South Lake Tahoe artist creates 10-foot-tall metal sculpture for Burning Man (video) |

South Lake Tahoe artist creates 10-foot-tall metal sculpture for Burning Man (video)

Claire Cudahy

A South Lake Tahoe artist is making her dream a reality this summer as she prepares to debut her largest sculpture to date at Burning Man.

Jessica Levine was awarded a Black Rock City Honoraria grant in May to create her kinetic steel sculpture called “Reaching Through,” and for the past three months she’s worked determinedly to get the 10-foot-by-10-foot piece ready for the festival at the end of August.

“It’s been my dream to create a sculpture for Burning Man,” said Levine during a welding break in her South Shore studio. “I was so blown away when I found out I got the grant.”

This year Burning Man Arts distributed $1.2 million in art grants, including 60 grants for honoraria art projects.

Levine first attended Burning Man back in 2013 and was amazed by the large-scale art projects she found displayed across the Black Rock Desert.

“I was so inspired, then I went back to school and took my first metal fabrication class, and I knew this is what I wanted to do — what I was willing to spend all of my time doing and working at,” said Levine.

Levine attended Burning Man two more times before graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a double major in art and sociology.

Since receiving the grant, Levine has spent hundreds of hours working on “Reaching Through.” The abstract sculpture is made from steel rods that have been cut, bent and welded together into a circular base, 10-feet in diameter, with five tube-like structures, resembling coral, extending upward. The arms of the sculpture are attached with suspension springs from old cars, allowing them to move with the elements.

“It’s about the organized functionality of our bodies versus the sometimes disorganized nature of the world that our bodies exist in,” explained Levine.

The sculpture’s resemblance to coral was not something Levine had originally intended, but decided it fits with her theme of the uncontrollable impacts of outside forces.

“Coral is a really beautiful connection with this because it’s something that exists in the ocean and is really important, but there are so many changes happening in the ocean right now impacting the coral and it’s dying — and it doesn’t have any control over that,” said Levine.

Levine still has two more of the arms to attach to the sculpture before it’s completed and transported to the Black Rock Desert.

“I’ve never done anything this big before, so it’s a major learning experience,” said Levine.

Currently, the 24-year-old sculptor is crowd funding for the last $2,500 needed to get her sculpture to Burning Man due to some “unanticipated costs” pertaining to transport, lighting and mounting.

“It’s a lot heavier than originally intended, so I have to get a fork lift to move it,” said Levine.

For those who would like to contribute to the sculpture, donations can be made by searching “Reaching Through: a Burning Man sculpture” on

As for where the sculpture will go after Burning Man, that is still up in the air.

“I’d like to see it on display somewhere,” said Levine. “I would really like to get more into public art.”

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