A Sanctuary in Burning Man

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Bright colors, sweltering heat, a euphoric atmosphere. This is the climate of Burning Man. The festival, held in Black Rock City, Nevada, is designed as a social experiment for the community. Participants create a faux utopia and practice such virtues as self-reliance and preservation, all while producing art. California may seem like a far off place to work on the festival. But for one artist, who simply goes by Dicapria, she’s found her creative flow there to produce such a project.

She’s creating a pyramid installation piece framed with gummy bears that will be a sanctuary tent among the noise of Burning Man. Dicapria fits the tone of the festival well. She’s quiet, soft-spoken, but her fiery auburn hair is vibrant and, for only being in her early 30s, her work is distinct and powerful. She fits the free spirit of a Californian but is also very disciplined.

“Stress equals excitement,” Dicapria said. “I sometimes work six or seven days a week. I’ll get up in the morning and not stop until I’m pretty much passed out. It’s overwhelming, but it really is great.”

Dicapria was one of 75 people who received the Burning Man Honorarium that provides funding to artists interested in creating pieces for the festival. She was selected out of around 550 applicants, but a lot of the work begins now.

Illustrating her many hours of labor are piles of sketchbooks scattered throughout her studio. Some of her journals depict drawings of triangles and her thought process for the piece.

“Pyramids are such an iconic image, they make for a sound 3D structure and are easy to walk in and out of,” Dicapria said.

The piece can be easily constructed and then taken down, which fits with Burning Man’s theme of leaving the festival without a trace. Dicapria’s still working on the details with designers and engineers but thinks it will be 16 feet wide, 16 feet deep and around 12 feet high. Each acrylic frame will be lined with LED lights to create a glow throughout the whole piece.

In addition to her layers of notebooks, packages of gummy bears in all sorts of colors pop out from every corner of the room. She took inspiration from Lite Brite pieces and wants each panel of the Burning Man pyramid to be filled with a gummy bear shape. She said the candy is colorful, can be put into a frame well and is cheap enough to use for planning her design.

“I’ll have my own little gummy bear factory for a while,” she said. “I want the outlines to be cast from a different material other than gummy bears, though.”

The candy is made of gelatin, an animal-based product, which Dicapria tries to avoid. It’ll take roughly 50 gallons of mold for around 111,000 gummy bear casts. Finding the perfect substance takes time, especially if it’s to withstand the desert heat of Burning Man.

Dicapria has never been one to shy away from hard work or exploring something new, though. She was a nomadic traveler who spent three years traversing the country in a van before settling in California in October 2016. She grew up loving the arts, originally starting off in theater production and design before turning her attention to art at festivals. She attended her first Burning Man in 2014.

“I’m there for the art, not the party,” she said. “I like that it’s not about the hierarchy or the money. It’s about the creativity and that really motivates me.”

Dicapria spent about five years consulting and managing artists. Now, she says, it’s her turn to start looking at her own work a little more critically. For her Burning Man piece, she’s had to really stop and think about each stage of the process.

“I’d like for it to be a sacred space for someone,” Dicapria said. “It’s almost like a holy, nostalgic place, a worship of the imagination.” That line of meditative work and creative thinking is something she says she really values.

Dicapria is currently pursuing more gallery pieces and is interested in creating a line of merchandise such as shirts and bandannas. For more information on the artist, visit www.dicapria.com or browse some of her work on Instagram @DicapriaArt. Her pyramid piece can be seen Aug. 27 – Sept. 4 at the Burning Man festival.

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