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Burning Man artist doesn't horse around
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Burning Man artist doesn't horse around

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ELKO – A greater than life-size rearing horse will take center stage at Burning Man this year.

This is the third time that metal master Barry Crawford has been selected to set up his art at the famous festival in the Black Rock Desert.

“The project was made possible by a grant by the Burning Man Arts Foundation,” Crawford said.

Although the foundation money helps buy materials and welding supplies, Crawford is self-funding a lot of the project.

His past Burning Man sculptures have included a giant dragonfly and the Mechateuthis Mechanical Squid. Both projects were a big hit and the horse is expected to also be a real crowd pleaser.

Besides welding together various pieces of found metal, Crawford also likes to make his sculptures move.

“I wanted to have some moving components because it has a greater appeal,” Crawford said.

The sculpture has front hooves that kick out, and its head and ears move. The tail and mane are made of bicycle chains that slide back and forth to simulate the flowing motion of a real horse’s hair.

“The ears go from the forward position to the tilted back, frightened or aggressive-type position,” Crawford said. “The mane is conceived of a series of panels that move past each other so when all the little chains move it creates an optical illusion of blowing in the wind.”

“I always have this idea like I will make something quick but then it evolves and I get all of these other things that would be cool and it becomes a lot bigger, more complicated and a longer, always much, much longer, thing than it was originally going to be,” Crawford said.

Crawford has been working on this particular installation since March.

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When the art piece is installed at Burning Man attendees will be able to turn a series of cranks to activate the moving parts.

“Burning Man likes participatory artwork,” Crawford said.

According to burningman.org, Burning Man Arts seeks to alter the idea of art as a commodity and present it as an interactive and experiential creative expression.

The Burning Man art acceptance process is fairly complex and not everyone who applies gets to bring their art to the festival.

“You actually apply to apply,” Crawford said. “If they want to hear more they will invite you to submit a full application and you have to have a plan.”

The committee needs to review the timeline for the project, a budget, drawings and a variety of other variables. The process is definitely competitive.

While Crawford is still “editing” his equine, the pistons and wheels in his mind are churning, working on the next big kinetic art sculpture.

“I’ve got a thing I have been building in my mind for several years,” Crawford said.

That “thing” is a large mechanical scorpion that will walk on its own.

“It won’t have wheels, just legs,” Crawford said.

He is just waiting for the time and materials to create such a beast.

“I need to be able to figure out how to stay alive while I build such a thing,” Crawford said.

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