Bones are a window into the past. Paleontolgists use bones to decipher, discover and unravel secrets of bygone eras. When we die, it is what remains of us long thereafter...into the future. I wanted to use an artifact of death to create a tree, as a way of paying homage to the existence and precarious nature of all life, whether it be animal or plant based...it is a gift albeit temporary.
The Bone Tree was created as a site-specific sculpture with the vast Black Rock desert as its backdrop. It was first created in 1999 to lead a procession into the coming millennium, but since then has become a timeless sculpture that has returned to the playa year after year, until 2014. One of its original purposes was to lead people to the different installations presented at Burning Man’s annual theme, “The Wheel of Time”. Larry Harvey asked me to create a mobile sculpture, “something” that would travel into the past, as well as the future and I proposed the creation of the Bone Tree.
In the vastness of the playa, there is the appearance of no living creatures, no trees in site. In such a landscape, the bone tree represented the cycle of life and death. Confronted with thousands of bones, so stark and white, mortality was evident, yet the bones are construed in a tree, a symbol of life.
The majority of the bones were collected from cattle ranches surrounding Black Rock City and by Jimmy the Boneman. It was a tribute to the passage of time in which living animals transform from flesh to bone, the tree a final reminder of their presence on earth. And thus the cycle repeats...a wheel of time.
Bone Tree, Burning Man 1999
Materials: Bones, steel, moss
Dimensions: 27 feet tall