7-Ton Coyote With Out of This World Organ Coming

[Update 8/19/13 this piece has been covered by the SF Chronicle]

The Sonoma News reports on a rad, giant new sculpture of a coyote by artist Bryan Tedrick – a neighbor of mine out in sunny Glen Ellen (94 today). Bryan, if you’re reading this, let’s meet at the Lodge some time.

He received a 2013 Honorarium Grant, the fifth year in a row. The coyote’s head spins around in the slightest breeze, with a seat perched 20 feet in the air; and the sculpture makes music as well.

The cultural phenomenon of Burning Man continues to grow, as more than 50,000 prepare to camp out in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for a week of art and music in an “anything goes” environment from Aug. 26 to Sept. 2. Once again, Valley artist Bryan Tedrick’s larger than life sculptural work will become an avant-garde jungle gym in the temporary city that emerges from the sand but once a year.

This year’s design includes seven-tons of steel forged into the shape of a howling coyote. Like much of Tedrick’s work, the coyote is kinetic – the 1,500-pound head is perfectly balanced so that it can spin a full 360-degrees propelled by a simple breeze. The mouth of the coyote includes a seat perched 20 feet in the air, allowing visitors to lounge as the structure swivels.

“This was intentionally designed for people to hang out on,” Tedrick said. Stairs encircle the front paw leading to an empty cavity in the animal’s stomach where a full-grown adult could easily recline. He said the “unlimited scale and intractability” was the best part of building for Burning Man.

“Nothing is too big or too crazy,” he said.


In the village that materializes at Burning Man, more than 400 pieces of artwork – some the size of buildings – are typically on display. Tedrick is one of only a handful of artists commissioned to create for Burning Man – he is the recipient of a grant to cover the cost of his materials and the transport of his mammoth creation. According to the Burning Man website, the festival awards about $700,000 each year to 30 to 40 artists, who submit their designs for approval in February.

This is the fifth year Tedrick has earned a Burning Man honorarium grant.

For two years, I went on my own dime with work that would get me on the map,” Tedrick said. After first attending in 2005, he was hooked. “It was full of psychedelic builders, I fit right in,” he laughed.

His coyote design pays homage to the desert playa where the event takes place. Tedrick has spent more than 800 hours since he began in April crafting the colossal coyote, which can break down into six pieces for transport from his studio in Glen Ellen, after which a crane will be used to reassemble the creature in the Black Rock Dessert.

photo by Terry Roberts, SFGate

photo by Terry Roberts, SFGate

“It’s a musical instrument as well. We’re going to have rubber mallets and there’s empty chambers everywhere,” Tedrick said of the piece, which moans and echoes when struck, like an out-of-this-world organ.

Tedrick will arrive at Burning Man on Aug. 21 with a crew of family members and friends who help him arrange the installation, including lighting it so it will stand out at night.

As a requirement of the grant, Tedrick must stay through the entire festival and be available to discuss his work, both informally with passersby as well as during scheduled artists’ talks throughout the week-long festival.

What happens to the piece after it leaves the playground of Burning Man is yet to be seen. The Black Rock Desert is located near the Paiute Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation in Nixon, Nevada, and the local population has expressed its dissatisfaction at the litter left behind by the thousands of revelers who pass by their homes. As a peace offering, Tedrick was told officials at Burning Man planned to give the reservation his coyote sculpture to display for one year.

Finding a place for the goliath pieces of art once the desert festival wraps up has been problematic. His 50-foot “Minaret” tower from 2010 stands in the vacant field behind his studio, waiting to be climbed again.

“When you’re creating all of this incredible art, you need to be able to show it,” said Dan Peterson, Tedrick’s nephew and right-hand-man at Burning Man. Peterson said in recent years, the festival has gotten better about helping artists arrange installations to showcase the work after the festival. For now, Tedrick is focused on making it through another two weeks in the desert.

“You learn to live with less,” he said of the experience. “It’s all about shade.”

I think it would be wonderful for the BMOrg, BRAF, Burning Man Project, or whoever it is that is the decision maker of these things, to put this art in the Paiute Indian’s lands. They could have a year-round outdoor sculpture garden and recycling center, and make money from it.

The comment about the festival getting better at helping artists arrange installations to showcase the work after the festival, is news to me. And I write the blog with the news about Burning Man. As far as I know, most of the artists are out on their own, and it’s the larger festivals getting more profitable which are funding the transportation of pieces of Coachella, EDC and so on. Burning Man will send you nasty letters for pictures of Burning Man-style art at another festival.

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