Tens of thousands of people will commune in the heart of the Nevada desert this week to shed the conventions of daily life and take part in 10 days of bike-riding, friend-making, dance-partying and, er, spiritual elevation at Burning Man. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Colorado’s techy and adventurous populace is well-represented at the annual gathering, but there’s another crucial element to Burning Man that Coloradans are contributing to in spades: art. Thoughtfully interactive and towering works are an essential element of the experience, and Colorado’s community of artists and makers is exporting incredible works to Black Rock City. Here, five incredible Colorado-made sculptures taking up residence at Playa this year:
This mammoth sculpture is the product of a cohort of Loveland-based artists and engineers called the Rocky Mountain High Flyers Guild. The 50-foot-tall, carnivalesque work of art features a raised platform on which Burners can turn a crank to spin the 45-foot-diameter mobile of hanging pairs of mating dragonflies—which together form a heart shape—that extend from a fire-belching lotus blossom.
This party truck roves Playa, the sandy sprawl of Black Rock Desert where Burning Man takes place, alight with changing colors and spitting fire, carrying up to 100 dancing Burners on its back—err, in its oversized truck bed. This August will mark the third year that a collection of six Colorado artists have lovingly driven their converted flatbed to Black Rock City. If you see this mobile dance floor crawl past you, hop on and know there’s probably a fellow Coloradan somewhere nearby to groove with.
This sculpture will ask quite a lot of the Burners who encounter it. Designed by Meghan Woodhouse, founder of RiNo’s art space, Fusion Factory, and local artist Nolan Puryear, Buddha Bank at first appears to be a Burning Man-ified statue of the Buddha—with one major difference. The Buddha’s belly is clear. The artists are asking Burners to part with their cherished Burning Man shwag into the ‘bank.’ “Burning man shwag, is precious to Burners,” Woodhouse says. “A lot of the things that you get symbolize a really great interaction … they generally symbolize a happy moment on Playa.” When the Man is ceremoniously burned, the belly will have been shattered and the shwag will be passed out to the crowds; gifted by way of the artists from one stranger to another.
Created by Nick Geurts, one of the artists behind Sky Song, the musically interactive sculpture that now adorns Levitt Pavilion Denver, Therolin is more than meets the eye. A twenty-foot-long pipe juts just above the dusty ground is strung discretely with a piano string that is just as long. An electronic device called a theremin senses the presence of anything near to Therolin (one’s hand, for example), and electronically plucks the piano string. Your proximity to this unassuming pipe will ring out in notes that rise and fall as you grow nearer or farther.
If you’re going to send messages into the cosmos, to departed loved ones, or perhaps to parallel universes, you are going to need a pretty incredible contraption. Light Years Away, designed by Denver artist Wynn Buzzel, is just that. Rising and imposing forty feet above the ground, the sculpture features three spires rising from an elevated plane that shoot flames and smoke into the sky. It’s an ambitious undertaking—even for Burning Man. But perhaps the most incredible thing about it is its purpose: find five friends to stand with you on the six-wedged wheel at Light Years Away’s base to send the top platform into a spin, releasing, the artist says, your prayer to other worlds with light, fire, and smoke.