Basically, I'm a1978 F-150 pickup masquerading as a rusty crustacean wearing a giant Bison Skull on it's back the way a Hermit Crab inhabits the shell of another sea creature.
There’s a hazy apparition off in the distance, a giant bleached headbone lying on the ground in the desert. Upon closer inspection though, it seems there might be more to this story. The skull is perched on the back of that most emblematic icon of western expansion, agriculture and ranching...a pickup truck. But this ones got legs, claws, eyeballs and antennae made out of rusty farm equipment. So what exactly is going on here?
Bison and pickup trucks, we live with both here in Jackson Hole. We have a herd of about 400 animals, with another 4,000 up in Yellowstone, about an hour north of here. 150 years ago the Great Plains used to be grassland from horizon to horizon, and home to millions of these magnificent wild creatures. It's not anymore. I think about the fact that almost an entire species was eradicated from this environment, along with the native populations that depended them for just about everything in their lives. That's exactly why these animals were exterminated - in order to cripple the native populations and drive them from their lands. A symbiosis disrupted, a human rights travesty initiated. By our government and the business interests that ran it. This piece is directed at those who don’t think about these things in their daily lives, and never learned this story in public school. Maybe the image presented will be unusual enough to make the viewer ask a few questions...and think about answers.
Think about the Bison, think about the pickup truck masquerading as a rust-crustacean, think about absence, about conquest and deception. Think about the history of The West. Perhaps thinking about these things will open the door to other thoughts. Perhaps about Why. My goal with this piece is simply to motivate that process to begin.
The images below represent a few variations of how the project might be presented
Between the horns the Bison's skull plate can be suspended to create a covered space on the ground below for performances. Modern Dance performances, Music performances, DJ dance parties, Karaoke, Shakespeare, whatever. Looking up from below this canopy, the viewer would see the smooth convolutions of the underside of the skull plate that correspond to the shape of the brain that used to reside in that location.
Makes you think...
The original idea was to create a Mutant Vehicle for Burning Man, but there are even bigger plans for this piece
Since creating the initial "full size sketch model" in 2018 and bringing it to the Playa, the whole world and all of its civilizations have gone through some major changes due to the pandemic, as well as the new "post truth" mindset we see in this country along with many others. One positive change that has happened in the United States, long overdue in my opinion, is the dedication of a new national holiday on the second Monday in October : Indigenous People's Day. I can imagine this piece rolling down the national mall as part of an Indigenous People's Day Parade... that's the eventual goal.
Burning Man 2022 / Waking Dreams
This event represented the first public appearance of the "Skull on Wheels" portion, or first stage of the overall project. Once the "Rusty Hermit Crab" portion has been constructed, the piece will get a new name: Manifest Destiny. For the 2022 event, however, just a rolling skull in the dusty Nevada desert has been completed. Following is a sampling of photos from the event illustrating how it was used as well as what was involved in the transportation of the piece from Jackson, WY to Blackrock City, NV. We have secured a storage location in Gerlach, NV, about 20 miles from Blackrock City. Here we will be able to access the vehicle year round and complete modifications and repairs in a newly created makerspace managed by the Burning Man Project. With retiree flight benefits from my years of part time airport service, along with their on-site forklift, traveling to Reno to work on the piece should prove relatively painless (fingers crossed.)
Next up: transport and construction! The trip to Nevada was a grueling 24 hours of slow going, with my pickup loaded to the gills (including both horns) in order to put all the weight in the tow vehicle. On the way back to Gerlach, however, we had the horns loaded onto the skull truck- sketchy, but just for a short distance. In any case, we won't do that again. Bringing it back to Jackson next spring for parades and such, we'll travel down with a flatbed trailer to take the horns and hire a driver to transport the truck itself.
Construction was performed 100% by hand, by me. No digital fabrication, no computer-numeric plasma cutters, no preformed steel panels. First a telescopic steel beam inserted into a tube steel frame, then a plywood template for the horn shape, then some strips of 55 ga. drum held in place by #3 re-bar, all covered in hand bent 20 gauge steel panels, screwed and wired together. Rusted. The name of my architecture and fabrication firm is HandsOn Design. This project sure as hell represents that technology.
The Circus of Longing...coming to a Wyoming town near you in the summer of someday!
(As long as you live in small town Wyoming that is.)
The vehicle has been included in a Creative Capital grant proposal as a traveling circus style dance performance venue intended to travel the state
during a 2 week tour of small town county fairs, rodeos, farmers markets, etc. The original pool of 5,200 applicants in 2020 had been
narrowed down to 46, including the Circus of Longing, though we ultimately weren't selected for funding Approximately 6-10 projects are usually funded. Our fingers are crossed for next year though...
Here's a gallery of images describing the process of developing and illustrating this idea, and by the way,
we're hoping you will choose to help fund the construction of this crazy thing.
You can make your tax deductible donation through our partner organization, Dancers' Workshop. Here's a link:
Just be sure to let them know it's for the Circus of Longing/ Skull on Wheels project. Thanks!
An optional incarnation covers the front of the truck with a simple vertebrae like fabric mask. This is Plan B- just in case time runs out while fabricating the rusty crab face.
Again, this is the mobile only version- what we might do if we don't wind up getting the full version included as a stationary sculpture.
Steel platform on the roof (without the handrails,) wood benches and curved roof structure. This is the way the truck would be driven to Blackrock City. Maybe with the tailgate closed, though.
The rear roof structure gets elongated, the upper handrail gets installed...
A thin (#3) re-bar armature is attached to the roof canopy, the platform and the truck itself, then rough canvas is woven through and around the re-bar to create the finished form.
The canvas is loosely woven through the steel armature, leaving gaps which will create a dappled shadow pattern during the day, and spilling out light from between the sheets at night.
Includes removable Horn Supports fasted to circular rings hung from the platform frame.
This view shows the bike rack the would replace the second horn in the reduced scope option.
One potential use of the space below the skull plate canopy. This sketch also includes a large vertebrae shaped enclosure below- not what we are proposing for this year's Burning Man, but something to think about...
Ain't she a beauty!!!
She's got adjustable air shocks, place for a secondary battery to potentially run the lighting, and a built in air compressor to blow the dust off things. Also a 351 Windsor engine, 4 speed 4WD transmission, a Holley 4 barrel carburetor and headers. Maybe I should stop off at the Bonneville salt Flats on my way down...