Cannibal Dogs, a Clean Cat, Witches and Other Murals… Burning Man 2017: Part 4

“Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble.” Macbeth immediately came to mind when I saw these three lovelies on a mural in Black Rock City. This seemed to fit Burning Man’s 2017 theme, Radical Rituals. And why do witches come in threes so often?

 

Murals have been around for a while. Try 30,000 years. Those ancient cavemen and women painting on the dark walls of their caves in Europe had a message they wanted to pass on, as did the prehistoric artists of the Southwest pecking out their messages on rock 3000 years ago. In modern times, graffiti artists have used their spray cans to mark out their territories and declare “I was here,” irritating competing gangs and the public as well, which, I’m pretty sure, was the point.

Street art has become more sophisticated today, and more acceptable. Major cities and small towns alike want a piece of the action. You are as likely to see a mural in a small Midwestern town as you are in Paris, Moscow, Rio or New York. The best of the street artists have found fame, and even a bit of fortune.

Not surprising, street art has made it to Burning Man. Murals may show up anywhere in Black Rock City, but a special place is reserved for them on the back wall of the Center Camp Café. I always try to include a few in my review of Burning Man art because it is representative of the art form, and, more importantly, I am fond of murals. They often show up in my blogs when I travel, and, I might note, they often show up in the blogs of the people I follow.

As you might imagine, Burning Man art can get a little weird. Take the cat below, for example. If you have a cat, you have noted their hygiene practices, and possibly even been a little embarrassed by them when the boss or the in-laws are over. But cats are cats, and, for all I know, they may do it on purpose during awkward moments. You might make your dog feel guilty about the practice, but never your cat. Speaking of dogs, they were featured on a mural as well.

Okay, this is a bit outrageous… But you have to admit, it is a cat ritual.

I may have seen this as a cartoon a long time ago in a New Yorker, but Karen Strauss’s mural on rituals made me laugh.

I can easily get lost on the Net when I try to find a particular Black Rock City mural artist. I never know where the search will take me, if anywhere. For example, Papa Witch caught my attention. I watched him work, found his monkey/ape charming, and was intrigued by how he signed his work.

Papa Witch, Chokae Kalekoa, paints the Monkey King on the wall behind the Center Camp Cafe at Burning Man.

I thought the Monkey King was quite regal.

My Papa Witch search eventually took me to Chokae Kalekoa, who was doing a fundraiser for a 2000-mile bike ride he was going on through the West. He declared, “The Conscious Relaxation that is achieved By Shutting my Monkey Mind, reveals a state of ok-ness that allows me to Mindfully Work, Artistically Create and Frolic to the best of my ability.” He taught meditation and promised, “I hereby pledge that on this 2000-mile odyssey bicycle ride, I will get 2000 people that I meet along the way to frolic and meditate with me.” He was shooting to raise $5,000. Darn, I thought, why didn’t I think of that for the 10,000-mile ride I did around North America. An equivalent amount would have been $25,000! But it wouldn’t have worked. I didn’t have the desire to frolic with 10,000 people, and I certainly didn’t have the stamina. Can you imagine frolicking with 100 people at the end of a 100-mile day on your bike?

Like much art work, most of the murals leave the viewer to make up his own interpretation of what he is seeing. So, I have, liberally. My apologies to the artists in advance. They are certainly free to correct me. Do you have any unique interpretations you would like to add?

This mural was quite clear And meaningful. Not drinking water at Burning Man can get you in a heap of trouble.

This mural, right next to the drink water mural, made me chuckle again. The sign on the bottle says “Not Water.” Note the sleepy-eyed cat up above. I found three among the murals.

These mermaids included the third cat, and a flying saucer.

This is weird. I am sure that the symbols tell a story. One look at the teeth and I promptly named the mural, “Dentist’s Dream,” however.

Another strange one, but I liked it. Note the name, Femmebrandt. I called this one, “The Eyes Have It.”

Does this remind you of anything? I got stuck on GOP. How else are you supposed to interpret an elephant with wild orange hair. I’m pretty sure that isn’t what the artist had in mind, but…

I thought of global warming here, which may say more about how my mind works than the mural. But I saw the water lapping at the city and thought of poor Houston. Frogs aren’t doing very well with global warming either.

Another artist works on her mural. The post says, “It’s for all of us.”

Go with the flow.

Daliesque, I am thinking. This fox had quite a rack.

And finally, bring it on!

NEXT POST: I wander around the outer edges of Burning Man.

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From a Giant Rabbit to The Old Woman’s Shoe… More Whimsical and Weird Sculptures of Burning Man

This huge rabbit out on the Playa had a message of love, transformation and living in the present. After staring at it for a moment, I thought it might also be a lesson in watching which brownies you eat at Burning Man. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

I am going to wrap up my posts on whimsical and weird sculptures at Burning Man with something of a hodgepodge today. Bugs Bunny is a good place to start. I had looked at this sculpture from several angles before the rabbit made its sudden and obvious appearance. And I am pretty sure that is what the artist meant to happen. The big Alice in Wonderland type rabbit at the top was much less subtle!

I was thinking that this was a random, modern art kind of wood sculpture as I walked around it at Burning Man…

And then I came to this view and thought immediately of the ‘wascally wabbit,’ Bugs Bunny. For those of you not up on your cartoon history, “wascally wabbit’ is what Elmer Fudd called Bugs,

Our friend Tom Lovering took the photo of the zonked out rabbit at the top of the post. Here Tom is snuggling up to a Playa dinosaur. The look on Dino’s face is what led me to include it here with my whimsical and weird photos. It’s kind of the look of a puppy after it has puddled on your floor.

The dinosaur.

The bone tree has been around Burning Man for as long as I have, I think. At least I can never remember not seeing it since I first started in 2004. It lives at First Camp where most of the original organizers of the event hang out. The combination of skulls and bones place it in my weird category. Liking weird, it has always been a favorite of mine.

The Bone Tree at Burning Man is a regular at the event.

Here’s a close up.

The Bone Tree comes with its own set of wheels so it can move around.

The old woman’s shoe, a fork of cork, an excitable mantis, metal devils, giant specks, and a couple of toothy sculptures finish out my selection for today.

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children she didn’t no what to do.” I like to add ‘obviously.’ How would you like to have that guy outside your window? I’d be dialing 911!

Another view of the shoe.

I thought these glasses with their blue eyes made an interesting sculpture. The Man can be seen in the distance.

Does this fellow with his fish strike you as weird?

Metal devils seem to be a thing at Burning Man. The teeth are marvelous.

I was always pleased with the way I caught this fellow with his red background, especially the way it shows through his right eye. Evil!

And then there was this scary praying mantis that appeared out of a dust storm.

Its front legs are something else! I don’t think you would want a hug.

Okay, this is fun. It wouldn’t be nearly as much if you didn’t know that the fabulous bathrooms are porta-potties, which can be far from fabulous!

Have you ever seen a cork fork?

How about a fork in the road?

Definitely weird.

This little shark that found a home way out on the Playa just had to make it into this collection. I’ll close with it.

The Best of Burning Man: The Top Ten Series (3)… Painting and Photography

 

The Man was still burning, refusing to fall down, when I walked back to the Center Camp Cafe. Beyond one or two people sleeping on the floor, the Cafe was empty. I was more or less alone with a number of dramatic paintings, including this one.

The Man was still burning, refusing to fall down, when I walked back to the Center Camp Cafe. Beyond one or two people sleeping on the floor, the Cafe was empty. I was more or less alone with a number of dramatic paintings, including this one. The eyes captured me and pulled me in.

 

I am going to be on the road for the next few weeks, so I decided to produce several blogs that might be of interest to my readers but would be easy for me to do: Voila—The Best Of Burning Man series! I’ve now been to Burning Man for ten years starting in 2004 (and will be going again in 2015, assuming I get two tickets and a vehicle pass). Each blog will feature a top ten category such as top ten sculptures, mutant vehicles, etc.

Important. 1) These are from my perspective. Other people will have different points of view. 2) I never see everything that is available to see at Burning Man. There is simply too much. So it’s quite possible that I have missed some really great things. My apologies. 3) I missed 2011. 4) These photos are not in order of choice. That is beyond me. (Grin)

Basically, this series will include a brief introduction and then my top ten choices. There may be captions on my photos, or not. Finally, while Peggy and I have taken the majority of these photos, I have also included photos from Tom Lovering, Beth Lovering, Don Green, and Ken Lake… all members of our ‘tribe,’ and friends.

Series 3: Paintings and photography

Painters and photographers have always contributed to Burning Man, at least for the ten years I have participated. Many of the paintings, from my observation, have featured nature and mythical themes.

Burning Man is a photographer’s paradise. Millions of photos are taken annually and some of the photographers are quite talented. Their work is scattered across the web. One day when I was out wandering in Black Rock City, I came across Camp Montage, where a group of gifted photographers had combined various images from Black Rock City into single works. I loved the way they captured the essence of Burning Man. I’ve included two of their montages.

Mural work is everywhere and many of the murals are works in progress, especially at the beginning of the week. Blank walls demand to be filled.

Shaman and jaguar painting at Burning Man.

The shaman of Mesoamerican cultures considered the jaguar as an essential companion or nagual on their drug induced journeys into the dangerous spirit world.

The detail on this painting featuring a goddess-like woman, elephant, hawks and other natural themes is incredible.

The detail on this painting featuring goddess-like women, an elephant and birds is incredible.

This underwater theme with its brightly colored creatures has always been one of my favorite Burning Man murals.

This underwater theme with its brightly colored creatures has always been one of my favorite Burning Man murals.Check out the giant squid and the whale (or shark, given the teeth) on the right.

This mural reminds me of dreams I had in Bali. Apparently I wasn't eating portobello mushrooms.

This mural reminds me of dreams I had in Bali. Apparently I wasn’t eating Portobello mushrooms.

Monkey mural and Golden Gate Bridge with message.

Monkey business and a message were featured on this mural. I’d be a little worried about the waves if I were driving across the Golden Gate Bridge at the time..

This photograph montage created by the Montage Camp is composed of a number of different photos taken at Burning Man. Take a close look. It is what you might see on a typical day.

This photograph montage created by the Montage Camp is composed of a number of different photos taken at Burning Man . Take a close look. It is what you might see on a typical day.

This combination of photos from Camp Montage focuses more on mutant vehicles— from the small to the gigantic.

This combination of photos from Camp Montage focuses more on mutant vehicles— from the small to the gigantic.

A touch of the orient.

A theme camp I came across in 2006 featured large, meditative images that were backlit by the outside sun.

Touch of orient 2

Another example.

A mural artist at work painting a monkey.

A mural artist dabs hair on the monkey mural shown above.

A artist works on a painting at the Center Camp Cafe, providing Burners with an opportunity to watch her work.

An artist works on a painting at the Center Camp Cafe.

Another artist plies his trade while a Burner looks on.

Another artist plies his trade while a Burner looks on. These are examples where painting borders on performance art. NEXT BLOG: The Costumes of Burning Man, another form of creativity.

 

 

Weird, Wonderful, Civic Minded, Burning Man… Burning Man 2013

Burning Man Sculpture

I love things that are unique and humorous. This suave sphinx at Burning Man made me laugh.

I like unique– even more if it’s strange or amusing. Burning Man qualifies. First time visitors to Black Rock City, aka Virgin Burners, can be overwhelmed by the experience. At least I was. I walked around like a South Dakota farm boy in New York City. Or maybe it was more like a chocoholic in a chocolate factory. After ten years the newness has worn off, but I still find much that intrigues me.

Most of all, I love the art; but I also like the elaborate costumes, the magical nights, the mutant vehicles, the performance art, and the characters. Ah yes, the characters– the nature of the event almost requires you be one to participate. Imagine 50,000 together in a raging dust storm. Scary, isn’t it.

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

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

Thousands of hours can go into the creation of unique works of art found on the Playa. This ship from last year is a great example.

Thousands of hours can go into the creation of unique works of art found on the Playa. This ship from last year is a great example.

The art can be uplifting, like this 2006 sculpture...

The art can be uplifting, like this 2006 sculpture…

Ferocious like this dragon...

Or ferocious like this dragon…

Or humorous like this dog.

Or humorous like this dog.

The costumes and the characters also have great appeal.

The costumes and the characters also have great appeal.

As do the mutant vehicles like this mammoth.

As do the mutant vehicles like this mammoth.

And the thousands of performing artists.

And the thousands of performing artists.

Burning Man becomes almost magical at night.

Burning Man becomes almost magical at night.

And then there is the culture. I don’t mean the sculpture on the Playa, or the opera you might find at Center Camp; I am talking about the ten principles that Larry Harvey and his devoted band of organizers promote: inclusion, gifting, decommodification, self-reliance, self-expression, communal support, respect for the environment, civic responsibility, participation, and immediacy.

Most of these are self-explanatory but three can use further clarification.

Decommodification means that you can’t buy or sell things at Burning Man. Nor can you promote products or companies. There are no sponsorships; there is no advertising. In addition to being self-reliant (having what you need to survive for a week in the desert– water, food, etc.), gifting is the response to decommodification. Everything from free drinks, to food, to bike repairs, to entertainment, costumes and much, much more is given away in one huge potlatch. And everyone is expected to participate by also gifting.

My friend Beth Lovering, a master bike mechanic, provides free bike repairs as part of her gifting at Burning Man. I have always thought of the work I put into this blog featuring the people and art of Burning Man as my gift back to the event.

My friend Beth Lovering, a master bike mechanic, provides free bike repairs as part of her gifting at Burning Man. I have always thought the work that Peggy and I put into this blog featuring the people and art of Burning Man as our gift back to the event. People from 170 countries around the world have stopped by here to learn more about Burning Man.

Immediacy borders on spiritual. In the words of Burning Man: “We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”

Nothing captures the spiritual side of Burning Man like the Temple where Burners leave thousands of messages to loved ones. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

Nothing captures the spiritual side of Burning Man like the Temple where Burners leave thousands of messages to loved ones. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

The burning of the temple on Sunday evening sends the messages skyward. Always noisy Burning Man, is silent for the burn.

The burning of the temple on Sunday evening sends the messages skyward. Always noisy, Burning Man is silent for the burn.

Maybe the most unique thing about Burning Man is that it tries to live up to these principles. For example, there is none of the trash floating around that you find at most large events, even the tiniest piece is chased down. The wilderness ethic of ‘leave no trace’ is serious business at Black Rock City.

So while Burning Man is indeed a huge party in the desert with its share of people who come and party for seven days straight, it is also more. I am quite comfortable with Harvey’s ten principles and believe that most are goals we can all strive for. But tell me truthfully– assuming you have never been to Burning Man, did you expect civic responsibility to be one of the ten?

NEXT BLOGS: I’ll be out this coming week at Burning Man so I am pre-posting three more blogs on my trip up the Alaska Highway that Peggy and I returned from this week. First up I want to look at Road Houses. Once essential on the long road to Alaska, they are becoming an endangered species. Second, we will visit the sign forest at Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory with its 70,000 plus street signs. Finally, on our way back through Washington State last week, we stopped off at Mt. St. Helens, one of the modern world’s most famous volcanoes. I actually flew over the volcano a few weeks after it blew its top in 1980.

And finally, to those who visit this blog (thank you), and to the blogs I follow, I will be off the Internet next week. I will catch up with your comments and blogs afterwards.

Starting on September 2, I will begin my series reporting on Burning Man 2013.

I'll close with a couple of my 'strange and wonderful' favorites. These cool cats...

I’ll close with a couple of my ‘strange and wonderful’ favorites. These cool cats…

Burning Man Rabbit

And this crazy rabbit worthy of Alice in Wonderland.