Art of Black Rock City

Art of BRC
The art of Burning Man never ceases to amaze, and the offering served up in 2013 was no exception. With a significant increase in our grant funding, we were able to provide over $800,000 in honoraria art grants, and an additional $24,000 for the Circle of Regional Effigies (CORE) projects. Beyond that, approximately 300 self-funded installations were placed on playa, many of which received assistance in the form of early arrival passes, heavy equipment assistance, and more.


This was by far the biggest year for honorarium art to date. The art grants we provide only partially fund art projects, and this is by intention. It’s important that artists should reach out to their communities for support, forming new relationships that create invaluable new connections, further strengthening the community.

We had a great split of returning Burning Man artists as well as new honoraria artists in 2013. Bryan Tedrick returned with the stunning Coyote sculpture, built as “a native to wild places just as Burners are home to BRC.” Constructed entirely of reclaimed steel, Coyote stood 25 feet tall, with a spinning head that rotated 360 degrees.

The Flaming Lotus Girls created yet another amazing sculpture for Black Rock City, this time bringing to life a landscape of decomposition and renewal through steel and fire, entitled Xylophage. Peter Hudson brought back two of Black Rock City’s favorite large-scale interactive zoetropes: Homorouboros and Tantalus.

A new cadre of funded artists hailed from a number of different locales. Two installations, Shipwreck and Fractal Cult, were conceived by masters students from the University of Westminster in London, and their art projects were part of their graduate studies. Having never set foot in Nevada, much less the Black Rock Desert, these artists got a crash course in creating artwork in the inhospitable climate of the remote desert. A group of South African artists created VLAM I STOF, their first foray into bringing art to Black Rock City. Meaning “Fire and Dust”, the installation was comprised of almost thirty kinetic fire art pieces in a chaotically choreographed performance.

Spirituality was a strong influence for several artists this year. Church Trap by first-time Burning Man artist Rebekah Waites gave the sense of a church being poised on a beam, as if it were a rabbit trap, ready to trap any intrepid soul who dared enter its space.  Michael Garlington’s Photo Chapel was a hushed, reverent church, where participants admired Michael’s stunning collection of life-size black and white photo portraits. Marco Cochrane’s Truth is Beauty celebrated female expression, energy, and strength, asking and answering the question of “what if women were safe?”. Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg shared their hope that we would all just BELIEVE.

The Circle of Regional Effigies returned to the playa for the third year in a row. In 2012, CORE had comprised 34 effigies that encircled the Man. This year we redesigned the layout of CORE into four smaller circles of six effigies each. These CORE “neighborhood” circles worked exceptionally well, offering a chance for closer interaction between regional groups from around the globe.

Amongst the 24 effigies there was a great mix first time CORE groups and returning veterans. Even the returning regions had a healthy mix of new participating artists learning first-hand about what it takes to build a 20’x20′ effigy designed to represent their geographic region and their community.

In the returning faction was Idaho, who created Marvin, a wondrous cacophony of light. Not to be outdone, New York also returned with a reported 30,000 lights for their effigy. New Orleans also rejoined the CORE effort with Altar of the Wetlands. A striking departure from their previous effigies, Alter of the Wetlands offered a quick education about the challenges experienced in their region in regards to pollution in the wetlands.

Some of the first-timers included Israel/Midburn, who offered their piece called Hand of Inspiration. China/Taiwan also joined in with their effigy entitled Enlightenment.

CORE continues to be a fantastic celebration of our Burning Man ethos out in the world, returning to the “mother ship” to share, to discuss and to burn.

Art of BRC
As noted, there was more art on playa than ever before. Artists seem to take more and more chances with their art, pushing themselves to develop new work, with new materials, in different sizes than they had tried before.

Jeff Howe and Ruby Bettencourt returned to Black Rock City with a new beautiful piece called Whirld. Whirld is derived from symbols that represented the cycles of life in a variety of ancient and contemporary cultures. Reaching nine-feet tall, Whirld is a symphony of kinetic metal reflecting the desert sun.

Gary Stadler was back with two returning pieces: Spiraire and Nexicon Portal. Spinning cascading light from their structures, these two pieces seemed to emit dancing glows across the playa sky.

Life Cube also returned this year. 24 feet in height, the Cube offered a space for people to connect, to share their wishes, and to watch them be released into the night sky during its burn.

Several artists shared their interpretation of the Man effigy. Genesis harkened back to the days in which the Man was pulled by rope into its upright stance. Wovokan Temple also included a 20-foot tall Man. While CORE celebrates how our ethos and culture resonates in the world, these pieces seemed to want us to continue to focus on our roots as well.

We love that each year artists seem to take more chances, construct more installations that seem to appear from a dream, pushing themselves in ways they could have never imagined. We look forward to seeing what 2014 brings.

Submitted by,

Elizabeth Scarborough