plus a sense of humor, was found below decks. Note the long fingers and the modern coffee cup.

The pier, without the ship, was a very popular sculpture in 2011.

It is difficult to be an artist, or a writer… or even a blogger for that matter, without a little ego. This is a big one.

Since the artist, Laura Kimpton, and I are both somewhat dyslexic, I thought I would reverse the E.

Replicas of 10,000 trophies went into creating EGO.

Wall Street, photographed here from the Man, was another major installation at Burning Man 2012. Otto Von Danger is the artist.

Buildings were given such names as the Bank of UnAmerica and Chaos Manhattan. The Greek front is a replica of the NYSE.

Like in many urban settings, graffiti was rampant. But we can all dream our financial institutions will become a little less greedy and a little more responsible. Wall Street was burned but not the American flag.

“It takes a village…” (Photo by Tom Lovering)

I found this large Praying Mantis and several buggy companions out on the far Playa. My bike, Horse with No Name, waits patiently. (I trust you will recognize the song “I rode through the desert on a horse with no name.”)

This sculpture by artist Kate Radenbush is called Star Seed. I thought of it as ‘fantasy arising from the dust.’ And why not. Participants are expected to put their own twist on Burning Man art.

I did wonder whether we are seeding the stars or they are seeding us.

If you look closely, you will note that this man’s skin is made completely of watch parts. I also liked the see through quality as you look up at the sky over Black Rock City.

Another of the wonderfully quirky works of art found out on the Playa at Burning Man 2012. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

One sculpture featured a series of quotes. I found these two by Albert Einstein and Danny Kaye particularly appropriate for closing my blog on Burning Man 2012 art.