This practice of using fire in sacred cleansing rituals is as old as religion itself. This ceremony is an important cornerstone of the Catharsis on the Mall Vigil. Fire releases into the heavens our wishes, fears, hopes, and memories both individual and collective. This ceremony can be a powerful part of the healing process and wellness.
On Saturday at 9 pm, we will burn the Memorial Wheels and Blocks from inside the sacred temple space. Usually the entire temple would burn as part of this ceremony. In an effort to collaborate and work with the National Park Service new rules, the Temple burn ceremony is being scaled down to removable sections of the sacred structure to fuel the sacred fire. We hope this will allow for an safe and reflective burn experience.
This year, on the burn pad, we have added a custom steel flooring that is assembled with clamps and bolts that was designed and built by Michael Verdon. Corrugated steel is placed over the custom flooring which all rests upon cinder blocks on the required protective flooring of plywood and plastic flooring mats. The custom steel flooring will protect the resource from heat damage from the fire.
The Burn Pad is is sacred ceremonial space. It will be adorned with flowers and herbs that decorate it. These flowers are fresh and purchased from a wholesale dealer. There are 4 water-holding bowls that are made from wood in which flowers will be floating.
There are 4 offering trays for people to leave their photographs and notes. These trays are 9 inches wide and 6 feet long with a height of 3 inches. The flowers, herbs, trays, and bowls are all burned during the ceremony with the wheels and blocks.
Memoria heel n locks: here are memorial wheels inside the temple structure that people are invited to write on. They are removed from the Temple and burned on Saturday night. They are 1’ diameter round and 4’ tall. They hang from the spaces between the Temple colonnade and in the courtyard. The wheels are 12-sided and made of wood. They are hung with natural rope and metal.
There are Memorial Blocks inside the courtyard near the benches and they are removed and burned as well. These blocks are rectangular cut plywood (scrap pieces that have been trimmed) that are stacked and available for writing.
The Hermitage Museum and Garden's Burning Man Closing Burn Ceremony was lead by Michael Verdon. He worked directly with the Fire Chief of Norfolk, VIrginia and their staff; the leads of the city's Health and Safety Department; the Coast Guard; and the Police. He created safety plans and worked to get permission from the city to burn the Tidewater Burners Art Installation "The Tail.' This artwork design and construction was led by Thom White and Cristina Fletcher.
This task of legally burning an object of this size was no easy feat. There had never been anything simiar performed within the records of the Fire Department. This Ceremony required the 20-foot long, 10-foot deep, and 20-foot tall artwork to collapse into its own footprint - all while on the floating dock only two-feet wider than the project.
Design and Renderings by Thom White
Design and Renderings by Thom White
Design and Renderings by Thom White
Our Cosmic Ride
This effigy was created for the wedding of two beautiful souls who wanted to share the art-burn experience with their loved ones. Participants were given blocks to put inside the artwork. Flowers from the wedding arches were used as part of the installation.
Gemini Feast Effigy
This artwork was created for a gathering of over 100 people in the wilderness of Western Maryland for a magical feast. It was Muppet themed. This work was designed and created in collaboration with Ryan Seeley.
Temple of Rebirth is a space for personal and collective healing. During the vigil, Catharsis on the Mall, participants left writings, images, and small objects to be burned away. Allowing them to be burned collectively is an act of healing and helps to facilitate transformation. This sacred fire practice draws on traditions from across the globe, and was popularized by David Best at Burning Man beginning in 2000.
“Our stories are woven into the work and then released in the structure’s transformation,” Michael said. “We rise from those ashes.”
This year's theme is about healing from trauma. There isn't a single source of trauma or symbol because it is so personal and variant. There are two key elements to healing trauma: coping and catharsis. It is infinitely easier to write about than to perform.
Coping is how we handle a situation. We relive trauma over and over, until we have the tools to fully process the experience in a safe way. Catharsis is how we let go of that experience and put it behind us. After time has passed and understanding is gained, we begin a new.
The temple is phoenix themed and full of fiery motion soaring above our heads. This regenerating creature is a symbol across multiple cultures. The structure's interior is large enough to accommodate many visitors at a time.
The altar, a special place to leave mementos in the center of the temple, represents coping and catharsis with its two towering blades. The two blades become one and direct our thoughts and prayers to the heavens.
This project went beautifully. It merged many old feats with new levels of collaboration and inclusion. I look forward to what's next. I feel lucky to have such love and support from so many amazing souls.
Flow "This sacred structure, Flow, floats upon the water and offers a peaceful retreat during the day. In the inner-well there is a waterfall for each hour on the clock face. Tranquility breezes through the open doorways.
As darkness falls upon the mountain, the temple is magically sealed and stasis begins as we dismantle time. The water that was once freely flowing slows to a crawl until it is frozen in air. It again flows, but backwards until the sun rises. The sun unseals the doors and restores forward progress.
There is a need to maintain balance through the universe's ebb and flow. Struggle as we might to find harmony and disrupt stagnation, we can find ourselves. Visit the temple and relinquish that which disrupts your balance and flow.
The Temple burn will begin at 9:30 PM Sunday night. Come listen to the sound of fire dancing across the upper lake. Let go of your rooted sorrow and find your flow before departing our beloved city, Mysteria."
We gathered on the National Mall on November 20, 2015 beginning at 5:30pm in a Vigil for Healing the Drug War. We celebrated Washington D.C.’s recent victory in this conflict that continues a shift in thinking and policy. The war on drugs has failed us too long. The vigil was a multiday event sharing art, community, dance, guest speakers, and stories.
On Saturday, November 21, there was community building with workshops, guest speakers, information sharing, and music beginning at 10:30am. At 11pm on Saturday we released those emotions by transforming our stories into collective memory with fire. Then, we danced until the sun rose!
This project was part of a new annual tradition: Catharsis on the Mall.
"Welcome to the Temple of Essence.
This artwork is a memorial dedicated to all those affected by the drug war.
Recently, DC citizens stood up for sensible policy despite congressional opposition. We are witnessing the the beginning of the end of the drug war with shifts in policy and action. People are standing together to focus on harm reduction and decriminalization. We honor the victims and celebrate the ground we've made.
The Temple of Essence is a space for healing personal and collective trauma, release and transformation of negative energy, and connecting with others. You are invited to share your stories in writing within its walls and leave small mementos. At the height of the event, we will transform this communal art experience into collective memory as we burn the temple down in release and reflection.
Great energy and motion wrap around the inner space with ribbons of fire. Held high above the object, knowledge is spherical beacon. The beacon strobes every time a citizen in the United States is arrested for a drug offense, mostly possession – every 19 seconds (1.6 million a year).
The inner space is a prison cell painted entirely in black. You are invited into this space to experience a 6' x 8’ (2m x 2.5m) cell. It is the twisted home of many drug war victims.
On Saturday, November 21, 2015 at 11pm, we will turn this prison cell and all those messages from tangible object into collective memory. Our stories and those struggles will be burned away in a cleansing fire. The experience will give way to healing and moving forward together.
Throughout our human existence, the destructive and rejuvenating power of fire has been respected in various ways across the globe. It is considered to be a source of purification and truth. In that tradition, we will let the Temple of Essence be consumed by flames.
You are encouraged to write on the structure with the provided chalk. Please leave it behind so others may write too. Your story will be anonymous, so please share your truth. Our inner peace, will perpetuate outer peace.
It has taken a communal effort to create this space. Hundreds of hours of work and love have been poured into this structure. Great thanks to an amazing crew: Wil, Jessica, Katie, Michelle, TD, Chris, Bonnie, Ryan, Nathalie, Matthew, Eúcaris, Kevin Twist, Kate Bell, Jamie, Arathi, Mia, KJ, Shay, George, Michael, Lalo, Kathryn, George, Doug, Bill, Bruce, Chelsea, Roman, David, Lizzy, Mack, Talia, Sirius, Marsy, Amber Jo, David, and Vito.
Thanks to everyone who shares their stories and temple with someone who might benefit from this experience. Thank you for your love and support."
This artwork stands as a monument to community, reflection, and healing. You are invited to share stories of loss, remembrance, loss, and fear. Our words and expressions will fill these temple walls. Our pain, suffering, fear, and guilt will be held here in this sacred space.
On May 8, 2015 at 8:30pm, we will gather around this lake and transform the temple from tangible object into collective memory with fire. Our stories and struggles shared will be burned away in a cleansing fire. This experience will give way to forgiveness, moving forward, and healing together.
Throughout our human existence, the destructive and rejuvenating power of fire has been respected in various ways across the globe. It is considered to be a source of purification and truth. In that tradition, we will let the Temple of Transformance be consumed by flames and transformed into ash.
You are encouraged to write with the ashes and charred remains from 6 previous temple projects led by Michael Verdon. Your story will be anonymous, so please dig deeply and express what you need to relinquish. Our inner peace will perpetuate outer peace.
Emily Dalphy, Elizabeth Mazzola, Patty Simonton, Michelle Gonnering, Susan Buchanan, Chris Gerling, Mark Brailsford, Ryan Seeley, Emily Tess, Gordon B. McCracken, Fonda Nichols, Tom Flatt, Matt Nolan, Roman Burns, Bryan Boru, Kelly Fahey, Shanna Fricklas, Maria Padhila, Crystal MacAllum, Rachel Gross, C Woods, Mary Pat, Doug Taphouse, Angelica Singh, Kenny Reff, Andrei Ponomarev, Pierre Yves, Brewster Thackery, Ursula Sadiq, Allison Stanfill...
Thanks to everyone who made this project possible.
On May 3, 2014, We struck 2,684 nails into a structure built for this event. A nail for each United States Veteran who had committed suicide by May 3rd.
The number was based on an official report by the DoD from 2009 and 2010 (22 per day). From 1999-2010 the average was 20 per day.
We tested the structure's resilience to 8,000-20,000 hammer strikes in a 65 minutes.
This event started many conversations. The object remaining serves as a memorial.
(Video) 8030: A Memorial to Veterans
12' x 1' x 7½'
2014 - With Love was made for Susie and D Schwartz as a gift for their wedding. Their love and support in my artistic endeavors have meant more than I could express with words.
They embody a creative, fiery spirit that they share with others through teaching and transformation.
The Bamboo Lotus
20' x 34' x 34'
The Bamboo Lotus as an object was a flower sculpture made of wood, steel, and bamboo. What it did was bring people together. It helped create a stronger communities through action and creativity.
Over 70 volunteers worked to make this project for an event in North Carolina. I led the project with James Noel as Architect and Construction Lead and Chelsea Dobert-Kehn as Bamboo Lead and Aesthetics Co-Lead.
There was a 3-tiered lounge in the 1st floor with rugs, cushions, and participatory art. Indirect white lighting evenly lit the lounge. An 8 x 8 section was raised to 3-foot height to create an intimate space for people to gather.
On the 2nd floor he open-air pavilion allowed people talk and play on the 4-person swinging platform. The wrap-around deck had bamboo handrails and indirect perimeter lighting to kept participants safe.
The 3rd floor observation deck allowed 360 degree views from 24-feet. The female effigy figure stood on top of an 8' tall pedestal.
At the climax of the event, 2,000 people gathered as the flower was rigged with pyrotechnics and burned in celebration and immediacy.
The sculpture stands over 10-feet from the base of the pedestal. Organic and graceful steel arms spiral around each other up and outward. Rising from a mere 3 x 3 inch base, Poem to Love extends to 9' tallx 7' x 7'.
The root-structure heart lights loves path as two entities come together.
Propane fire erupts from 100 locations on the arms as they spiral skyward.
When the propane is not in use, there are 306 lights. 300 are intelligent RGB LEDs and the other 6 are 44-function RGB LEDs with light filters.
This all sits over a reflecting pool of water. The sound of water can be heard but motion in the water is not seen. A fiberglass fountain-base was created that is 3" deep and 8'7" ciruclar.
I went through the entire process of making this sculpture from under-the-ground and up. Kevin Foreman was instrumental in the electronic work for this piece.
Details of the "Heart" - Fire off
It glows with the colors of leaves on a beautiful autumn day
(Video) Poem to Love - On Fire!
Propane turns to fire through a hundred holes throughout the sculpture.
306 Lights, 2 remote controls, and 9 power switches
The view from the studio in the house.
Finalized Concept Sketch
Site specific work, before the great dig
Ready for Concrete!
Reflecting Pool mold on rebar base
When it was just a phrase
Managing resources and planning
Picking the right type of stone and the right pallet for the project.