Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson's Ursa Major

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

An image of a large out door bear made of pennies.

Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson, Ursa Major. Photo by Jeff Song. 

Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson met on a dance floor at Burning Man in 2008 and fell in love. Though she lived in Canada and he in the U.S. and neither was a trained artist, they began a long-distance romance and artistic collaboration, inspired by the DIY, can-do attitude fundamental to Burning Man. The couple was married at Burning Man in 2011 and Lisa moved to California in 2013.

In their working relationship, Lisa, a filmmaker, develops a concept for a piece, while Robert, a welder, determines how to execute it. Their work with pennies began in 2013 as the Canadian government began phasing out the coin. The durability and metaphor of the penny appealed to Lisa, as did its metaphorical connection to her journey; so she designed Penny the Goose, a Canada goose made of Canadian and U.S. coins. The Fergusons, with the help of friends, went on to create the much larger, penny-covered grizzly bears Ursa Major (2016) and Ursa Mater (2017). Ursa Major integrates 170,000 pennies and takes its name from the constellation, inviting those standing below the sculpture to look up at the night’s sky. The tactility, whimsicality, and absurdity of these painstakingly constructed sculptures have inspired a sense of awe and delight in Burning Man attendees of all ages.

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.