Mischell Riley's Maya’s Mind

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

An image of Maya Angelou outside in the Golden Triangle district of D.C.

Mischell Riley, Maya's Mind. Photo by Jeff Song. 

Mischell Riley brought Maya’s Mind to Burning Man in 2017; this work followed a ten-foot tall bust of Leonardo da Vinci that she created for the event in 2016. With their rugged finishes, Riley’s works blend with the dusty surrounds of Burning Man and have the patina of ancient ruins.

As a professional sculptor for more than three decades, Riley has received numerous public and private commissions for portrayals of wildlife, notable Americans, and people in profound circumstances. She is adept at capturing the emotional spirit of her subjects. Maya’s Mind is the first in a series of monuments—soon to include Jane Goodall and Amelia Earhart—aimed at increasing the representation of women of all races and religions in public sculpture. The sculpture features a cast twenty-foot bust of the late Maya Angelou set on a stack of books. Adding a layer of sensory experience, the artist added an audio component that recites excerpts from Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise, at the push of a button.

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.