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.

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.