Burning Man inspires artist

Jim Bowers building clock for festival
By: Gloria Beverage, Colfax Record Editor
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Jim Bowers strives for unique, mind-blowing art. An artist, photographer and self-described adventurer, Bowers has collaborated with other artists for the past 10 years to present unique displays, including a 1,247-foot-long burning dragon, during the annual Burning Man Festival on the Black Rock desert in Nevada. “In the real world, I create logos, postcards, greeting cards, newspaper cartoons and whatever else inspires me,” Bowers said. In April a collection of photographs Bowers has taken during the Burning Man festival will be exhibited at a prestigious New York art gallery. But, his latest project qualifies as one of the most unique he has ever tackled. Bowers is heading a team of laser technology scientists and artists in designing and creating the world’s largest working clock. In the center of the festival grounds Bowers and his team envision a 40-foot tower holding three high-powered lasers. Each laser, he explained, will serve as the clock’s hour, minute and second hands circling around 12 illuminated towers strategically placed around the perimeter of the temporary city. Bowers said a custom software program along with ultra-high-speed rotating mirrors will accurately position the lasers every 1/200 of a second. Working with Bowers are Tim Black, a software engineer and inventor; Russell Wilcox, a laser researcher/physicist and creator of “Beaming Man;” Dan Pritchett, a nuclear physicist, pilot and laser specialist; Brad Lindsey, a pilot, inventor, fabricator and laser and solar designer; Randy Davis, an engineer, craftsmen and custom fabricator; and Arlen Bodily, a construction contractor, builder and fabricator. A 48-member international team of artists has also been charged with creating art to place on 12 22-foot-tall illuminated obelisks placed on the perimeter of the festival grounds. The artwork will represent the milestones in our lifetimes, in keeping with the festival’s theme, “Rites of Passage.” Attending Burning Man has become a tradition for Bowers, now leader of the 127-member “TriBe.” He and four “tribal elders” work together throughout the year preparing for the festival and organizing the group’s campsite. “The TriBe is about the family. We are all one tribe,” he said. “Everyone has to participate in our survival. We have people who are outstanding cooks from all over the world. They take turns making themed meals. Everybody has a niche.” The festival grounds, he continued, are precisely surveyed with marked roads weaving through the campsites to the central gathering spot where the “Burning Man” ceremony is held on Labor Day. While the more than 50,000 attendees are given free rein to celebrate creativity in all forms, Bowers said, the most important rule is to avoid a negative impact on the land. Bowers and his team have successfully won grants for previous Burning Man art projects and this year is no exception. A grant request for the clock project was submitted earlier this year. But Bowers needs a variety of items for the clock project. His wish list includes lumber, working car batteries and battery chargers, solar garden lights and LED lights as well as recycled materials that can be used to create found art. Most importantly, he needs an 18-foot trailer and semi-truck to transport the clock tower to the Nevada desert in August. “So, while my life has shifted into light speed,” Bowers said, “my brain is at its highest creative level than it has ever been.” Cash donations can be made to Bowers’ 2011 Clock Project account at Wells Fargo Bank, 24025 Racetrack Street in Foresthill. For more information or to donate items for the clock project, write Bowers at _______ Fun Facts Burning Man · In honor of Summer Solstice, first festival organized by Larry Harvey and Jerry James in 1986 at Baker Beach in San Francisco. Harvey and James constructed eight-foot wooden figure and burned it as 20 people watched. · By 1991, when the festival moved to Black Rock Desert, more than 600 people participated. · Burning Man figure ranges from 40 to 80-feet tall. · Campsite designed by Harvey laid out in a circle in front of Burning Man with a main avenue lined with lanterns leading to him. · Nearly 50,000 tickets sold for last year's event