Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Calliope Goes to Los Angeles Decom 2012

Calliope the Wonder Wagon @ L.A. Decom 2012

           I found my way to the Burning Man community in Los Angeles after attending my first Burn in 2003.  Since that life-changing experience, the Burning Man community has become a vital part of my life that has brought me profound joy and inspiration.  I’ve met countless amazing people (including my husband), been a part of fantastic creative endeavors and learned many inspiring lessons from my participation in this community of exceptional individuals - not to mention having a whole lot of fun!
Photo by Mike Smith
            Every year, the Los Angeles League of Arts puts on an event called “L.A. Decom” – short for “decompression”.  This is a bit of burner jargon that references the common experience of returning to the “real world” after the radical freedom of Burning Man, and realizing how “compressed” modern life feels.  “Decompression” has come to mean a Burning Man-related event held a month or so after the main event in the desert that brings a taste of the Burn home and gives participants a chance to “decompress”.
Photo by Mike Smith
            Numerous regional Burning Man organizations hold these events, including San Franscisco, San Diego and Los Angeles.  Many of them take the opportunity to reach out to the local communities and share a bit of what makes Burning Man so special – the art, music, costumes, participation, playfulness and core tenets such as “Leave No Trace”, gifting, civic responsibility and gratitude.
            As we did last year, Dore and I displayed Calliope The Wonder Wagon at L.A. Decom this past weekend, and we had an absolute blast!  There seemed to be a lot more people this year – especially new faces – folks who just stumbled upon the event, or were curious about Burning Man and wanted to see what it was all about.  Everyone I met seemed to be having a great time.

Hobo clown shenanigans!  http://www.diatomaceouslove.com/
            We literally had hundreds of people visit Calliope and take a look inside and out.  At many points throughout the day and evening, folks were lined up outside to get a peek at the interior.  In less crowded moments, small groups made themselves comfortable for a brief respite in Calliope’s colorful, cozy space.
            It brings us so much joy to share our magical gypsy trailer with people.  She inevitably arouses smiles, delighted surprise and inspiration.  People are first captivated by the vibrant exterior artwork, and then they get a glimpse inside and their faces just light up.  Calliope’s combination of artistic whimsy and functionality seems to inspire people like nothing else I’ve been a part of. 

Photo by Mike Smith
            Dore loves to talk shop with folks interested in the details – what we started with, how much it cost, where we got parts and how he built various bits, roadworthiness, how we tow it and other practical considerations.  There are many people who have dreamed of something along these lines since they were children, and we wholeheartedly encourage folks to chase that dream and make it come true.  I imagine a caravan of caravans, having joyful adventures and bringing smiles to all we pass.
            I particularly enjoyed seeing the kids’ reactions.  There were a lot of young people at the event this year, and Calliope seems to be particularly alluring to little girls.  One of my favorite moments was when a couple of mothers brought their toddler girls in to take a look.  Afterwards, I offered them art postcards to take home.  As I stood on the porch of this little fairytale house in my colorful, sparkly gypsy costume, their eyes got huge and round and I imagined them wondering if I was some kind of fairy godmother.  It was a brilliant “I love my life!” moment.  :)

Cristina McAllister working on a panel of Seraphim

            I also got to contribute to the Los Angeles CORE (Circle of Regional Effigies) project, Seraphim.  This marvelous installation piece features four large angel figures, representing the diverse ethnic and cultural influences of our fair city.  I was invited to paint one of the panels that make up the base, and spent the morning working on that.  I went with an angel figure design reminiscent of my shakti, with human, angelic, animal and plant features, holding a flaming heart.

             Participation was encouraged by having markers available for writing personal messages on the raw wood areas of the piece.  This is a Burning Man tradition inspired by the Temples built every year at the Burn.  These spectacular structures, unique each year, serve as non-denominational sacred spaces; places to reflect and share, and memorialize events and loved ones.  On the last night of Burning Man, the Temple is burned in a glorious and reverent ritual, sending the hopes, dreams and emotions scrawled upon it into the heavens.
"Seraphim" flame vortex structure surrounded by angels

The original plan was to burn the Seraphim installation at the L.A. Decom event (the first time a “burn” was to be sanctioned in Los Angeles) but unfortunately, dry conditions caused the Fire Marshal to cancel the burn.
            There are plans in the works for a future event in a safer location to make the CORE team’s plan a reality.
Photo by Curious Josh @ http://curiousjosh.com/
                    All in all, L.A. Decom was a great success.  I connected with so many wonderful people and got to share some of the inspiration that has enriched my own life beyond measure.  
Cristina McAllister and Dore

Some links to follow down the Rabbit Hole:

Info on Burning Man: http://www.burningman.com/

More about the Seraphim project:

L.A. Decom and Los Angeles League of Arts:

Photos of the Temples at Burning Man:

Black Rock Yearbook Photo Booth pics from L.A. Decom:
More about our Hobo Clowns from Diatomaceaous Love:

More Photos by Curious Josh: