A monster emerges from the wilds of Glen Ellen
Local artist creates new work for this year’s Burning Man festival
Sarah C. Phelps
Lord Snort, the latest creation of Glen Ellen artist Bryan Tedrick, will make its public debut later this month at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Burning Man, a weeklong celebration and experiment in community and art, has become the perfect venue for Tedrick’s larger-than-life works, which are often inspired by nature, animals and the organic world. This year’s celebration, running Aug. 28-Sept. 5, will mark Tedrick’s tenth year sending his art installations to the Nevada playa.
At 20,000 pounds, more than 20 feet tall and 30 feet long, Lord Snort comes apart in three pieces and will be shipped via flatbed to the desert before being reassembled. Like much of Tedrick’s art, Lord Snort is made from scrap and recycled steel, giving him his heft and also his rusty tarnish. Also like most of Tedrick’s pieces, Lord Snort is interactive and kinetic; it rotates with a push, and his head nods if tugged or climbed on. In keeping with the free-spirit of Burning Man, Tedrick anticipates that a lot of people on the playa will be using Lord Snort as a jungle gym – and that’s part of the art. “The people are the chaos element. They make it come alive,” said Tedrick.
Tedrick, 60, is tall and lanky, which adds a sort of scale to his work. “I always make my pieces at least a little taller than me,” he said – which could also be an understatement. Tedrick works almost exclusively with found materials, metal and wood, and has been sending art to Burning Man since 2006. Tedrick’s 26-foot-tall Coyote became a defining image of the 2013 Burning Man festival when it was featured in the book “Burning Man: Art on Fire.” His carpeted and climbable Portal of Evolution was featured in the New York Times and his Damselfly, which spun and had a seat between two large dragonfly wings, was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle.
After its stint in the desert, Tedrick’s art often finds its way back to Sonoma County. Sirbent, an oversized, ominous, grinning fish, can be seen off Sonoma Highway near the entrance to Kenwood Inn and Spa, and Tedrick’s 32-foot-wide Spread Eagle wings once lived near the Kenwood Restaurant, but have since made their way, courtesy of owner Erik Garcia, next to the Wine Country Garden Center on Broadway in Sonoma. Tedrick’s iconic Coyote was purchased by Ken Wilson for Wilson Winery in Healdsburg. Wilson has also expressed interest in Lord Snort, possibly for his Kenwood winery, St. Anne’s Crossing – which would definitely turn a few heads along Highway 12. Besides sculptures, Tedrick’s portfolio includes public art commissions, gates and railings. The flowing bike racks in Sonoma Plaza are Tedrick’s work, as is the flying pig above Cochon Volant Smokehouse in Boyes Hot Springs. “Steel is a good medium for me. I’m not particularly patient and I like to work big,” said Tedrick. This is another reason you’ll only find Tedrick’s work outside in the elements and not cloistered in any art galleries.
Tedrick and his wife Terry Roberts, a retired teacher, have lived in Glen Ellen for more than two decades. Tedrick grew up in the East Bay and received a B.F.A. in sculpture from the San Francisco Art Institute in the early 80s. Before attending school, he worked as a carpenter. A job at the Kaiser Shipyard provided experience in welding and handling big weights, which has shaped his work in balance and kinetic sculpture.
Upon settling in Sonoma, Tedrick and Roberts lived at a place called The Art Farm at Leveroni Road and Broadway for a time. They later moved to London Ranch Road, where they still live. Tedrick has been at his current workshop on Nuns Canyon Road for 20 years.
Tedrick begins brainstorming his Burning Man pieces well in advance, as proposals are due to the Black Rock Arts Foundation by February. Grant amounts vary, but Tedrick has been the recipient of one each year since 2008. If a Burning Man piece is sold, Burning Man collects 10 percent of the sale price, not to exceed the original grant amount. Tedrick started working on Lord Snort in March and it has since cost $30,000 in materials and has taken Tedrick about 1,000 hours of labor to complete.