Plastic Pelican flies from the Playa to the Porch

From the Reno Gazette Journal comes this great story about an Art Project designed as a tribute to wildlife injured in the BP oil spill, which now takes pride of place on the artist’s balcony.

A 21-foot-wide, 8-foot-tall Pelican perches on the deck of a home in northwest Reno, looking as if it were about to take flight over North McCarran Boulevard.

The mammoth waterfowl is not a nuclear mutation, but a leftover piece of Burning Man artwork that a Reno woman and her family made as a statement about the suffering that birds and other wildlife endured from the 2010 BP oil spill along the Gulf Coast.

Darla Fink and her husband, David Whitmus, built the pelican with the help of Fink’s sisters and mother-in-law.

“The theme of last year’s Burning Man was Rite of Passage, so I called this Flight of Passage,” said Fink, the student services director for Job Corps.

The pelican’s wings were made out of recycled 20-ounce plastic water bottles that were ironed as flat as possible, attached to chicken wire, and then the entire thing was spray painted black.

“Plastic water bottles are horrible for birds, and the caps from the bottles get caught in their stomachs,” she said. “You find these water bottles all over the oceans and beaches.”

The black pelican’s neck and head were made out of faux fur and the underpinning of the sculpture was made of reclaimed rebar welded together, Fink said.

“The significance of it being black was really to represent that famous image of the oil-covered pelican trying to pull itself out of the water after the BP oil spill,” she said.

By the time the Burning Man arts and counterculture gathering had ended last Labor Day, the sculpture had morphed into a statement about how quickly the damage done to wildlife has been forgotten, Fink said.

“So, at Burning Man, here was this big black pelican rising out of the playa. But when the week was over, the dust of the playa had turned it white,” she said. “So, it was obscured, just like the memory of all the wildlife that was destroyed by that oil spill.”

The pelican now sits, its mouth open as if to swallow passing clouds, on the deck of the Fink’s home off North McCarran Boulevard between Seventh Street and Kings Row.

Fink is considering selling the sculpture to someone interested in Burning Man memorabilia and using the money to finance her and her husband’s next Burner art project, or giving all or some of the funds to a wildlife organization.

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