Seeing an art installation at Burning Man is like stepping inside a Salvador Dalí painting: Surreal shapes rise in front of Nevada’s expansive Black Rock Desert, where the afternoon light blurs the line between the sand and horizon behind them.
While few landscapes will leave you as enchanted by art as this one, you don’t have to camp for a week in the desert with 70,000 strangers to experience the magic of Burning Man's epic art installations. For those who haven't been, or those who are simply looking for a new kind of art-filled adventure, take the two-hour road trip from Gerlach to Reno, Nevada to see these five Burning Man sculptures without the crowds.
First stop: The Bike Bridge, a towering, ornately welded arch you can walk through. Amazingly, this piece was built by high school welding students with guidance from artist Michael Christian. It was funded by a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and made its Burning Man debut in 2014. To really appreciate it, we recommend visiting in the morning or evening, when you can have a bit more solitude. You can find it now at the relatively quiet corner of Main Street and East Sunset Boulevard in Gerlach, Nevada.
It’s staggering to think of a two-story structure as ever having been a temporary installation, but so it was with Bottlecap Gazebo at Burning Man in 2014. The large-than-life-size gazebo has a flower-shaped roof made up of about 75,000 bottle caps fixed to lumber and steel -- it’s a perfect example of the otherworldly art for which Burning Man is known. Constructed by artists Max Poynton and Andrew Grinberg, the piece now sits at 610 E. Main Street in Fernley, Nevada, along with two other Burning Man sculptures, Rockspinner and Desert Tortoise, which are also worth a peek.
Peter Hazel crafted My Love Letter to Elaine (Daffodil) in honor of his partner’s favorite flower. The beautiful twelve-foot-tall Van Gogh-esque bouquet of daffodils features 75,000 ceramic tiles; it took Hazel more than a year to make. The sculpture, also featured at Burning Man in 2014, currently stands at Victorian Square in Sparks, Nevada.
Some sculptures are icons from their outset. That was the case when The Reno Star made its Burning Man debut in 2012. The spiky urchin-like red steel beams were inspired by flora of Nevada’s high desert. Towering 46 feet above the ground, the piece was built by artists Mark Szulgit and Brooke Erdman, and it now lives at the intersection of Virginia and McCarran Streets in Reno.
The Tree Spire is the work of Seattle metal-smithing collective The Iron Monkeys. These fifteen-foot sculpted trees debuted at Burning Man in 2008, and continue to draw visitors to their new home on the banks of the Truckee River in downtown Reno. There, at the corner of Island Avenue and Sierra Street, the sculpture appears subtle yet surreal as it mirrors the natural foliage. Reno boasts other Burning Man sculptures as well, among them the Portal of Evolution, Guardian of Eden, and Believe.