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DRAKAHerstory

The power of Draka the Dragon has recently given birth to a new form of energy, the forming of the Draka Arts Foundation. Over the next few years the intentions, hard work, and efforts of the founders of Draka Arts will be seen manifest in the form of an inspirational, self-sustaining, creative community where the preservation of nature is honored and a focus on a brighter future for human-kind is key. Through the co-mingling of recycled materials and use of alternative energies and resources, Draka Arts will bestow a place of beauty and awe to Mother Earth for the enjoyment of artists, scholars and others ~ A place of refuge for a community to partake in a new kind of life experience.

Draka Breathing Fire at Sunrise

The Story of Draka, the Flaming Metal Dragon

Conceptual Design & Art Direction by Lisa Nigro
A mobile Art Installation created for Burning Man 2000; rebuilt after fire in 2002.

Table of Contents

Originally Lisa had envisioned her dragon as Shen Lung the Chinese spiritual dragon who controls the winds and the rain. She dreamed this dragon would be mobile and have wings that flapped up & down and made a sound like a bellows. Its tail would swish and snap back & forth and its surface would be cut from metal, in a series of scales, all rusted & green. Eyes glowing red with a vicious mouth, it would blow fire and orange balls of sulfurous stank. To be in keeping with the Burning Man theme of "the Body," the eerie sound of theremin playing would summon the masses to snake along with the dragon as it chased the magic pearl from one chakra to the next on it's spiritual journey ~THAT WAS THE DREAM ~ this is what actually happened...

Lisa conceived the idea of this magnificent Dragon just after completing her Fertility Goddess as Sundial for Burning Man 1999. She was on the playa reading "Wicked - The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," by Gregory Maguire, and was inspired by his description of a Dragon Clock Tower "made of hundreds of overlapping discs of copper, bronze, and iron," roaming from village to village, displaying sick and twisted puppet theatre. Lisa began work on the proposal that winter and her partner, Flynn Mauthe, came up with the idea of hitching trailers together. "Like a Louisiana hayride," he said, "so participants can catch a tour of the Burning Man sites as they ride the dragon."
Lisa's FERTILITY GODDESS of 1999 had given birth to the DRAGON.

Aki & Sam Ranch Dogs enjoying the Sunset

Sue bending ribs for Draka

Assemblage & Construction of a Dragon takes place on a dusty Nevada Ranch– By June of 2000 Lisa and Flynn were ready to begin dragon construction. They had worked out a deal for a shop and a house with local rancher, Joan Grant, in the Hualapai Valley, just 30 miles north of Gerlach and the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Volunteers were enticed to come join the Dragon team with the promise of a real desert experience with food, drink and shelter provided, plus the opportunity to learn metal working skills. In exchange, these volunteers would give their time and labor to the Dragon and have the experience of a lifetime... Acelina Krueger was the first to come out and help clean and prep the shop and ranch house. Sam the Rasta Man (and Prophet) appeared out of nowhere (well, really from Oakland) with words of wisdom and inspiration and a kick in the ass! Together, Lisa and Sam finally began the construction of a real beast. Just when Sam and Lisa touched the bare bones of that Dragon with fire, heating & melting metal to metal, a giant dirt devil whipped by them and swung around the ranch house like something out of the Wizard of Oz. Sam and Lisa looked at each other with big wide eyes, laughing hysterically. As a ladder fell down, Sam yelled, "SOME ONE'sssss Heeeeerrrrreeee!"

Flynn welding Dragon Ribs Shop Piggy

The Spirit of the Dragon had arrived! – And so did my core crew, Tanya Story, Sue Glover, Dea Million, Jenny-Jo Leeder, Suzanne Johnson, and Lieutenant Mustard Seed along with Dark Angel, Attila, Doyle and Miles. Eventually the Dragon shop and house of women became known as "Cowgirl Ranch" occupied by the hard working and dirty Dragon Girls. Flynn organized "BBQ & Work Sundays" as an invitation for his BM-DPW crew to help with production. Many of the Dragon's materials were gathered from the surrounding ranches. Lisa and her volunteers were on a constant look out for 55 gallon metal barrels. They gathered wood shingles from the old, torn down, nearby Fly Ranch house. Regular trips were made to Reno, 130 miles away, for supplies and food.

  • Jenny-Jo Cutting Dragon Scales Linda placing shingles on Draka's UnderBelly

    Melissa Welding

    The Pressure Was ON – the beginning of the Burning Man event was approaching. Danny Umstead was key in motivating an early move out to the playa. The Dragon crew was hesitant; the dream had been to make a dramatic entrance the first night of the event, but what they actually drove in that windy night was a very headless Dragon! The sun had set by the time the crew caravanned off the ranch and the static from the storm pulsed through the Dragon and her crew. They gravy-trained the crazy beast down route 34 and out onto the playa. Celebration was in the air even though there was still a huge workload ahead for the Dragon team.

    ON THE PLAYA! – As Danny Umstead had predicted, the hands came to the beast in number. For the first time Lisa was not only artist she had become a Director. The camera's were clicking and the video rolling. Everyone was interested, so many wanted to help. A total of about fifty volunteers ended up laying their hands on the beast. In addition to the core crew there was now "Playa-Aid" which included the "out of the blue" arrival of the much needed welder, Jim Breitrick. Thomas Sepe, Scotte Laurie, Joshuala, Wayne, Lepracon and mascot, Little Miles from Kids Camp, joined the Dragon ranks. Each day presented a new set of problems. That meant more work for Lisa and her tired crew. It was interesting to see the Dragon evolve into a new entity every other hour or day.


    Draka Crew at Work on the Playa
    It had also become apparent that this Dragon was actually a SHE, not a HE. Lisa named her Draka, after the dragon constellation Draco, but with a sort of feminine, but Germanic twist. On Wednesday night, the 30th of August 2000, Playa-Aid and Lisa took Draka out on her first test run. The question of the moment was, could this beast actually pull all of Draka's newly added weight? The test met with supreme success! Fire performers were then summoned to come wake the sleepy dragon and parade her out along the Esplanade. Ecstatic and cheering, the fire dancers energetically led lovely Draka out onto the open playa. Near Center Camp flocks gathered and eyes filled with amazement. Everyone adored her!


    Draka Crew with Admirers
    What the Beast is made of – Draka had become a nocturnal beast, needing massage by day and excitement at night. At birth she measured in at 124 feet in length, 12 feet in width at her mid-section with a 30 foot wing span. Her train-like look being attributed to the connection of one box truck to three trailers. Her "Belly" was built on a Ford Econoline, one ton box truck. The interior of this old fish truck had been stripped and redecorated by the Dragon Girls to make a very plush, warm and inviting lounging environment. Sort of a modern I-Dream-of-Jeanie's Bottle where six could sleep comfortably on many a cold night.

    The driver's "Cock-Pit" became a backdrop to Road-Warriors and Dragon-Lovers with its red-washed walls, fur and leather accoutrements. There was just enough room for the driver and flame-thrower controller to sit cozily next to a 30 gallon propane tank. This section, connected to the Beast's Belly, supported her head, neck and wings plus a saddle on her back. The rear of the belly was secured by two hand-made medieval-looking wooden doors, designed with a fictitious gate to heaven and hell in mind.

    The second, "Bar, Lounge and Kitchen Compartment" was all about swank with its curved benches lined with red velvet and black fur, a zebra print rug and bar covered with wooden shingles. Participants were invited to have a drink, relax, and enjoy while touring Black Rock City as seen from the bowels of one amazing beast.

    Draka: Panoramic View BM 2000

    The third, "Entertainment Car," was created for carrying musicians, dj's, and performers like the Xtra-Action Marching Band. By the end of the event we had to temporarily remove this car. The excess of people climbing aboard was causing the Dragon to truly Drag and gouge holes into the playa floor.

    The fourth and smallest "Tail Section" finished off the beast and was utilized for the storage of maintenance supplies and a generator.

    Draka: Ready to Blast some Heat! Lisa's View: On top-o-Draka, King Jupiter Parade Draka: Sunday Mornin' Yawn BM 2000 Draka Eats Dust

    Did someone say this Dragon IS Magic? If you allow yourself to get close enough, you will see the beauty in this beast, exposed in Real, Fierce, Dragon Fashion. Souls are often enticed by her furocious fire then lost within her other-worldly magic... Others, like Joy Orabella, saw visions of Draka before she was here!Lisa: Proud Momma of Draka with Tanya on top-o-de Dragon

    Noteable Events In 2000 Draka was challenged by the Golden Dragon of New Orleans. The two dragons met at the Flaming Heart at sunset for a dual and Draka sent the little one racing away in fear of disintegrating under the heat of her fiery breath.

    In 2001 Lisa and Flynn contemplated stuffing Draka with pyrotechniques materials then sending the dragon ablaze across the dark desert floor. What a spectacle that would be! They decided to revisit the idea a year down the road and see if this would be the kind of show they would opt for. Then...

    The Power Behind a Thought! – On May 14, 2002, in the Hualapai Valley of Nevada, Fire did Engulf Draka! A small spark from Lisa's welding machine accidentally sent the entire belly up in flames... In the middle of the desert with no water in sight, a tire popping and gasoline exploding spectacle ensued. Draka's truck burned beautifully to the ground. A Phoenix from the Fire was exactly what Lisa thought while she and a couple others watched her Dragon burn down to a good size bed of embers next to the shop at the Burning Man ranch.

    Draka Burns due to Welding AccidentReconstructing Draka
    About a month later a truck was donated to assist the dragon crew with their resurrection of Draka. Slayed was not Draka! The crew assisted Lisa with the shedding and remounting of Draka's exquisitely singed skin onto a 1978 Dodge Tradesman. From the ashes, Lisa and Sam were now able to reconsider all they had rushed through in Draka's original construction two years prior. It truly was a blessing in disguise. Besides, what other existence could there be for a dragon, but to live by the fire, die by the fire, and be re-birthed again by fire!

    Being that Lisa has four planets in Scorpio, she understood all too well the crash, burn and rebuild scenario of this here Dragon. Those hot embers had delivered a real nice cup of Dragon brew... Skinned and de-Boned, Draka presented herself anew to 2002 Burning Man participants, with the scars of a controversial past mixed with a fresh attitude, three months later.

    Sad Draka Down"If this dragon can really fly, she will travel to Art Car Parades and outdoor sculpture parks across America then make her way to Europe." ~ Lisa Nigro

    She can, she really can F L Y!
    Well, sort of, at least by truck! By the first of May 2004 Draka had made it from northern Nevada to Houston, Texas for attendance in the world renowned Houston Art Car Parade with sponsorship from the Orange Show Foundation and Ann Harithas of the Houston Art Car Museum.

    To see more pictures of Draka and her dedicated crew members through the years thumb through our Image Gallery >

    Draka in the Making 2000

    2000: Draka's Maiden Voyage on the Playa
    2001: Draka as BRC-DPT

    Draka Burnin' : May 14 2002

    2002: Draka Rebuilt after Fire
    2003: Draka's journey to Burnin'Bush, plus Renovations ~ inside & out

    2004: Draka Does Nevada 2 Houston

    2005-08: Draka in Houston

    Other Draka LINKS

    THANK YOU PAST DRAKA VOLUNTEERS ~
    for making Draka the monster that she is!


    The Original Draka 2000 Crew
    Flynn Mauthe, for the Dragon~Train/Louisiana Hay-Ride concept of a truck pulling 3 trailers.
    Sam Wedderburn, for putting heart & soul into Draka.
    The DragonGirlz, for their Blood, Sweat & Tears! That's Acelina Kruger, Sue Glover, Suzanna Johnson "AquaGirl," Jenny-Jo Leeder, Dea Million, Tanya Story, and Kris "Lt. Mustard Seed" Willis.
    Danny Umstead, for getting our metal to the desert & our dragon to the playa.
    Flynn Mauthe & Aaron Castro, for the dragon's Flame Thrower design & construction.
    Jim Breitrick, for being Draka's lead playa welder.
    A few other Noteworthy Fellas: Miles, Doyle, Dark Angel, Attila Cumali, Red Aaron, Mark & Karen Keesee, Mariya Kessee, Rody Jonas, Chris Benett, Metric, Peter, Jamie, Taylor Selby, JD, Joshuala, ScottE, Thomas, Lil'Miles, Reggie Ballard
    A few other Noteworthy Ladies: Carolyn Matini, Dana Rogers, Ilona Berger, Leah Elton, Onie, Linda Kim
    Thank you especially to BRC-DPW!
    2000 Donors: Tom & Wess Williams ~ the cedar shingles from Fly Ranch; JohnBoy & Fernley Electric.

    2001 Crew
    Thomas Sepe, Manager, Draka as BRC-DPT.
    Amaris Black, Suzanna Johnson, Dana Rogers, Sam Wedderburn, Ilona Berger, Ewa Hrynyszyn, Leah Elton, Quiet Girl, Craig Laferty, Eric Close, Lars Vegas, Tom Prophet, Rosanna Scimeca, Margaret Farrow, Bean Cortez, Larry Matthews, Dark Angel, Boris, Jen Jenkins, Wayne Miller, Spinner, Dusty Dog, Brian, Tanner, Mateo, Elizabeth-Open, Dan Deaderick, Craig Morse, Josh Howe, A'lan Abbruzo, Trey Butler, Lawrenzo Share, Shiloh Rusk, Yeshe, Malia, Z, and Rody Jonas.
    2001 Donors:
    Heather Ford ~the beautiful Draka Medallions;
    Nicholas Butterworth and Mark Savukinas.
    Proud Draka 2002

    2002 Crew
    Anthony Ambuehl & GreenLee, for being there 100%!
    Sam Wedderburn, Delores & her husband, Ilona Berger, Ewa Hrynyszyn, Lisa LeatherTongue, Robert Bernal, Laura Casey, James Bong, Dan Heil, Miss Chaos, Nick of the North, Sara Gray, Kelly Ridgeway, Brett Vayo, Gemena Jones, Racer Ryan, Chris Quintana, Mark Holmes, Lone Feather, Matisse Enzer, Marc Declerq, Shannon Marr, Joshuala, KittyMak and Wayne Miller.
    2002 Donors: John Mushoo ~ truck donation and use of heavy machinery. If we were without John, we'd be out a dragon! Jeffrey Johnson ~ the beautiful neon dragon creation; Bob Meyer ~ the Draka postcards; JohnBoy & Fernley Electric; Mark Savukinas, Dave Hamilton, Rick Rickert, Gary Theut, and Darren.

    Everything in Order for Draka Operations on Playa: BM 2002

    2003 Crew
    Jim Breitrick, Marc DeClercq, Sam Wedderburn, Julie Parker, Bryan Cameron, Dinesh Prasad, Rae Langes, Tank, Kate Masters, KittyMak, Johnny Roc, Chris Diamond, Dana Rogers, Denise Albrecht, Chris Quintana, Gary Taylor, Joshuala, Les & Amelia.
    2003 Donors: Rick Thomas, Peter Levine, Ginger Book; JohnBoy & Fernley Electric.

    2004 Draka 2 Houston Crew
    Sue Glover, Flynn Mauthe, Marc DeClercq, Jim Breitrick, Danny Grant, Mark Keesee, Kleetus, Tim Cole, and Cazz. Special thanks to Aileen Adler ~ for the wonderful theremin playing on Draka during the parade, ScrapDaddy ~ for all the cool extras, Metric ~ for the orange trash fence to wrap Draka for transort, WT Burge ~ for the cool work space, ATS Trucking ~ for the starving artist discount on transport, and Bryan Taylor and the Houston Art Car Klub (HACK) ~ for being there!
    2004 Donors: the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art; Ann Harithas and the Art Car Museum of Houston.

    2005 Draka in Houston Crew
    Flynn Mauthe, Marc DeClercq, Jim Breitrick, Danny Grant, Tym Sympson, Planet Ruth, and Cazz. 2005 Donors: the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, Hugo the Tire Man, ABC Auto Parts.

    2006 Draka in Houston Crew
    Natali LeDuc, Richard Tomcala, Tymberline, and Cazz. 2006 Donors: the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, Hugo the Tire Man, ABC Auto Parts, and Advanced Gas.

    Plus the oh so many other Volunteers! It's hard to keep track! If we've forgotten you, please Email us with your name at volunteer@drakaarts.org Thanks!

    To learn more about the artist click here > Lisa
    To contact Lisa click here > theDragonLady
    To view more of Lisa's work click here > Lisa's Art Gallery
    ©Draka the Dragon 2000-07

  • photos this page: by T Sepe, L Nigro, Metric, Bruce Damer
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