fire sculptures have been constructed by the five members of
Therm. One of them is Andres, who said the group's Herbst show
will burn 1,000 pounds of propane and roughly 60 gallons of alcohol,
a clean-burning substance more environmentally friendly -- and
with a less-assaultive scent -- than the more familiar propellant
also will be available: Sculptures such as "The Cannon" shoot
14- foot flames and boom so loudly, Andres says, that without
plugs "your eardrums will impact the side of your head."
as that sounds, Andres is quick to add that audiences should
prepare "to wander into a magical landscape."
can expect to have their minds blown, basically," he said. "They
will see fire take on shapes and colors they'd never have thought
possible. They can expect to be awed."
Hyperbole? Maybe a tad. But it's no idle boast. Andres and the
five artists comprising Therm -- Vance Cearley, Orion Fredericks,
Justin Gray, Jeremy Lutes and Zach Wetzel -- have been wowing
audiences for three years. They have performed at the Burning
Man festival in Nevada's Black Rock desert, at East Bay venues
and for parties hosted by corporations such as Oracle and Cisco.
Herbst Pavilion show is the troupe's first indoor performance. "It's
a big step," Andres says, adding that Therm has always worked
closely with local fire authorities to ensure safety. The Presidio
Fire Department will have two marshals on site and a standby
fire engine. (Calls to Chief Frank Richtarshich were not returned
by press time.)
his cement-covered backyard littered with, among other items,
rusting trucks, tools and part of an old weight machine Andres,
35, moves to another control panel. He fires up "Stentor," built
by Cearley and resembling some kind of alien life form.
our pieces come right out of the subconscious," Andres says. "We
don't get too conceptual about our work."
pops sound. Andres shows how he can flick switches to control
the sequence of the pops, which herald changes in the fire emanating
from the sculpture, so they become a percussive rat-a-tat rhythm.
During the show, that will be accompanied by the self-billed "six-string
sonic mayhem" of the Reverend Screaming Fingers -- Oakland
guitarist Lucio Menengen.
can play off each other in an improvisational way," Menengen,
the "Dream" show, Oakland artist Jeremy Lutes will
present part of "The Lily Pond," a sculpture he premiered
at the Burning Man festival. Fifty circuit boards, designed to
look like lily pads, are mounted on 24-inch steel stems. Illuminated
dragonflies will rest atop some of them.
very interactive and immersive, like walking through a garden
with fire and light and sculpture," said Lutes, 38.
girlfriend, Kathleen Fernald, specializes in weaving fiber optic
strands on a loom to create wearable "light garments," which
will be modeled by friends of the couple strolling around the
a sixth-generation San Franciscan, spent his first four years
in France, and has lived in the Bay Area for 15 years. Always
a hands-on person --
as a kid he "just liked making stuff" -- he left the UC Davis before
completing a degree in engineering. (He plans to return to school next year
to complete it.)
After bumming around overseas, he settled down, at 25, to work on an invention
-- an oil-free, water-based internal combustion engine. Over the years he secured
funding, and had come close both to venture capital and corporate interest
in a third prototype when the dot-com crash wiped it all out, along with his
was 10 years of my life and a huge part of my identity," he
had spent his spare time working with fire. Why? " I ask
myself that every day," he says with a laugh. "I
loved fire as a boy. I started way too many fires. I don't
know too many men who
aren't tiny pyromaniacs." He and Cearley -- who has a fine arts background
-- began building the first fire-breathing sculptures. Soon the other artists
found their way to the
Eccentric (pronounced E-centric) was born. The collective includes
the members of SunBrothers as well as those of Light Fantastic.
Andres is adamant that no one leads; decisions are democratic
and sometimes arrived at heatedly. " The fire began as just
joy and fun," he
says. "Then I saw the
possibility of doing performances in the Bay Area, and I pushed us to do
that." One blustery evening three years ago, the group had its first
showing -- of three fire sculptures -- in the backyard of the Crucible,
studio, educational foundry and metal fabrication shop in Oakland. "It
was a night of whiskey, rain and fire," Andres says with a chuckle.
small showings followed, then Andres conceived of the "fire
garden" -- all of the works in one place, with music. The first
was mounted two and a half years ago, also at the Crucible. "It
essentially blew us all to the ground," Andres says, speaking
were all just floored. We had no concept that the sum was so much greater
the parts." Nor did audiences, which went wild. That's not surprising,
Andres says, considering humans' elemental attraction to fire. "It
has within it two sides, " he
says. "It has its creative side, and it has its destructive side.
It's warm, it's unpredictable, it's mesmerizing and it's slightly scary." While
other fire artists play with the element's destructive aspects -- again,
think of the Burning Man effigy -- Therm does the opposite,
says: " We create a sculpture that is beautiful in its own right, but the fire
doesn't destroy it. Instead of being destroyed by the fire, it shapes
the fire. We control the fire," he adds. "We can really, really, really
play with (it).
Andres says, "We can dance with (it)."
Where to go The Eccentric Design Group's performance "Dream" starts
at 9 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.) today and Saturday at the Herbst Pavilion
at Fort Mason Center. $20.
Advance tickets: www.firegarden.org. For information, call (510)
E-mail Dave Ford at email@example.com.