Of the countless works of creative wonder dotting the Playa at Burning Man 2013, there is one piece that stood out for me as supreme. Marco Cochrane's steel and wire sculpture -- "Truth is Beauty" -- is a soaring triumph. It is grace. It is humility. It is grandeur. It is poetry. And, most amazingly, it is real.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -- that is all. Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
This final couplet of John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn has been much debated since its publication in 1820, but any academic questions about the paradox of life and art seemed to fall away under the shelter of the profound majesty of, "Truth is Beauty." The sculpture serves as an eloquent homage to a world where all women can feel safe, powerful and loved.
It is testament to the inverted-reality of Black Rock City that a 55-foot sculpture of a gorgeous female form succeeds in its goal of de-objectifying women and taking a stand for non-violence. In a sense, I felt this happening for the five-footish, breathing variety as well. The calming bliss that, "Truth is Beauty," conjures is mirrored in the way most attendees respond to the nudity and expressive costuming that attends the annual pilgrimage. Surely there are gawkers, but for the most part, I've found that attire (or lack thereof) at Burning Man is less about showcasing and more about letting go of fears and preconceptions -- preconceptions about other people and more importantly, about ourselves.
How many women believe they are beautiful? Too few, and that is a sad fact of modern life that I know to be true. Somehow though, in the desert, covered by little more than dust and sweat, we manage to find a way to love our bodies and our spirits more fully and honestly. We worry less and dance more. We find a place where our truth is our beauty. Happily, the sensation lingers.
So, kudos and a huge full-limbed thank you to the Bliss Dance Studio for creating this second in a series of three monumental sculptures. For me, this year, she was, "the man," and we didn't need to set her alight to feel her power. Under the night sky, she would glow with white, goddess light and then, pulsing from her heart space, red would ripple outward -- self-contained, generous, love pouring out like potion. Ripple.