Burning Man

Black Rock City, Nv

(Installation Collaboration)


Day 9: What We Burn


“A hive is not just a structure or container for the bees, it is a place built on what the bees bring to it from the outside world. The real beauty of a temple is the same. The human energy buzzing through with personal, vulnerable, expressions of life, love, sorrow, embodiment, letting go and faith are the magic. 

Things burn at Burning Man. Fire is both real and an idea that hovers over everything. The temporal nature informs the experience. The big temple was set to burn the last night of the festival. Throughout the week people offer all sorts of things to be burned for a myriad of reasons. As you walk around the temple, you see depictions of love, sorrow and gratitude. Reverence for all life was there in every note, picture, poem or scratching that adorned the walls. Fire can be a violent forcing of change. But a controlled, intentional fire offers something unique. Most people, as I saw it, were honoring life with imagery and words. They were setting themselves or the people they loved free with fire. 

When I committed to painting 50,000 bees, I committed to seeing where that process would take me, not the other way around. This has been a huge obstacle in a world that perpetually tries to answer every question posed as quickly as possible. I receive pressure on every level to define this initiative that is a giant piece of art in progress. Following a path that has as many twists and turns as a bee in a flower laden yard is no small feat for a recovering perfectionist. It is literally like trying to put a honey bee on a leash. I sat in that sand storm writing out my thoughts about The Good of the Hive. I wrote about the last four and a half years painting over 5000 bees in 24 murals and installations. I wrote about the things that have not been possible for me while doing this work and the things that I thought were holding me back from successfully creating this artwork. I wanted it to burn because I do not have the answers yet. I wanted to create space to hear what the right answers are. 

In the end, I cut myself off and just stopped writing. In this moment, burning an incomplete, imperfect note made ‘perfect’ sense. Writing about it or thinking about it wasn’t helping. Practicing a life that shows up each day with openness, willingness and compassion (for myself as well as others) is where I want to be. I started (again) with sticking that tiny symbol of imperfection and change in the crevice of a temple that was about to burn. It offered me a container to mark my progress and reignite my intentions. No matter how small or insignificant, I had added my piece, and perfect or not, it felt good.” - Matt