Nevada to DC: The Renwick gets a taste of Burning man


Photo by Jackson Fox-Bland

Erin Harper

Each year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, thousands of people travel out for one week to attend Burning Man, a culture and arts festival which as you might guess, commences with the burning of a 40-foot wooden man. Burning Man has a different theme each year, which allows for self expression through different creative modes. (2018’s theme being “I, Robot”)

For many people, Burning Man is a monument to life, hope, and optimism. Giving the opportunity for hundreds of select artists throughout the country to showcase their unique work to spectators.

Those who do not attend Burning Man are left in the dark about the activities, but for a limited time (March 30, 2018-January 21, 2019), the Renwick Gallery is offering an exhibit called “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” which will hold Burning Man artwork on display to the public for free.

On April 4, Burning Man founder Larry Harvey suffered a stroke. He passed away on April 28, but his legacy continues, in the exhibit at the Renwick and at the festival. The organization issued a statement saying “as he [Harvey] would have wished it, let us always burn the man.”

The day that I visited the Renwick Gallery was my first time ever going (I do not recommend visiting on a Sunday due to the size of the crowd) and it was also my first time ever noticing it. I have been to the White House plenty of times, but I have never seen the small brown building across the street and off to the side. The Renwick is one of those buildings that looks small on the outside but is actually incredibly spacious.

Immediately as you walk in you are greeted by a grand velvet staircase that cascades to the second floor. I recommend looking at the ceiling, because a beautiful piece of artwork dangles from it. It reminded me of a chandelier that changes light patterns. Not only is it beautiful, but the stairway leads to the temple, a huge room with omniscient light and serene music. From floor to ceiling, the room is covered with small wooden squares full of writing from the public. It’s great participatory art that helps the public feel immersed with the artist, and lets us be a part of a beautiful creation.

While on the first floor, a large room exhibits a woman, standing fifty-five feet tall, with her arms stretched towards the ceiling and her back arched at an unearthly angle. First exhibited in 2013 by San Franciscan artist Marco Cochrane, the sculpture titled “Truth is Beauty” is constructed from hundreds of steel triangles. It embodies “feminine energy and power that results when women feel free and safe,” Cochrane writes on the plaque adjacent to her figure. The piece is mesmerising, with each intricate detail placed in just the right spot. It makes the spectator stop and think; what would the world be like if women were safe?

My absolute favorite exhibit in the Renwick was the mushroom gallery. In a large room on the second floor sits three mushrooms that inflate, deflate, and change color. Not only is this a work of art, it’s a wonderful exhibit for friends and families. The room is quiet, which adds to the reflective vibe of the entire art exhibit. All in all, the exhibit gave me an idea of what Burning Man embodies: serenity, community, and art.