Artist's Statement for Art of Burning Man Showat the San Francisco Arts Commision Gallery
At Burningman '96, we built a bamboo and muslin kite with a twenty-three foot wingspan, and flew it from the back of my car. At Burningman '97, we built a twenty-four foot windmill from bamboo, muslin, bike parts and hardware. This year the plan is to make a bamboo and muslin airplane, and fly it like a kite by towing it with my car. I make models and studies for these and other projects from bamboo skewers and acrylic covered tissue on a scale of one inch to one foot.
I always had faith that artmaking was important, but I wasn't sure why it was important.
I went to graduate school for painting. I used to spend plenty of time trying to get shows in galleries, trying to get jobs teaching in Universities, and trying to get grants. I had successes in all three areas, but succeed or fail, I somehow felt unsatisfied, like something was missing. I began to find out what was missing when I became part of Burningman.
Seeing the huge kite, dazzling white, flailing through the piercing blue of the desert sky, seeing the looks of excitement, fear and wonder on my friends' faces, seeing the windmill, looming over us and over the playa, turn to face the slightest puff of wind ~ these moments have been among the very best in my life as an artist. To be in the right place, to see and to make the art that belongs there, to work for my favorite audience, to be among people that understand, people that don't have to ask "why?", artists themselves, everyone, at least for these few days ~ these are the things that have become more important to me that an NEA grant or a gallery opening.
There is a yet unnamed art movement that may prove to be of some significance and Burningman is close to it's center. It often manifests itself as circus, ritual, and spectacle. It is a movement away from a dialogue between an individual artist and a sophisticated audience, and towards collaboration amongst a big, wild, free and diverse community. It is a movement away from galleries, schools and other institutions and towards an art produced in and for casual groupings of participants, more akin to clans and tribes, based on aesthetic affinities and bonds of friendship. It is a movement away from static gallery art and formal theatre, and towards site-specific, time-specific installation and performance. It is a rejection of spoon-fed corporate culture, and an affirmation of the homemade, the idiosyncratic, the personal. It is profoundly democratic. It is radically inclusive, it is a difficult challenge, and it is beckoning.