Art forms the core of each year’s Burning Man festival on Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, much of it supplied by artists who live and work in Northern California. It should be no surprise that several of them are featured prominently in “Burning Man: Art of Fire,” a coffee table photography book written by Jennifer Raiser and illustrated by Scott London and Signey Erthal (Race Point Publishing).
Billed as the only authorized collection of Burning Man art, the book celebrates the world’s largest outdoor art show, enjoyed each summer by 70,000 strangers who come together to touch, handle, play with and sometimes burn the pieces. It also introduces the artists, their process and the philosophy behind their creativity.
“One of the most beautiful things about Burning Man is its ephemeral nature,” says New York artist Kate Raudenbush, a frequent contributor. “We bring this existence into being, and we also destroy it at the end.”
Among those whose work often can be found on the playa:
Bryan Tedrick of Glen Ellen, who sculpts interactive pieces large enough to climb on. Spread Eagle (2008) was a rotating metal wings that until recently could be found alongside the Kenwood Inn. In the wind, the wings turned and adjusted, always in balance, with a circle in the center to frame anything placed inside.
Humboldt County artist Duane Flatmo, best known for creating Mutant Vehicles that actually carry passengers. El Pulpo Mecanico (2011) was a propane-shooting octopus built from scrap metal and salvaged items, with eight articulated trashcan tentacles spewing propane flames. “I like the idea of something that moves while it’s on fire,” Flatmo says.
David Best, Petaluma artist. After a collaborator was killed in a motorcycle crash, his Temple of the Mind became a spontaneous memorial and spawned a new tradition. Each year’s Temple has become a symbol of inspiration and praise, a sacred space to celebrate gifts, reflect on the past, remember loved ones and relinquish sadness to the flames that ritually engulf it on Burning Man’s closing day.
Michael Garlington, also of Petaluma, has taken up the torch, creating wooden sculptures that include this year’s Totem of Confessions.