Burning Man scorched the Arts District on Friday night, when a wooden sculpture took shape at Boulder Plaza. Lucky Lady Lucy is doomed for consumption by fire during the weeklong annual Labor Day festival held in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno.
The 20-foot-tall abstraction of a showgirl -- accompanied by a wooden slot machine and casino chips -- will be available for the public to paint during limited windows before Burning Man: 4:30-8:30 p.m. June 7, 21 and 28; and 6-8 p.m. for the next two First Fridays (July 1 and Aug. 5) at the otherwise-locked Boulder Plaza Sculpture Park, which is located at the intersection of Main Street and Boulder Avenue.
"Anybody who would like to come up to create, come out," said lead builder Doug Boyd, who for a day job works on another Lucy (the one in the sky with diamonds) as the lead rigger for the Beatles-themed "Love" show at The Mirage.
The first artist to contribute Friday evening was Mayor Oscar Goodman, who scrawled "Carolyn -- Carolyn -- Carolyn" across the windows of the faux slot machine.
Lucy was designed by self-described local computer nerd Merritt Pelkey using a graphics program. That program then directed a milling machine at Southwest Technical Academy to precut the 5/8" plywood slats. Based on a painting of a voluptuous nude, Lucy is widest -- 25.5" x 27" -- at the breast.
"Naturally," says Pelkey, who made an artistic decision to remove her nipples. ("They were a little much," he says.)
The project is a coordination Las Vegas with the Society for Experimental Arts and Learning, a collective of more than 50 valley artists who travel to Burning Man each summer.
"It's like Star Wars meets Alice in Wonderland out in the desert with 50,000 of your closest friends," Boyd explains. "If you want to be moved by art and interaction with people, you've got to put Burning Man on your bucket list."
As part of the temporary festival's first synchronized regional bonfire, Lucy will burn at 9 p.m. on Sept. 1. Other wooden structures set to burn include a lobster trap from Maine, a Gaelic dragon from Ireland and a lighthouse from the Finger Lakes.
At first, Pelkey -- who works as the keyboard tech for Huey Lewis and the News -- was upset at the notion of six months' hard work going up in such literal flames.
"But I've been going to Burning Man a long time, and I really enjoy stuff burning," Pelkey said, "so I got over that in about half a second."
Contact reporter Corey Levitan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0456.