Local artist Tyler Buckheim has gained national attention with her sculpture at this year’s Burning Man installation. Each year the non-profit Burning Man Organization hosts 200-plus artists who create interactive 3D sculptures in a temporary city in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Over 70,000 people attend the weeklong festival celebrating principles such as self-reliance, self-expression, community cooperation, civic responsibility, and leaving no trace. In other words, Burning Man is an incredibly advanced version of Woodstock with artists instead of rock bands.
The application process is lengthy — 18 to 30 pages for forms to fill out depending on your sculpture piece — but the nonprofit isn’t looking for experience or wordy resumes, just sculpture that would be pretty damn cool to look at in a desert far away from modern life. Buckheim’s first sculpture application was accepted in 2013, “Lighted Mandela,” when she applied on a whim. This year, Buckheim spent more time composing her sculpture, “Horizon Lines,” and again was fortunate enough to have an honorarium; a grant footing the bill for her installation’s materials and tickets for her crew (which can range from $400 to $900). There are no more than 60 honorariums given each year.
“It was amazing, so many people knew about my sculpture beforehand,” said Buckheim referring to the Huffington Post’s article listing her sculpture one of 12 “must sees” at this year’s festival, a pretty high achievement for a 26-year-old native Key Wester. The sculpture itself is 25 4×4 wooden posts, each 12 feet long. Once planted in the ground and spaced apart, the visible 9 feet was painted to match the existing horizon line of mountains over 10 miles away. It was an interactive optical allusion for the viewer to move around determining foreground, background – a moving painting without one point of view.
Buckheim spent two weeks working and living in the scorching desert. While the heat felt easier than the humidity of home, she developed a cough from the dust and the tips of her fingers peeled away. But she shrugged off wearing ski goggles constantly, “You get used to it.” And when it was over, Buckheim left no trace and donated her wood sculpture to Habitat for Humanity for houses.
Buckheim credits her artists’ genes to parents, well known locals Dick Buckheim and Susan Bailey. Find Buckheim and her art at her business, Petronia Island store in Bahama Village or visit www.petroniaislandstore.com.
“You don’t have to know anyone to get into Burning Man, it’s just about your ideas, which can open a lot of doors.” — Tyler Buckheim, 26