The Magnificent and Powerful Art Of Marco Cochrane… My 11 Years at Burning Man

In 2010, Marco Cochrane introduced the first of his magnificent nude sculptures to Burning Man, the 40 foot tall Bliss Dance.

When I first ventured out onto the Playa on my 2010 visit to Burning Man, I was immediately drawn to a large sculpture of a nude woman that struck me as being beautiful and full of life. The sculpture, I learned was titled Bliss Dance and had been created by the Bay Area artist Marco Cochrane based on his model, the dancer Deja Solis. Bliss Dance would go from Burning Man to Treasure Island next to San Francisco and is now on permanent exhibition in Las Vegas. Here’s what Cochrane had to say during the unveiling of the sculpture in Las Vegas:

What I see missing in the world is an appreciation and respect for feminine energy and power that results when women are free and safe. It seems obvious to me that feminine energy is being suppressed and that this must change. If we are to find real, lasting solutions to the problems facing humanity, men and women must be able to work together as equals. Bliss Dance is intended to focus attention on this issue.— Marco Cochrane, Feb. 2016 press release

This sentiment also applies to the two other sculptures that Cochrane created for Burning Man as part of a trilogy: Truth Is Beauty in 2013 and R-Evolution in 2015. I consider myself privileged to have been at Burning Man on each of these years. Truth Is Beauty is now on permanent exhibit overlooking the BART station in San Leandro, California.

Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man in 2013.

An 18-foot rendition of Truth Is Beauty and several other art works from Burning Man were recently on display at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. An introduction to the exhibit stated:

Burning Man, one of the most influential events in contemporary art, is both a cultural movement and a thriving temporary city of more than 70,000 people that rises out of the dust for a single week each year in late summer in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. During that time, enormous experimental art installations are erected, some of which are then ritually burned to the ground. The desert gathering is a uniquely American hotbed of artistic ingenuity, driving innovation through its philosophies of radical self-expression, community participation, rejection of commodification and reverence for the handmade.

Nora Atkinson, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at The Renwick went on to say this about the exhibit’s title: No Spectators

“‘No Spectators’ is a long-standing saying on Playa. You are encouraged to fully participate. It’s all about being there, being fully present, and not just observing. Two of the ten principles of Burning Man are radical participation and radical inclusivity, meaning that there are no outsiders. Everyone is part of the experience.”

If both of these statements seem a bit familiar, they reflect what I have been saying about Burning Man art and Burning Man in my posts over the last several years. In ways, I believe that Burning Man has been fostering a mini-renaissance in art and is now being recognized world-wide for its contributions.

R-Evolution, the last of Cochrane’s trilogy was actually scheduled to be exhibited on the National Mall in Washington DC between the Washington Monument and the White House. The group responsible for moving and installing the sculpture had written to me and asked for permission to use photos from my blog in a documentary it was preparing for the exhibit. The exhibit was cancelled. It may have been that the idea of a giant nude on the mall was too controversial. Anyway, here is one of my favorite photos of the sculpture:

R-Evolution at Burning Man in 2015.

Peggy (my wife) says what she loves about sculpture is that it is three dimensional art that you can touch and feel as well as see. One of her favorite things about Burning Man is that the art has an up-close and personal aspect, a hands on policy. Most museums have a hands-off policy. The three dimensional aspect of sculpture also has great appeal to me. I believe that that you should be able to appreciate sculpture from any angle. I’ll use the concluding photos on this post to further look at the three sculptures.



My friend Tom Lovering caught this beautiful shot.
At night, LED lights inside the sculptures light them up in a number of ways, changing every few minutes.
A final view of Truth Is Beauty.


One of my favorite views of R-Evolution because of the Black Rock Desert background. (Photo by Don Green.)

That’s it for today. NEXT POST: UFO’s, aliens, and a giant robot at Burning Man.

Colossal Women… The Sculptures of Burning Man

Sculpture Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013

Truth Is Beauty is one of three colossal sculptures created for Burning Man by the Bay Area artist Marco Cochrane. Each of these sculptures captures the beauty of the female form but goes further. Marco’s works are designed to help us see women as total human beings instead of objects. Not to detract from Cochrane’s message, but I decided to kick off today’s post with this photo because I spotted a bit of green along with the truth. Happy St. Pat’s Day.


Now that I have finished my series on Burning Man’s creative and sometimes wacky mutant vehicles, I am ready to take on another aspect of the art that seems to bloom and thrive in the Black Rock Desert, sculpture. I am going to start with something big, really big— colossal women. We are talking 40 to 60-foot-tall sculptures here! Three artists have been responsible for creating the giant women of Black Rock City, Marco Cochrane, Karen Cusolito and Dan Das Mann.

Das Mann and Cusolito, working as a team, produced a series of works at Burning Man between 2005 and 2007. Mann’s interest in monumental art started with a degree in Landscape Architecture from Rutgers University. Cusolito’s introduction to the art world followed a more formal path with studying at the Rhode Island School of Design and Massachusetts College of Art.

These photos are from Mann and Cusolito’s 2006 and 2007 art at Burning Man.

My introduction to the art of Karen Cusolito and Dan Das Mann was this tall woman with her arms reaching toward the sky. She was located in front of the Center Camp Cafe which is considered a position of honor for art at Burning Man.

She was accompanied by this woman kneeling in supplication.

Another photo of the two with the Black Rock Desert for background.

This one shows the art’s location in relation to Burning Man’s Center Camp Cafe.

Close up of the ‘skin.’

For 2007, Cusolito and Das Mann created Crude Awakening.

This sculpture caught my attention. Fire shoots out from the hands.

Check out the chain hair.

Marco Cochrane was born in Italy to American parents in 1962 and raised in the Bay Area. According to his website, “he identified with the female struggle with oppression and saw feminine energy and power as critical to the world’s balance.” His art reflects this belief. In 2007 he attended Burning Man and would have seen the sculptures by Das Mann and Cusolito. Eventually, he returned to Burning Man in 2010 with the first of his own colossal sculptures, Bliss Dance. In 2013 he brought Truth Is Beauty to Burning Man and in 2015, R-Evolution. I’ve blogged about each of these creations in the past. Following are a few of our photos.


Cochrane’s first work, Bliss Dance, was my favorite. She now resides in Las Vegas just off of the Strip.

I like the playful nature of Bliss Dance.

Marco Cochrane's Bliss Dance at Burning Man.

A close up.

I introduced this post with a night photo of Truth Is Beauty. The sculpture shares this picture with other Burning Man art.

This photo provides a side view. The people give perspective.

A back view. Each of Cochrane’s works are powerful from any angle.

R-Evolution is the third and final of Cochrane’s sculptures at Burning Man. I like how R-Evolution fits in with the mountains here. (Photo by our friend Don Green.)

A night-time view of R-Evolution’s back.

And a front view to complete this post.


Something Fishy.

The Sierra Trek: We backpack through 106 degree weather, and the Sheriff pays us a visit.

More of Burning Man sculptures.


R-Evolution at Burning Man 2015…


The 48 foot sculpture R-Evolution looks across the Playa at Burning Man

The 48 foot sculpture R-Evolution looks across the Playa at Burning Man.

“Art can illuminate the human condition and be a catalyst to social change… it can foment revolution… it can make a difference in individuals’ lives… in your life.” —Marco Cochrane

She stood there in her nakedness, looking out across the Playa, all 48 feet of her. She was a tall woman.

R-Evolution is the third in a series of giant women sculptures created by the Bay Area artist Marco Cochrane for Burning Man. Marco named his three-part effort the Bliss Project after his first sculpture, Bliss Dance, which appeared at Burning Man in 2010 and later graced Treasure Island.   Truth Is Beauty appeared in 2013 and R-Evolution in 2015.

Bliss sculpture at Burning Man in 2010.

Bliss Dance sculpture at Burning Man in 2010.

Truth is Beauty sculpture at Burning Man 2013.

Truth is Beauty sculpture at Burning Man 2013.

Working out of his studio on Treasure Island, Marco used the same woman, Deja Solis, as the model for each of his giant woman. The purpose behind his monumental work, according to Marco, is to “challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge that has developed around the female body… to inspire men and women to take action to end violence against women, making room for women’s voices, thus allowing both women and men to live fully and thrive.”

Marco starts with a clay model and then works upward and outward, constructing the final sculpture of steel rods and balls, which is then covered with a stainless steel mesh. For those who like details, the 55-feet tall Truth is Beauty weighed 7,000 pounds and was constructed using 55,000 single welds, 25,000 feet of steel rod and pipe, 6500 steel ball connection points, and 2000 square feet of stainless steel mesh. 1500 multi-colored LED lights were distributed throughout her body for nighttime illumination.

I feel lucky that I was able to be at Burning Man the three times that Marco brought his art work to Black Rock City. I felt compelled each year to revisit the statues again and again. As I look back over my photographs (there are a bunch), I’ve come to reverse their presentation in my mind. I start with the quiet and contemplative R-Evolution, move on to the enlightened and celebratory Truth Is Beauty, and end with the joyfully dancing Bliss. Maybe I’ve made this choice because Marco uses as his motto on his website one of my all-time favorite quotes and guidelines for living life:

“Follow your bliss and doors will open where none existed.” –Joseph Campbell

I like this photo because it shows the meditative quality of R-Evolution.

I like this photo because it shows the peaceful, meditative quality of R-Evolution.

This photo by Don Green captures the sunlight in an interesting way.

This photo by Don Green captures the sunlight reflected off of R-Evolution’s structure in an interesting way. Can you spot the heart?

Cochrane's use of hands in his sculptures always tell part of the story.

Cochrane’s use of hands in his sculptures always tell part of the story.

A close up showing the internal structure of the hand.

A close up showing the internal structure of the hand.

A large group attended an evening discussion on the issue of violence against women.

A large group attended an evening discussion on the issue of violence against women.

R-Evolution, Bliss and Truth Is Beauty were all designed to take on a variety of colors at night, providing a completely different perspective on the sculptures.

R-Evolution, Bliss Dance and Truth Is Beauty were all designed to take on a variety of colors at night, providing a completely different perspective on the sculptures.

I thought this was quite dramatic.

I thought this was quite dramatic with its black sky background.

A final view of R-Evolution looking across the Playa at the distant mountains of the Black Rock Desert.

A final view of R-Evolution looking across the Playa at the distant mountains of the Black Rock Desert.

NEXT BLOG: The murals of Burning Man.

Truth Is Beauty: A 55-Foot Tall Woman… Burning Man 2013

The sculpture Truth and Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

Truth Is Beauty. This 55 foot tall sculpture was a main attraction at Burning Man 2013– for a good reason.

There are two sets of greeters when you enter the Kingdom of Burning Man. The first are Border Guards. They check your passports, i.e. tickets. Then they ask the usual questions: “Are you carrying anyone else? Do you have a pet on board? Do you have guns?” Trying to sneak someone in can get you banned. Usually someone climbs on board and checks our bathroom. This time, the guy waved us on. We were disguised as middle-class retirees. We could have been someone’s grandparents. Heck, we are someone’s grandparents.

The second set of greeters serve as the Black Rock City equivalent of the Welcome Wagon. They even give you a package of goodies. These folks smile through the worst of dust storms, as do the Border guards. “I can see you are Virgin Burners,” the guy told Peggy. “Actually,” Peggy responded, “This is our tenth year.” There was a moment of silence. “Welcome home,” he recovered. “You are going to love the art this year. The artist who did Bliss three years ago has a new sculpture. It’s incredible.”

That caught our attention. Peggy and I had been blown away by Bliss, a 40-foot sculpture of a female dancer. So we were excited to learn that the same artist, Marco Cochrane from Mill Valley, California, had produced a new sculpture for Burning Man 2013, another colossal female named Truth Is Beauty. After visiting the Man and the Temple (always our first stops at Black Rock City), we cycled over to see the Woman. I’ve capitalized the W because the sculpture deserves it. Truth Is Beauty is 55 feet tall. We were awed. Peggy and I returned to visit several times during the week.

In preparation for today’s blog, I decided to do some research on Marco Cochrane and his art. The first thing that I learned was that Marco and I share a passion for Joseph Campbell. In fact the name for the whole Bliss project, which includes Bliss, Truth Is Beauty, and a third sculpture yet to be done, is taken from a quote by Campbell, which Cochrane has posted on his website:

Follow your bliss and doors will open where none existed.

The original Bliss sculpture from Burning Man 2010 now resides on Treasure Island, San Francisco, where Marco has his studio. The statue weighs 7,000 pounds, is 97% air, and includes 55,000 welds, all done by hand. The internal framework is based on a geodesic structure (thank you Bucky Fuller), and includes 4500 ball joints. The “skin” consists of a steel mesh stretched over the structure and screwed on.

The art at Burning Man can be spectacular, such as this tall, nude woman.

Bliss at Burning Man in 2010.

Marco used the same model, Deja Solis, a six-foot tall singer/dancer from the Bay Area, for both Bliss and Truth Is Beauty. His goal in working with a model is to have her relax, feel safe and be herself. He then works to capture her essence and recreate it in his works of art. His goal is to help us move beyond seeing a woman as an object and see her instead as another human being, a rather large human being.

If you would like to learn more about Cochrane and his projects I would recommend going to his website. There is also an excellent interview by Matador Network. Following are a number of photos designed to capture Truth Is Beauty from different angles and in different lighting conditions. Enjoy.

The toes of the sculpture Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

To provide perspective on the size of the statue, these are her toes and my foot. BTW, I wear a size 14 shoe.

Peggy Mekemson standing in front of sculpture Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

Peggy provides perspective on Truth Is Beauty’s foot. This photo also provides a good look at the inner construction of the statue.

A side view of the sculpture, Truth Is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013.

A side view of the sculpture outlined by the early morning sun.

Truth Is Beauty back view

Camera photography by balloon at Burning Man 2013.

As you might imagine, photography is big at Burning Man. 68,000 people probably means 68,000 cameras. This photographer attached his camera to a large balloon to capture unique perspectives on Truth Is Beauty.

Head shot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Head shot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

From the ground up, Truth Is Beauty almost becomes abstract.

From the ground up, Truth Is Beauty almost becomes abstract.

The magic of night at Burning Man, also applies to the art. Using a series of LED lights inside the statue as well as outside lighting, Truth Is Beauty evolves through a number of almost mystical colors.

Truth Is Beauty at night during Burning Man 2013.

Outside lighting gives the statue a sense of solidness.

Truth Is Beauty lit up by LED lights at Burning Man 2013.

The LED lights give the appearance that the sculpture is filled with stars.

I took the following three photos from the same perspective to show Truth Is Beauty as she changed colors.

Truth is Beauty at night, Burning Man 2013.

Truth Is Beauty one.

Sculpture Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013

Truth Is Beauty two.

Truth Is Beauty three.

Truth Is Beauty three.

Our friend Tom Lovering (AKA Adios) from Davis, California has a good eye for capturing unique photos. He was up before the sun to be out on the Playa for these pictures of Truth Is Beauty. I will conclude with these photos.

A properly placed sun provided Truth Is Beauty with a heart. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

A properly placed sun provided Truth Is Beauty with a heart. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

Truth Is Beauty photo by Tom Lovering at Burning Man.

The sun outlines Truth Is Beauty’s head and is captured in her arms. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

If you enjoyed this blog, you might want to check out my top five reasons for going to Burning Man in 2014.

NEXT BLOG: Two very unusual churches at Burning Man.

The Big Rig Jig, Bliss and Ecstasy… Burning Man Art

I return to Burning Man for a number of reasons but the art is what truly captures my imagination. This sculpture by Dan Das Man and Karen Cochrane is titled Ecstasy. At night, fire shoots from the statue’s hands.

Art, for me, is the essence of Burning Man. Today I am going to feature three monumental sculptures that I found to be particularly impressive during my six visits to Black Rock City.

The 2007 theme for Burning Man was The Green Man. Artists were encouraged to develop pieces with an environmental message. Mike Ross, a New York sculpture artist, chose to cut up and weld together two 18-wheel oil tankers as a reminder of the impact oil consumption has on our environment. Like much Burning Man art, people were invited to climb over and into this 42-foot high sculpture titled the Big Rig Jig.

Two 18 wheel oil tankers were cut up and reassembled to create this 42 foot high sculpture created by Mike Ross of New York.

Another view of the Big Rig Jig by Mike Ross at Burning Man. Each year Burning Man selects a new theme and encourages artists to create works of art that reflect the theme.

I really like this photo of the Big Rig Jig taken by my fellow member of the Horse-Bone Tribe and friend, Ken Lake.

Dan Das Man who works out of the Bay Area has had several sculptures featured at Burning Man over the past decade. My favorites are his colossal human figures.

The statues by Dan Das Man at Burning Man are guaranteed to excite photographers and elicit emotions from Burners.

A new definition for spiked hair?

The bikes and Center Camp provide a perspective on the size of this sculpture by Dan Das Man at Burning Man.

In 2010 it was the 40-foot high, 7000-pound sculpture Bliss that caught my attention. Treasure Island was the birthplace of this piece by artist Marco Cochrane.

In 2010 the monumental sculpture named Bliss by its creator Marco Cochrane caught my attention.

Almost any time of the day or night a crowd was gathered around the 42 foot tall, 7000 pound sculpture Bliss at Burning Man.

The sun provided a Kodak moment at Burning Man for this photo of Bliss.

I added a green background in my final photo of Bliss.