Five artists in our region—including Elko, Las Vegas, Reno and Tahoe—were among 72 worldwide who Burning Man selected for honorarium funding this year. Burning Man announced on April 10, however, that the 2020 event is canceled, and the Art Department told artists they’ll receive the funding in 2021.
Here’s the latest about their plans for 2021 and where you can see their existing work.
Shelby Dukeminier, Las Vegas
Shelby Dukeminier is a building contractor and a project manager for highway construction. (“I design the traffic problems in Vegas,” she joked.)
“I’ve always been an artist, and I’ve always done large scale projects,” she said—backyard murals, for example.
Dukeminier’s honorarium-winning art piece, her first big playa sculpture, is an 18-foot-tall fiberglass heart—not a cheery Instagram heart, more like a visceral, realistic one with cross-sectioned aortas and a lavish amount of texture. The idea came about when her mother, whom she hadn’t spoken with for a long time, posted a photo of a whale heart on social media.
“It was a lost frequency for me,” Dukeminier said. The two got back in touch after that, and she titled the piece “Lost Frequencies.” It will emit what she called “a low-vibration noise that you can’t hear. It makes you feel good. You go to it—it’ll give you a warm, content feeling.”
Peter Hazel, Reno
Peter Hazel used to run a granite and tile business. In his 50s, he switched careers. Inspired by Antoni Gaudí’s fanciful tiled architecture, which he saw on a trip to Barcelona, he became a sculptor and quickly came to specialize in giant creatures—an octopus, a crocodile, a stingray—surfaced with thousands of handmade tiles or glass pieces. “Bloom,” his largest piece to date, is a 40-foot jellyfish made of a steel structure and 1,600 smaller, fused glass jellyfish.
Hazel’s honorarium piece is a giant Mojave green rattlesnake, poised to strike. It goes by two names, “Crotalus” (the genus of snake that rattlers are in) or “Freddie.”
“I’ll make the scales all these crazy colors, blue and orange and green, just this vivid, wild, colorful rattlesnake,” Hazel said. He plans for the snake to spew fire from its nose, and a few spots on the back will have the skin pulled back to expose metal ribs for climbing.
Hazel and his crew had started working on the piece before the Burn was canceled, but they’ve paused production for now. “I’m going to miss Burning Man horribly,” he said. “I miss my crew. I miss all my friends. We had all these plans.” But, as someone who’s competitive by nature, and who works in an arena where the temptation is to make a bigger, more ambitious piece each year, Hazel said part of him was relieved to have a pause from the breakneck production schedule he’s been on for the last several years.
Where to see more
Hazel’s “Dragonfly” is installed in Reno’s Virginia Lake. His “Nicolitus,” a giant tiled crocodile that appeared at Burning Man 2019, is at Point San Pablo Harbor in Richmond, California. More on his website.
Barry Crawford, Elko
When Barry Crawford was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be a robot. After studying physics and engineering in Oregon, he moved to Elko to work as a fabricator and mechanic for a mining contractor. He never did become a robot, but he one-upped that career goal by becoming an artist who makes low-tech, high-detail metal creatures with articulated parts so intricate they might make your head spin.
These days, Crawford makes around half to two-thirds of his income producing these creatures for festivals and collectors. His kinetic squid, “Mechetuthis,” has so far been to Burning Man, Maker Faire, the Elko Mural Festival, and the Treasure Island Music Festival, where viewers could turn knobs to make the tentacles wave, pupils dilate, beak snap, and mantle fin wave.
Crawford’s honorarium piece is “Ratchetfish,” a design based loosely on a deep sea hatchetfish. This one will also have controls accessible to viewers, so they can manipulate its segmented body.
Where to see more
Kelly Smith Cassidy, South Lake Tahoe
Kelly Smith Cassidy is a third-generation sculptor. Her full-time, year-round job is making elegant metal trees and foliage that fit on living room walls, and she sells them via galleries, art fairs and commissions. Several years ago, she set two new goals. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do figurative work,” she said. And she wanted to try her hand at larger-scale, outdoor pieces. She applied for public art grants for six years, but each time the committee wanted to see already existing public sculptures. The grant that finally gave her the opportunity to work outside of her comfort zone was a Burning Man honorarium in 2018.
She made “Creu Hudol,” an effigy for the Man Pavilion. (The name is Welsh for “magical being.”) And in 2019, she won a grant to create a “civic parklette,” also at the Man Pavilion, featuring LED-lit benches and lit cloth flowers on copper stems.
Smith Cassidy’s 2021 piece is “Infinite Stare,” a multi-story head with a gaping hole instead of a face, complete with an LED-lit ladder beckoning visitors to climb inside.
Where to see more
Smith-Cassidy’s metal work is on this website, and her 2021 playa sculpture is on this one. She’s represented by Mountain Art Collective in Truckee and Pacific Crest Gallery in Heavenly Village. She also has a piece in the City of Reno’s art collection on the fifth floor of Reno City Hall.
Jerry Snyder, Reno
Disclosure/small-town alert: When you report on art from inside the art world, sometimes you run the risk of reporting on people in your own house. Jerry is my husband, and I am a member of his sculpture crew. —KV
Jerry Snyder is an attorney by day. Come summertime, he switches up his daily routine. He’ll come home from the office, change into studio duds, and put in a second shift at the Generator working on art projects, sometimes his own, sometimes those of other artists.
Over the years, he’s thought about different ways he might someday pay homage to past playa art. He considered ideas like a Burner encyclopedia or a set of yearbooks. In 2017, he made “Megaprayer,” a giant, blinking rosary held up on nine posts. The posts were decorated with 27 faux-stained-glass panels, each one depicting a favorite art piece from past years.
Snyder’s next honorarium project is an array of similar lanterns called “The Midnight Museum of That One Time at Burning Man.”
“I wanted it mostly as a sort of love letter to Burning Man art,” Snyder said in an interview at the breakfast table. “To a lesser extent, it’s a tongue-in-cheek comment on the hagiography of Burning Man art. But it’s mostly about how the Burning Man art tradition is worth contemplating in its own right, and it’s something I like a lot.”
Where to see more
Snyder’s 2013 playa piece, “The Ichthyosaur,” is in the lobby of the Discovery Museum in Reno. You can follow “The Midnight Museum of That One Time at Burning Man” on Facebook.