Once a year, tens of thousands of people descend on Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create a temporary city, burn a massive man and, rumor has it, generally expand their view of the universe.
Burning Man—not to be called a festival, according to the annual gathering’s website—draws its fair share of Bay Area residents. And, by an anecdotal survey of the artwork from past Burning Mans on display around town, Petaluma seems to be a popular spot for the burners who create the eye-catching pieces the ephemeral desert city is known for.
Among the most visible retired Burning Man projects are the rusty rhinoceros art car near downtown and (until recently) the 45-foot-tall woman, R-Evolution, in the yard of the artist’s riverside warehouse.
Now, seeking to join the legion of Petaluma Burning Man creators, local artist and self-proclaimed geometry fanatic Kelly Davison is leading his own project, known as Complexahedron.
In an IndyGogo fundraiser video seeking $15,000, Davison sits next to a nine foot tall proof of concept in his studio on the outskirts of Petaluma.
“The Complexahedron is an experiment in the interactions between the faces, edges and vertices of 55 fractalizing hexahedrons. Three sculpted figures surround the structure, symbolizing different branches of animal evolution,” the campaign explains.
In layman’s terms, the piece involves two cubes stacked on top of each other, connected at their corners with smaller cubes sprouting from the remaining corners. It will be 20 feet tall, with a staircase offering access to the second floor, in its final form.
Davison has attended Burning Man off and on since 2013, helping out with multiple other makers’ projects. However, this is his first time leading a project, a goal he set for himself several years ago.
“The Complexahedron is a culmination of the last few years of a lot of study and practice I’ve been doing in geometry,” he told the Bohemian. “I started experimenting with stacking cubes on top of each other, not flat on top of each other, but with their intersecting vertices.”
The online fundraiser is well on its way to gathering the funds needed to cover “the cost of lumber, hardware, lighting, the casting and finishing of the sculptures, and finally, transportation and equipment rentals.”
“I’ve been getting a lot of help and support from the other Burning Man artists, a lot of them who have been doing this for a really long time… If I wasn’t in a town like Petaluma [with a large Burning Man artist community], this project would be much more difficult,” Davison said.
Burning Man’s theme this year is ANIMALIA, and the hexahedron-obsessed Davison has partnered with Washer, whose works tend to be more mammalian in theme. Washer is contributing three sculptures that will sit outside of the main structure, which features fractalizing cubes representative of the cell division crucial to the creation of modern life forms.
In 2018, Davison helped to complete Washer’s project, The Monument of Indecision, which resembles Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker sitting below a glowing white orb. Today, the retired sculpture sits outside of the Petaluma Arts Center.
Follow the project on Instagram @complexahedron.