Stan, The Submerging Man (temporary)
Victoria Manalo Draves Park
One of the most on-the-edge public art groups is Burning Man, whose eponymous art event is held each Labor Day in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Covering five square miles, it is considered the largest outdoor public art event in North America. Attendance in 2007 reached 47,500.
Burning Man inspires several hundred artists whose work is placed in the vast desert gallery. Some participants help complete the building of the art on-site, while others visit and interact with it. Some of the epic-scale artworks are then destroyed in ritual conflagration.
Although fewer of the event’s big artworks are burned than in the past, the inspiration for the art-burning is both spectacle and community, says Christine “Ladybee” Kristen, art curator for ARTery, Burning Man’s art component. “Essentially it’s the urge to create a huge fire in a safe environment.”
Kristen’s group awards grants to help artists create and install their work. In 2006, ARTery awarded 40 of that year’s record 300 installations a total of $425,000 in grants. The work that does not go up in flames is held in storage or recycled into new artwork, and the nonprofit Black Rock Arts Foundation looks for opportunities to exhibit it, says Melissa Alexander, BRAF executive director. “We're about using public art as a channel for community participation and dialogue, and we’re always looking to share these works with new and larger audiences."
Stan, Submerging Man, created by Northern California artist Finley Fryer for Burning Man 1999, was one such BRAF installation. The 18-ft. tall sculpture of a human-shaped diving suit weighs at least a ton, and was built entirely from recycled colored vinyl demo records and reclaimed plastic toys. Stan has appeared in county fairs and festivals in California and was recently temporarily placed in San Francisco’s Victoria Manalo Draves Park.