Art Review: Burning Man Comes to Carkeek Park

Sunset magazine called Carkeek Park America's third-best urban park, but it's better than ever from now until September 26, thanks to CoCA's Heaven and Earth II outdoor sculpture exhibition.

The dozen artists whose work is scattered throughout the 200-acre woods do pretty high-quality stuff, from Julie Lindell's Orchard, five 15-foot trees made from old shipping pallets, sprouting in the field by the gate, to Miguel Edwards' Perseus sculpture (pictured below).

Photo by Miguel Edwards

But I think Edwards' is the most successful piece, partly because it's the most conspicuous, on a patch of grass between the big playfield and the beach. Instead of being random, it fits the setting. Open, linear, airy, it enhances the Olympics vista, and makes the nearby swingset and kids' climbing towers look like sculptures themselves.

Ordinarily, they look bland, generic, and the grass patch looks orphaned and pointless.Now, Perseus and Carkeek trade fond gazes and say, "You complete me."

It looks like a Calder cross-dressing in a hoop skirt, with a many-mirrored chapeau and a gracefully curved spine anchored by a metal blade and a big swinging rock with testosterone overtones. Little kids and large young men love to hang on the rock, attached to a pivoting gimbal, and drag it around, making Perseus's head spin and spine creak.

Edwards failed to reply to my e-mail, but by chance last night I caught him on a ladder repairing Perseus, and he apologized as I photographed and recorded him on my iPhone. "I'm going to Burning Man tomorrow morning," he said. "This piece has an esthetic you might likely see at Burning Man more than a typical city park." Though Perseus doesn't erupt in flames, it does light up, thanks to solar powered LEDs and a AA battery at night.

"It took a beating early on, but I came back and did a few things," said Edwards, drill in fist. "I've built enough nightclubs that I pretty much plan for the drunk factor. All these structural parts are 3/8 inch plate. There's four inches of weld there; steel is a very elastic material." What's delicate are the wires inside, connecting the LEDs to the reassembled Wal-Mart yard-light solar panel. "They were $3 apiece. The honorarium was only 200 bucks."

He's almost as proud of Perseus's dancing spine as he is of the gallery that just signed him up (Shidoni, near Santa Fe). "The gimbal swings in both directions and it also spins. So it's a very chaotic motion and slightly more dangerous because of it. I think it's hilarious that the Parks Department would let me put a guillotine by a playground, but the Building Department will make you put a rail in your own home. That makes sense."

Perseus isn't quite as dangerous as a guillotine. But play safe, artsy kids.