I’ve physically returned from Burning Man, but the eau de playa dust fragrance has permeated my surroundings, and the pulsating throb from dancing for hours at Robot Heart lingers deep within me. Frankly, I’m not so sure I want these reminders to vanish just yet—reminders that I was on the best little vacation ever at the most remarkable outdoor art gallery.
I realize that this weeklong festival at the Black Rock Desert is whatever you want it to be, and for some that means it’s just a big all-night dance party. Now, don’t get me wrong. I did my fair share of dancing, but for me, Burning Man is so much more. It’s a visual wonder! I’m always amazed at the creativity—the outfits, the neighborhood camps, the art cars and the art installations.
For the second year in a row, I led art tours during the festival. This year I had the honor of writing the tours script. For many, giving more than 40 hours of their time to research the 27 selected tour pieces and write about them for a team of guides to share wouldn’t be a privilege. But for someone like me whose main interest is the art, learning as much as I could about them was sheer joy.
This was my seventh consecutive year attending the festival, and I’ve gotten spoiled. I now expect to be wowed by scale, technology, fire techniques, LED lights and interactivity. Some years are better than others. This year, it was about scale, with a 105-feet tall man that stood on the desert floor and a 62-feet high couple that were twisted in an embrace. Peter Hudson returned with a mind-blowing stroboscopic zoetrope, “Eternal Return,” that depicted a golden woman ascending and returning. (This definitely was my favorite.) And Dan Fox told the heroic tale of a 40-feet tall ghost ship, the group that wanted to awaken it and those who wanted it destroyed. The epic ended with an exciting battle, a story that definitely will be passed down as the best playa assault in history.
What I loved most about giving art tours was bragging about all the art on the playa that was created and built in Reno. The 62-feet high couple, called “Embrace,” was erected/constructed by Matt Schultz and his team at the Generator. The gold-domed Islamic mosque that housed hand-made books and beautifully designed seating was “Library of Babel,” a first-time honorarium project by Warrick Macmillan. Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg, with flame-effect help from Steve Atkins, brought out lots of love with the “Pyramid of Flaming Love.” David Boyer’s kinetic sculpture, “Getting Your Bearings,” danced in the wind. And three beautiful mosaic-tiled daffodils that looked like they burst through the playa were “Beauty and Urban Decay” by Peter Hazel. One more time in my twelfth year living here, I was proud to be from Reno.
We are very lucky to have this art incubator, or counterculture event, which just so happened to result in $55 million being spent in our state in 2013, in our backyard.