This year, we created Art Island’s largest project to date – a 56-foot tall collectively-made tapestry that led us to the heart of Burning Man. Built as a monument to the power of creativity and community, we named our creation "1,000 Hands” as an homage to the 500 Austinites who joined us in the endeavor of dyeing and tying thousands of pieces of fabric into a flowing mosaic.
The tapestry, with its vivid colors transitioning from cool purples and blues to blazing reds at the top, depicts an abstract fiery landscape by day and a serene mountain scene by night, weaving together our climate fears and hopes for the future.
The creative journey for "1000 Hands" began nearly a year ago. In March, we found out we received a prestigious Burning Man Honorarium grant, which allowed us to acquire materials and assemble a team. Co-creators Maria Gotay and Nic DeBruyne, along with materials lead Morgan Baker and tech lead Janitha Karunaratne, recruited a team of 15 additional core members. Together, we brought the vision to life.
Throughout the summer, we held weekly work sessions, welcoming both seasoned artists and newcomers to lend a hand. From community spaces to backyards, (hot!) warehouses, Flipside, and even The Contemporary Austin at Laguna Gloria, we took our piece all over town. During the same season, we raised the remaining funds we needed by hosting 2 spectacular Art Island events and a crowdfunding campaign. We’re grateful and proud of the team & community that moved fabric mountains to make this work happen.
In August, after months of dying, cutting, zip-tying, weaving, and attaching lights, we packed our tapestry (along with lots of bikes, tents, and festive outfits) in a truck and hauled it 1,774 miles to Black Rock City, Nevada. A few days later, we regrouped in the desert, where the sun blazed overhead, to install our project. With great care, we spread the piece out, carefully bolting together the modular trusses, attaching the tapestry, and perfecting the placement of lights. Then came the fun part: drilling colossal four-foot screws into the compacted dust, rigging thick guy wires, and ensuring every element was firmly in place to withstand a week of unpredictable weather. Burning Man’s Art Support Services brought in the heavy machinery. A construction crane lifted the trusses and the tapestry, while we hustled to tighten wires and secure base plates. Finally, with the help of a bucket lift, we unrolled the tapestry. For the first time, we saw our creation standing upright. This project had been a labor of love, and witnessing its culmination was an incredibly powerful experience.
"1,000 Hands" quickly became an unmissable part of the Black Rock City landscape, standing proudly as one of the tallest and most visible artworks at Burning Man 2023. It transformed from a vivid daytime scene to an illuminated twilight dream, fitting seamlessly into the crown of mountains and sky around it. It stood as one of the tallest and most visible works on the playa, nestled just beyond the Temple in a space called the “vortex” - we couldn’t have been more excited about being in the center of it all.
Over 8 days of exhibition in the desert, our art lived many lives in the desert, hosting DJ’s, art cars, weddings, sunrise fire dances and deep sunset conversations. We visited frequently, but there were so many special moments that took place through the week that we’ll never know about.
It also whipped wildly in the dust storms, stood tall in high winds, and hung all alone, dripping and drenched in the storm, for at least a day. Through Rain or shine, our collectively-crafted sunset portal took on new meaning in the unprecedented weather this year - that the sun will always rise again. And indeed it did.
"1,000 Hands" was more than just an art piece; it was a celebration of human creativity and collaboration. It was a reminder that when we came together with shared purpose and passion, we could create something truly remarkable. Thank you for joining us on this extraordinary journey!
We invite you to check out more of the Behind the Scenes of this extraordinary project by visiting @1000hands & @Artislandatx on Instagram or the project’s very own website at https://www.1000handsart.com/.