What is Embrace?

A Large-Scale Sculpture by the Pier Group for Burning Man 2014

The Facts:

Embrace is a 72-foot wooden sculpture of two people embracing, slated for Burning Man 2014. It is the largest project to date for the Pier Group, which gained acclaim for its previous Burning Man installations The Pier,Pier 2, and the Ichthyosaur Puppet Project.

Crews began construction on Embrace in October 2013 at the Generator community art space in Reno, and in studios in Vancouver, Canada and Portland, Oregon.

The sculpture depicts two people from the waist up, embracing. It will be realistic in shape, with an exterior made of delaminated plywood for an organic, peeling effect like that of eucalyptus bark.

The interior will consist of two cavernous, cathedral-like spaces, one inside each body, with ornate, Gaudi-esque elements including chandeliers in the shape of human-hearts, the size of Mini Coopers.

“It’s planned to be a space where people can sit, reflect, look up, feel the wind through the sculpture, and think about life and love,” says Matt Schultz, the project’s lead artist.

The sculpture is a monument to relationships, both present and past. Schultz’s stepfather died unexpectedly in 2011, and the persistent feeling of absence his death left inspired Schultz to reflect on the moments in relationships when people know they are loved.

Embrace is also meant to explore the idea of collective consciousness, the shared beliefs and ideas that unify a society. To this effect, each of the figures’ heads will be accessible by spiral staircase and will each hold about 20 people, who will have a view out to the other head, the event, and the expansive Black Rock Desert. This design feature is intended as a metaphor for shared experiences and viewpoints.

The sculpture’s spacious interior is intended as a place for reflection in the midst of the Burning Man’s high-stimulation environment.

The Emotion:

The Temple of Embrace is a loving dedication to all of the relationships in our lives. It is a reminder of those we have lost and those who are still walking with us, highlighting the way the various relationships we have change us, the people we become, and the way we interpret the world.

The two figures, Alpha and Omega, will rise out of the desert from a distance, looking as though they have been growing together for hundreds of years. At 70 ft. tall, the structure will be made almost entirely out of wood, with skin made to look like bark such as the art works of Brazilian artist Henrique Oliviera.

This intersection of man and nature in the desert will open into a large cathedral-like space, with more than 21,000 square ft. of writable surface on the structure. Two chandelier hearts will glow a soft red from the center of both bodies, lovingly crafted by The Pier Groups in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Canada.

The interior sketch of Embrace.
The interior sketch of Embrace.

Five stories of the structure will be explorable, inviting people take moments where they can look out over the Black Rock Desert as well as between the structures’ heads, eluding to the idea of human consciousness.

Embrace invites us to recognize this shared consciousness. There are many relationships that will pass through your life, be it romantic partners, parents, or best friends, each of them will leave you feeling at once full of joy and wonder, as well as full of sadness and loss. If it ended too soon, too quickly, too painfully, it doesn’t change the fact that each moment is born out of love for one another. We crave it as humans — both giving and receiving it — and base our lives around seeking it, wanting it, crying for it, and aching for it.

Embrace is a home for all of us to weep and love. A place to remember those who are gone and progress through our hearts and minds together with those we love. For when moments and relationships end, what’s left behind in the mournful dust is all of the gold that was actually earned from it; community, consciousness, and a deeply powerful capacity to love. As it is in life, Embrace is temporary. It lives — then it’s gone again, left to the embers and the magic of the Desert. Like all things, it dies.

It can be a place to remember how much love you shared and felt with those that are gone. Some feel comfortable considering the lessons they were taught; some may consider the lessons they taught another; and sometimes you may want nothing more than a simple hug.

Embrace exists for your life and grieving as you see fit in your own mind. What does it mean to you, and your awareness of self? We will honor and lament for lost loved ones, the spirit of what the sculpture encompasses will hopefully inspire you to engage in a better relationship with yourself, your family, your friends, and your community; to be reborn with the burn and the passing of pain.

About Embrace – Thoughts From the Artist

“In short, Embrace is about asking people to consider why death is so challenging and why it’s also so beautiful. It’s not all about sorrow. It’s also about appreciating the relationships in your life. Initially death is so impactful. The person is gone forever. But in another sense they don’t go away. Their thoughts and their memories and the smiles that you shared with them are still there.

“I want people to think about people they miss. But I don’t want people to miss out on those moments you share with the ones who are still here. Say “I love you.” Enjoy that moment now.

“This is the spirit I intend to communicate with Embrace.”

— Matt Schultz, Lead Artist

Who’s Involved?

Hundreds of volunteers are working on Embrace, from carpenters and structural engineers to administrative personnel, event coordinators, and fundraisers. Key crew leaders include:

Matthew Schultz, Lead Artist

Matt is Executive Director of the Generator. He was Lead Artist for The Pier, a 300-foot wooden pier installed at Burning Man 2011, and Pier 2, which reconstructed the original Pier for Burning Man 2012 and added a “shipwrecked” Spanish galleon. Matt is a graphic designer and filmmaker, whose credits include the award winning film The Roots of Happiness. Matt grew up in the Lake Tahoe area and now lives in Reno.

Joseph R. Olivier, Fundraising Lead & Social Liaison

Joe is Founding Treasurer of the Generator. He’s served on the board of The Crucible in Oakland and as Treasurer of the Black Rock Arts Foundation, where his fundraising and project management efforts led to the installation of The Raygun Gothic Rocket Ship on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. He was the President of Tercet Technologies, a mechanical contracting firm based in Las Vegas, until he moved to Reno in 2013 to dedicate his time to helping ensure the success of the Generator.

About the Pier Group

The Pier Group, led by Matt Schultz, is comprised of dozens of artists, builders, professionals, and administrators from many walks of life. The group is backed by corporate donors; small businesses; grants from the Burning Man organization and the Nevada Arts Council; and contributions from family, friends, and community members. The group began in Reno and now has outposts in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Canada.

Past Pier Group installations include The Nest, The Net of Recollection, The Pier, Pier 2, Couch Train, and Ichthyosaur Puppet Project. Embrace will be the group’s most ambitious undertaking yet.

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