While Scarlett and I were on the mother-daughter artist retreat last week, I told her our art was different, because we weren’t on the inside track, did not live in New York, did not have friends in publishing, did not teach at a university, and overall, we were outside of every art establishment I could think of.
“Oh, you mean we’re like those Burning Man people,” she said.
“Burning Man? What does that have to do with outsider artists?”
“I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that that’s what they called themselves.”
So I read up on it. Scarlett was right. The Burning Man phenom, which I had heard described by people who’d never gone or even actually read about it, but just heard about it through the grapevine, as “a bunch of wild men and women out on the desert getting high and burning things and going nuts,” is actually described online as primarily a movement of artists trying to sock it to the man, in this case, the Art Establishment of critics, foundations, universities and traditional publications.
I read the article to Scarlett. We had to admit that we concurred with the principles laid down by the Burning Man festival regarding outsider art.
“Maybe we should go to the festival,” I said. But I had to admit, I’d be afraid to go by ourselves.
“Maybe we could get Papa to go,” Scarlett says. “Burning Man might appeal to his offbeat sense of spirituality.”
I was convulsed. “Well, it’s true,” Scarlett continues. “Offbeat is about how I would describe it.”
I think of the Sarasvatti statue in his office, and the Buddha coffee mug. The sitar playing while sitting on the sitar pillow. The entire set of works by the bald philosopher, Ken Wilbur. It’s true. Leo could take all of it straight to Burning Man and participate.
Perhaps Leo is an outsider artist as well. I went home and mentioned the idea of going to the festival to him. He went right into research mode, and after an early burst of excitement we discovered that Burning Man is the last week of August, a time when school teachers like us are generally either in the first week of class or getting ready for the first week of class. Not a time when you could get a week off.
Another hope for adventure crushed, I thought. But Leo, Scarlett and I were still all intrigued by the very idea of being there … when as the pinnacle of the festival, the entire community gets together to rebel against the arts establishment and assert the participatory and egalitarian nature of the true human community, and as a symbol of this they BURN THE MAN!