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Burning Woman
posted by Tarkaan, 22nd April 2011, Categories: Breeding Culture, Featured

Burning Man is to camping as fugu is to fish sticks: there is a resemblance, but only barely. Cloaked in the
guise of an art festival, Burning Mans really an extreme sport for the counterculture, where bitter cold
nights, scorching hot days, howling winds, corrosive dust, and withering aridity challenge the endurance of
even the most hardy campers. Born of the angst and frustration of Los Angeles artist Larry Harvey in 1986,
Burning Man has morphed in the intervening years from a barbeque where people blew things up to one of
the largest festivals of its kind in North America. Part social experiment, part event destination, Burning Man
and its transient population numbering in the hundreds of thousands has become an institution: the burner
tribe and their Black Rock City transcend the desert. Its also an adventure in philosophical extremes. One of
the semi-official mantras here is radical self-reliance, but the full scope of the festival is far more complex: the
sister of radical self-reliance is a life- and love-affirming expression of radical interdependence. The spectrum
of ideologies and expectations reflected here mirror every aspect of modern society, from the far-right gun
nuts (present since the earliest days of Burning Man) to the lefty granola nuts. There are merry pranksters,
dropped out long ago, and police, doctors, lawyers, artists, lovers, and free-spirits. Theres also very little
money at Burning Man: an economy of gifting and barter is the engine that drives some of the
aforementioned interdependence. The payoff is a week long immersion in art, performance, music, and
human companionship that alters your world-view forever. When the partys over, this temporary City returns
without a trace to the dust whence it sprang, yet unlike the permanent cities in which we stoically reside with
our temporary relationships, the connections created in this also temporary City are permanent and indelible.
One of the phenomena that stands out, however, is a subtle but distinct gender imbalance: the Black Rock
City Census Department reports a demographic ratio of about two women to every three men. The imbalance
isnt hard to explain: this desert experience presents enormous, intimidating physical, intellectual, &
psychological challenges. Whats more interesting than the skewed demographic, though, is that so many

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women- 20,000 in 2007 (the most


recent statistics)- still make the
pilgrimage. At DISfunkshion we
wondered what are the qualities that
drive this unusual sorority to embrace
the challenges of the desert and
becomethe Burning Woman.

Olga Loyev was born and raised in


Odessa, Ukraine. She came to the
US when she was 13. With an
undergraduate degree in economics
& a masters in information systems
and operations management, she
has a job in Cairo, Egypt doing
corporate restructuring. She speaks
Ukrainian, Russian, & English
fluently, and expects to be speaking
Arabic soon. 2009 was Olgas second time at Burning Man, and she is enthusiastic about returning. Her fist
visit in 2008 was a bi-product of a serendipitous encounter with a California Burner while trekking in Spain &
Morocco; she returned to the desert in 09 because its amazing.Betsy Elizabeth Bower was born and raised
in Casper, Wyoming. Educated in fine arts, she has worked for several years in steel and has recently started
her own metal-works studio, where she is a practitioner of industrial welding, art-welding, and black-smithing.
Her fashion style is SoHo bohemian, which she exhibits in the desert in an eclectic mix of semi-formal and
vintage accessorized with a collection of charmingly retro hats. A first-time Burner in 09, she came to the
desert for the art & connection- a sense of community among free-spirited people that sometimes eludes
her in the regular world. A few of her favorite things at Burning Man are the Pavilion in center camp with its
carnival atmosphere. Like many of the women I spoke with, she definitely plans to return: As an artist, I find
this place so inspiring, especially the merging of art & science. I cant wait to come back as a participating
sculptor myself. Yoevelyn Rodriguez (aka Yovi) is a native of La Romana, Dominican Republic, but
makes her home now in Miami, Florida. Currently a waitress, she speaks English and Spanish fluently and
has put herself through college for an education in fine arts, focusing on fashion & costume design, where
she hopes to make her career upon graduating. A woman of interesting contradictions, she is both playful and
strong, with an eager eye for adventure and enormous personal ambition; her fashion style, reflecting these
qualities, is colorful, modest, and pragmatic: it is all about the environment and how Yovi makes her place in
it. She comes to Burning Man for the first time this year cross-country on a school bus to experience first
hand what she had long heard of in rumors. Why should you follow Yovi to Burning Man? For personal
growth, she answers without hesitation. To make yourself independent, to learn respect for other people, to
learn how to cooperate, collaborate, and improvise. Although Ana Kapodistria was born and raised in
Toronto, she eagerly celebrates her Greek heritage. Currently a waitress and a student at Ryerson University
in Toronto, she expects to make a career for herself in the photographic arts, of which she is already an
enthusiastic practitioner. To get to Burning Man Ana and her friend Jess flew from Toronto to Boulder,
Colorado, where they rode a truck to a rest stop in Wyoming to intercept the school bus that began its trip in
Sarasota, Florida. She came this year for the first time because of the art and the idea of Burning Man, and
enthusiastically anticipates her return. Her fashion sense on and off the playa is a reflection of her quirky,
exuberant personality: casual but dressy bohemian chic with a splash of playful accessories, like her heartshaped lunettes. While her friends tend to regard her as adventurous, Ana claims shes a chicken at heart;
slightly acrophobic, she nonetheless climbed a swaying 50 ladder for a photograph maybe her friends are
right. Does she plan on returning to the desert? Of course, she says with a brilliant smile. Why does Ana
think you should follow her to Burning Man? To find people whose energy is worth relishing; to enjoy a
unique experience; and to discover the kind of inspiration that can only come from immersing yourself in art
and culture.

Alana S Miller (aka. Rasta Impasta) was born & raised in New York City. She recently completed her junior
year at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and will be finishing her education in fine arts in
Scotland. A photographer now, she hopes to turn that into a career after college. 2009 was Alanas first time
at Burning Man; she expects she will definitely be back. What attracted her to the desert? I came to be
surrounded by creative energy, to be surrounded by wild & wacky homo sapiens who love life as much as I
do. Her fashion style on the playa was site-appropriate: she modeled an assortment of bathing suits casually
accessorized with clever hats (think Carmen Miranda) and colorful, playful scarves. Her experiences here
vastly exceeded her expectations. Cristal Arcade, 27, was born in Atlanta, raised in Americas Old South, and
has returned to Atlanta where she currently works as an entertainer, artist, and businesswoman. A gifted
polymath with an abundant curiosity, she intends to expand her career options aggressively into graphics and
illustration, and is preparing to illustrate a childrens book in collaboration with Florida Author Jonathan
Schork. A first-time Burner, she came here cross-country on a school bus with Penivek Arcade, whom she
married at Burning Man. About relationships in the desert she says, If you want to learn about your partner

and how you fit together, try a week


here: youll either figure out its not
happening, or youll be together
forever. Cristals eclectic fashion
style on & off the playa is strongly
influenced by the Japanese street
scene and manga. She and Mr.
Arcade plan to return every year,
and hope eventually as parents to
bring their children here. Why did
Cristal come to Burning Man? Ive
always felt a little alone in the world,
she says, and I just wanted to be somewhere with a sense of community. She most enjoyed the freedom of
expression without money, basic human kindness without any expectation & the outstanding music scene. So
who is the Burning Woman? Shes not much different than you, really. The women with whom we spoke, and
only a fraction are represented here, were well-educated, independent, adventurous (even if they didnt think
so), talented, creative women. They were young, old and everything in between. They were waitresses,
executives, athletes, gypsies, students, wives & mothers. They were eager to challenge themselves and
eagerly sought out personal growth.

-Jonathan Schork

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August 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm

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