Art in Waiting

It is that time of year again when many individuals and groups are taking concepts and ideas turning them into to Art Proposals. It is a beautiful time for the creative spirit when every wacky concept seems possible to build. That inspired vision you had last year or that long festering idea is being sketched out, budgets are being drawn up, 3D renderings helping to visualize the genius, goofy handmade models painstakingly being hot glued together (tongue depressors, pipe cleaners and all) and all that conceptual blah dee blah is being churned out.

The moments when an idea is being hatched is a magical time in the process of artistic creation.

It is also that time of year when one who has created work for Burning Man in previous years also thinks, if I make another piece, where the hell will I store it? Which artspace, whose back yard, the dump, which kiddie rave or music fest as decoration, some cheap storage facility…..

When it is not burned or destroyed where does it go after the playa? Who’s responsibility is it? Will it ever see the light of day again?


To Build A Temple for Metropolis


The building season has begun.  As Moze posted recently, the Honorarium List is out.  As one of this year’s honorarium artists I thought I’d give a little insight into how one comes to the conclusion to take on the monumental project of building The Temple for Burning Man.

A Dusty picture by Rick Egan

It all began Sunday last year on the playa. Sunday for me has always been a day of reflection. Last year I woke up in a very reflective mood as the dust storm was raging…”Why on earth do I come out to this god forsaken hole”… <cough, cough> …”Why do I insist on making art in this inhospitable place”.  Just as my pity party was in full swing my favorite art partner Rebecca Anders finds me and suggests we go on an OPA tour (Other Peoples Art tour).  She had been having a similar morning of woe and needed to get away.  Joined by Don Cain, of DSC, we went on a deep playa excursion to see what treasures we had missed during the week while we were installing Fishbug.

Fishbug aka Chimera Sententia by Rebecca Anders & Jessica Hobbs
Fishbug aka Chimera Sententia by Rebecca Anders and Jessica Hobbs photo by nightshade,


What the girls do in the off-season

What does a Flaming Lotus Girl do for the holidays?  You’d think after manifesting yet another work of art she’d be able to take a break, but no – you just can’t keep a good girl down.

We are currently doing work of Angelic proportions!

Margaret making some sparks
Margaret making sparks – photo by Matt Silvey

New Angelic Body
Girls making a new Angelic body – photo by Matt Silvey

The Girls have been working all winter braving the cold Boxshop to re-vamp the Angel of the Apocalypse in order to reveal her in Toronto January 29th thru February 7th, 2010 at the City of Toronto’s Winter City Festival.


No more ACE in the hole – RIP ACE Junkyard

We finally lost ACE Junkyard to the ravages of an unreasonable San Francisco landlord. She won only on a technicality, after a long expensive battle by Bill Kennedy, proprietor extraordinaire of ACE Junkyard.

I hope many of you know the wonders of San Francisco’s ACE Junkyard.  If not let me clue you in to the significance of what we are losing.  Bill who is also known to some of as Billy the Junkman, Junkman or even Belinda, has been the purveyor of fine junk in San Francisco for over 25 years and ACE has been THE resource for playa artmaking in Bay Area for over 15 years.  Let it be known Bill has provided an incalculable about amount of funding for playa art in the last 15 years, in the form of JUNK – wondrous, glorious, re-usable, transformable, JUNK!

Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Over the years this junk has evolved into many ground-breaking forms of art.   Junk from ACE has been transformed into SRL’s machines, SEEMEN’s interactive work and Cyclecide’s pedal-powered carnival.  The list of artists doesn’t stop there. The following incomplete list of artists can all thank Bill for his uncanny ability to find that essential widget or for donating his  Junkyard venue to events like the famous Power Tool Drag Races: Flaming Lotus Girls, Rich Humphrey, Jarico Reese, Laird Rickard, Paul the Plumber, Big Daddy, John Law, Jim Mason, Michael Michael, Simone Davalos, Kimric Smythe, Shannon O’Hare, Sue Glover, Dan Das Man, Karen Cusolito, Scott Gasparian, Charles Gadeken, Kal Spelletich, Mark Perez, and Chicken John.

Come celebrate and say Goodbye to our favorite Junkyard on Saturday October 31st, Halloween at Cellspace 5020 Bryant Street. The Junkyard will be gone, but Bill remains and I’m sure he will figure out other ways to enrich us.

“The other side of it is…. well it was and is worth ever penny of it. The people, events, art, and most importantly to me the parts of myself that I found, and the person that I have become. A large part of who am now is because of the love and support on my family of friends I have made from this place.” -Bill The Junkman

Do you have a favorite ACE or Bill memory?

What would power look like if it was art?

The Shipyard has been home, storage or workspace for many Burning Man installations; Kiki Petit’s Eugiera, Nates Smiths first Fire Vortex, Ryon Gesink’s Eye Arch and Fuck Machine, Jim Mason’s Stockpuppets v2 and ICP, Jake Lyall’s Riot wheel, Borg 2, Liam McNamara’s ClocktowerNeverwas Haul, Lepidodgera by Rachel Norman, Mike Thielvoldt, Lira Filippini, and Jake Haskell.  Currently, projects for this year’s Burning Man, FishBug and Gee-Gnome, are busily being completed.  Non-Burning Man projects abounded here as well: Girlmark’s Jonny Appleseed processor, Kristies Flyer by Liam Mcnamara, Matt Synder, Peter Luka, Shannon O’Hare and Kimric Smythe, Exxon Valdez Disaster, the Peef-O-Matic powertainer off-grid solar biodiesel 3 phase power system, Destroy the Universe 4 and 2, Dan Goldwater’s Monkeylectric Project, Osseus Labyrint’s Modern Promethius performance (developed here), Barbara Kruse’s Firebirdees built as part of Therm and the Escape From Berkeley (by any non-petroleum means necessary) road rally.

Egeria by Kiki Pettit photo by meuon
Egeria by Kiki Pettit photo by meuon

Clockworks by Liam McNamara and crew photo by Gabe Kirchheimer
Clockworks by Liam McNamara and crew photo by Gabe Kirchheimer

Eye Archway by Ryon Gesink Photo by Mike Woolson
Eye Archway by Ryon Gesink Photo by Mike Woolson

In the beginning of its life, The Shipyard confounded the logic of proper Berkeley Building Department etiquette, by falling in love with the flexibility and durability of the Shipping Container.  Unfortunately, in Berkeley’s eyes, the shipping containers the artists favored as architecture were not considered proper building material.  This innocent misunderstanding prompted the city to turn off power to the facility.  Berkeley being in the dark as to the renegade gang that occupied The Shipyard, did not realize the avalanche of creativity and power hacking they instigated by pulling the plug.  The artists, scientists, gearheads and junkyard enthusiasts, promptly started making their own power and ran the facility off grid for five years.


Interview with Rox Scapini – 2009 Honorarium Artist

As an artist who has been creating work to display at the dust fest for well over a decade, I am fascinated by the process of playa art making.  You might not know this but it is truly a unique process which you will not find replicated in the Artworld (captial A artworld).  My Black Rock City artmaking process has been something like this: initial inspiration happens; next, the evolution of the conceptual framework; followed by the process of translating that idea into a proposal (well, most of us do this; Michael Christian doodles on a napkin, but he’s charming and produces provocative work, so he is a special case); then comes the obsessive build, build, build time, and finally struggling with the complications of the desert to install your work.  All of this is done within a six month time frame.

I have been curious how other BRC artists approach their work; what they are inspired by and how they face the challenges of building art on our desert platform.  So to fulfill my own curiosity and to give you some insight, I am randomly interviewing a few of this year’s Honorarium artists for your reading pleasure.

grape_eyesName: Rox Scapini
Project: Bio*Tanical Garden
Project website:
Project Location: Berkeley, CA

Jess Hobbs: Tell me a little bit about yourself.  What might be pertinent to know about the creator of “Bio*tanical Garden”?

Rox Scapini: I’m an artist and I have been making sculptures for 16 years. Sculpture is my favorite form of art because it gives me the possibility of bringing my imaginary world into reality. Sculpture for me is not about materials but physical presence in space. My style is figurative but not realistic, and my sculptures represent something that “might” exist in this world. I have a strong fascination of cyberpunk literature (HR Giger is the artist that most influenced me, indeed) and a cynical view of our world.

JH: Have you produced work for Burning Man before?  If not, what work has affected you the most?


The Harrisons

Have you heard of “The Harrisons”? Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison are leading pioneers of the eco-art movement. Most often you will see them referred to as “the Harrisons”. They have been working artists for almost forty years, collaborating and crossing disciplinary lines. Much like many other cultural innovators they pay no attention to lines; to them everything is fair game for appropriation in their artwork – biology, history, ecology, architecture, public utilities, urban planning, etc. By repurposing these disciplines they have been able to create a “dialogue to uncover ideas and solutions which support biodiversity and community development.” Their dialogue has often extended outside the context of art leading to changes in environmental policies.

But why are they important? Art and culture at Burning Man have not been created in a vacuum; we have ancestry and the Harrisons I include in that lineage.

They will be lecturing tomorrow at the recently opened David Brower Center in Berkeley.

Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison
Presented with the Long Now Foundation
Wednesday June 10, 02009
7:00pm – 9:00pm
2150 Allston Way,
Berkeley, CA 94704

The World Ocean is a Great Draftsman, 2009. Where the Island of Britain becomes many islands as the ocean rises 100 meters
The World Ocean is a Great Draftsman, 2009. Where the Island of Britain becomes many islands as the ocean rises 100 meters