The planned mural in Manhattan provoked the ire of President Trump, who slammed the mural on Twitter as a "symbol of hate." USA TODAY
"Black Lives Matter" has been painted on streets throughout the United States, but it's now written in the surface of the Black Rock Desert.
Bureau of Land Management officials say aperson or group used a vehicle toimprint the message into the crust of the desert playa last month.
"Someone drove with a GPS and drove several times to makehuge, huge letters," said Heather O' Hanlon, spokeswoman for the BLM. "They drove several times so that it stayed imprinted."
To the naked eye, it might appear to be a mess of tire tracks, but a hobby pilot last month documented a bird's eye view of the message.
"Pure awe," said Nick Howard, of Petaluma, who was flying back from a trip to Idaho when he decided to fly over the Black Rock Desert for the first time. "How did it get there? It was done so perfectly. It was really impressive how accurate and crisp it was. I tried to figure out how and who, but there still arent any answers.You would think that if someone made the effort to make it theyd want some kind of credit."
Tire tracks can be seen in mid-July 2020 on the Black Rock Desert as part of a message that currently is inscribed in the playa crust, reading "Black Lives Matter."(Photo: Courtesy of Esteban Valle)
The message appears to be written in perfect Helvetica font about six miles out from the 12-mile entrance to the Black Rock Desert playa.
It does not appear to be placed on site of the Burning Man event, though it's nearby, according to GPS data.
"Obviously somebody made a statement, and it wasnt us," said O' Hanlon."Its unfortunate it happened on the playa, but mother nature will heal itself. It's going to be a matter of wind storms and rain storms."
Douglas County sheriff to library:Support Black Lives Matter? Don't bother calling 911
While BLM officials could not confirm the size of the text, a local Burner and member of the Washoe County Sheriff's Office search and rescue team said he drove the entirety of the message and the circle that encompasses it.
The message is four miles wide and the circle is 13 miles in circumference, according to Esteban Valle, who is also a third-year medical student and a volunteer medic at Burning Man.
"Pretty much everyone thought it was photoshopped, but then someoneposted a video from the air, and still I was skeptical," said Valle, who first saw rumor of the message on Reddit. "I was kind of bored honestly, so I decided to get my friends and drive out there and I expected not to see anything. The freakingthing was real. We actually drove the whole thing."
A pilot, Nick Howard, discovered the message "Black Lives Matter" written into the surface of the Black Rock Desert playa on July 10, 2020.(Photo: Courtesy of Nick Howard)
All together, there is 25 miles of text, Valle found after driving the whole message. Each stroke of each letter is about 50 feet wide, he added.
"Its so big that it can actually be seen on my search andrescue teams weekly updated satellite imagery feed," said Valle.
Some critics on social media have expressed frustration, calling thetire tracksvandalism of the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area.
Gerlach local and environmental advocate Laura Blaylock said she was concerned about the integrity of the playa and also the population of fairy shrimp that lay eggs on the playa and live on the playa. She believes that the people that created the message should be fined and put in community service.
She also fears it could set a precedent for inscribing other messages on the playa surface. Blaylock said it contradicts the Leave No Trace principles practiced by recreationalists on the Black Rock Desert playa.
While Burners especially practice Leave No Trace as one of their 10 principles, Valle felt like the message reflected the priorities of Burners today and considers the massive engraving artful.
Read More: The story behind the Black Lives Matter mural at Reno City Hall
Hecompared itto theNazca Lines, or large geoglyphs made in the soil of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru.
"I think it's fantastic. Just going out there and seeing the incredible amount of effort. The fact that someone did it, and without credit, and then strangers found it... It's fantastic," said Valle, who's attended Burning Man for five years.
Satellite imagery shows the location of a "Black Lives Matter" message that was etched into the surface of the Black Rock Desert playa in July 2020 using tire tracks.(Photo: Courtesy of Esteban Valle)
Burning Man as an organization has been repeatedly criticized for its homogenous makeup, but Valle said that Burners were largely on board with the Black Lives Matter movement as far as he could tell. Burning Manwas canceled this year due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.
The organization said it not know who was responsible for Black Lives Matter signage.
BLM & Police: Reno-area police respond to Black Lives Matter calls for reform. Here's what they said
"It seemed like it was doneby Burners.It seems almost natural. Burning Manis a place where people express themselves radically, it's a place to build community, and this isa great way to express solidarity with the Black community and those who are mourning the death of George Floyd," said Valle.
Jenny Kane covers arts and culture in Northern Nevada, as well as the dynamic relationship between the state and the growing Burning Man community.She also covers the state's burgeoning cannabis industry (Check out her podcast, the Potcast, on iTunes.)Support her work in Reno by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.
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