The Black Rock Arts Foundation is proud to collaborate with the Flaming Lotus Girls artist collective to install their piece Soma in the Pier 14 tidal plaza on San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront.

Soma by the Flaming Lotus Girls
Pier 14 Tidal Plaza
San Francisco, Ca, 94105
July 18, 2014 – Present
Stainless steel. 12V lighting system
28′ H x 40′ W x 25′ W

We celebrated an Opening Reception  for Soma on Friday August 1, 2014. See local CBS affiliate KPIX’s coverage of the installation here.

Soma at Pier 14 Photo by Caroline Miller

Soma is in place in San Francisco, but we still need your support!  Please consider donating now to this project.

Donate Now!


About the Project

Originally displayed at Burning Man in 2009, Soma is an interactive sculptural installation depicting two communicating neurons connected by an axon bridge.  A soma is the cell body of a neuron, with branching dendrites projecting away at different angles, and an axon which conducts the nerve signal electrochemically to its neighboring cell.

Soma translates the anatomy of neurons into metal, fire and light, magnifying the microscopic world to an epic scale. In this urban installation, Soma features interactive LEDs to create a spectacular daytime and nighttime experience.

SOMA Michael Holden
Soma with Moon,” Photo by Michael Holden (CC BY-NC-ND)


Soma is made entirely of stainless steel and a waterproof 12V lighting system. It occupies a 28′ high x 40′ long x 25′ wide rectangular footprint, secured to the ground beneath each nucleus with concrete anchors, covered by wooden platforms. Its weather resistant, stainless steel body features 70 custom LED units, each outputting 270 lumens of light. Each LED unit is mounted inside a unique resin casting. The LED units are individually controllable and capable of producing 16 million colors. The public can interact with Soma’s computer-controlled LED system by pushing buttons to activate the trans-synaptic action potential simulation. The on-board computer system can be remotely controlled and configured to automatically respond to factors such as time of day, lighting conditions or special events.

Over 100 Flaming Lotus Girls volunteers worked to create Soma!

Soma at Pier 14 Photo by Tex Allen
Soma at Pier 14 Photo by Tex Allen

About the Site

Soma pier 14 street plan

Soma will be the third piece installed by BRAF in the Pier 14 Tidal Plaza on San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront. BRAF previously collaborated with the Port of San Francisco in 2007 to bring Passage by Karen Cusolito and Dan Das Mann and in 2010 to bring the Raygun Gothic Rocketship by Sean Orlando, David Shulman, Nathaniel Taylor, Alan Rorie, and the Five Ton Crane crew to the same location.

About the Artists

The Flaming Lotus Girls are a female-driven, volunteer-based group of artists who have been making kinetic, mechanical fire art since 2000. Their work stands at the intersection of sculpture, kinetics, robotics, pyrotechnics, and electronic technology. They create interactive large-scale installations that engage viewers and invite them to become part of the art. Flaming Lotus Girls’ work is a collaborative process that empowers participants to learn new skills and become experienced, talented and active artists. They use a unique design methodology with a hyper-fluid organizational structure. Through an open and supportive cultural environment, the Flaming Lotus Girls promote creativity, education, volunteer contribution and leadership opportunities.

For more than ten years, the flaming lotus girls have created installations for The Burning Man Arts Festival in Nevada. These pieces include: Soma (2009); Mutopia (2008); Serpent Mother (2006); Angel of the Apocalypse (2005); Seven Sisters (2004); Hand of God (2003); Fire Island (2002); Flower Garden (2001); and Flaming Lotus Sr. (2000).

They have also exhibited at many local and international events, including: Power Tool Drag Races, San Francisco (June 2004, 2006); Fire Arts Exposition: Art on Fire, San Francisco (2006); The Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival, Oakland (July 2005, 2006 & 2007); Festival of Lights, Sausalito (Dec. 2004, 2005); Robodock (2005, 2007), Amsterdam (Sept. 2007); the Big Day Out, Australia (Jan 2007), Maker Faire, San Mateo, CA (May 2008, 2009), and Coachella Arts and Music Festival, Indio, CA (April 2009).

The FLG work in an egalitarian fashion, accepting input from anyone who regularly attends meetings. All creative decisions are made collaboratively.

Ladies (and gentlemen) can join the FLG with no previous experience in metal working and the fire arts. There are hands-on opportunities for members to learn the techniques used in the design, building, and operation of their projects. Many work to refine these skills to further their own art. Their collaborative process includes an open and supportive culture promoting volunteer contribution and leadership opportunities.