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Joanna Priestley’s ‘The Art of Burning Man’ Returns to Oregon

The encore presentation at the Museum of Science and Industry features sculptures, architecture, installations, mutant vehicles, and screenings of the animated shorts ‘Fleeting Marvels’ and ‘Jung & Restless,’ followed by a Q&A; tickets are now on sale for the April 20 event.

An encore presentation “The Art of Burning Man,” a live digital image show by award-winning filmmaker Joanna Priestley celebrating the creativity of northern Nevada’s Burning Man festival, has been set for April 20 at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s Empirical Theater. Tickets and information are available here.

The show features sculptures, architecture, installations, and mutant vehicles made from 2002 to 2022, plus the world premiere of Fleeting Marvels, Priestley’s new short film about Burning Man, and the Portland premiere of Priestley’s award-winning animated short Jung & Restless. An audience question and answer session with Priestley and the film crew follows the presentation.

Burning Man’s co-founder, Larry Harvey, grew up in Portland, graduated from Parkrose High School in 1966, and attended Portland State University. With Burning Man, he co-created an immense blank slate for people to express their creativity, resulting in a community of tens of thousands of people who were eager to look at and interact with the art and architecture. In 2001, the Burning Man organization created the Black Rock Arts Foundation, and its honoraria program now awards $1.3 million annually to fund artworks at the event. The foundation says that “Burning Man has rekindled one of art’s most valuable functions: connecting community members in creation, curiosity, and wonderment.”

Priestley’s first Burning Man experience was in 2002; she shared, “When I stepped onto the desert at Black Rock City that first year, I was completely blown away by the extraordinary creativity everywhere I looked. I saw an exquisite, handcrafted temple that looked like a botanical jigsaw puzzle, massive metal sculptures with people climbing all over them, a gigantic shark containing a lively cocktail bar, and a gigantic, glowing white whale cruising across the desert at night.”

“It was mind-boggling!” she added. “My favorite sculpture was a spinning disk with an animated sequence of life-sized, papier-mâché sculptures of women swimming. This immense zoetrope was powered by a stationary bicycle that illuminated strobe lights at night. The illusion of movement was so perfect that my campmates thought women, buried up to their waists, were swimming in the desert. Peter Hudson, the artist, has since created many stroboscopic zoetropes for Burning Man, and he is now a celebrated playa artist.”

Priestley’s creative work at Burning Man began in 2002 with her husband and production designer Paul Harrod (Isle of Dogs, Wendell & Wild).

“I decided to do a group performative event with our Burning Man campmates,” continued Priestley. “All of us created black crow costumes with large black beaks made from insulation foam, bicycle helmets, and tulle. As we ‘flew’ around the desert, other people in black crow costumes spontaneously joined our flock.”

In 2006, Priestley did a Cockroach Brigade in the desert; she mused, “...and suddenly a woman appeared, dressed as a Black Rock City Pest Exterminator. She chased us around the desert while spraying us from her backpack tank.”

Priestley sees Buring Man as a deeply creative, collaborative environment, and since she began to attend, she has contributed two or three performative projects each year.

Adding, “Even though I have stopped going to the event, I constantly dream about Burning Man and feel that my experience there was a profoundly important and inspiring part of my life.”

Watch a clip from Jung & Restless:

Source: Priestley Motion Pictures

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.