Duane Flatmo’s Tin Pan Dragon

Meet the Artists of No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man

Tin Pan Dragon by Duane Flatmo.

Duane Flatmo, Tin Pan Dragon. Photo by Libby Weiler.

On view from March 30, 2018 to September 16, 2018

Duane Flatmo built his first kinetic sculpture in 1982 for the Grand Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race, an annual event in which human-powered art sculptures race for three days and forty-two miles over land, water, and sand from the city of Arcata to Ferndale, California. With longtime friend Jerry Kunkel, Flatmo has since created more than thirty-three mutant vehicles, usually from recycled scrap metal and other found objects, including several entries for Burning Man. His unusual tinkering has also garnered attention in television and film: in 2001 he and his team, Art Attack, competed on the series Junkyard Wars. In 2006, he became a finalist on America’s Got Talent, playing a guitar with an eggbeater, then a weed whacker.

The pedal-powered Tin Pan Dragon (2008) was the first contraption Flatmo brought to Burning Man, and led to more grandiose works. In La Penita, Mexico, a show at a local art gallery inspired Flatmo to create the three-foot prototype for El Pulpo Mecanico (2011), a giant, flame-blowing octopus that would become one of the most beloved mutant vehicles ever on playa. After bringing it to Black Rock City for six years, Flatmo then mined the vehicle for parts for his most recent creation, Rabid Transit, which debuted at Burning Man in 2017.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man brings the large-scale, participatory work from this desert gathering to the nation’s capital for the first time. The exhibition takes over the entire Renwick Gallery building and surrounding Golden Triangle neighborhood, bringing alive the maker culture and creative spirit of this cultural movement.

On the Blog

Eye Level, March 9, 2018, “Here Be Dragons

Meet the Artist Video