General Meeting Speaker

  • OMSI Auditorium 1945 SE Water Ave. Portland, OR

Tom Varden "Astronomy at The Burning Man Festival"

Tom Varden, a Los Angeles resident, is the lead artist on the Black Rock Observatory, a star-gazing facility that includes two spherical structures and a 20-inch custom-built telescope. The concept grew from Varden’s desire to give back to Burning Man and be a sounding board for its creative energy rather than a mere recipient. The Black Rock Observatory, designed by an artist and manned by scientists, attempts to bridge that divide. The Observatory, like Burning Man, is about getting people to look beyond their cellphone and computer screens and get inspired by interacting with each other in creative ways, Varden says. “It’s the realization that you walk around in 4-4 time doing, doing, doing and you forget that — surrender or not —life is happening to you. It’s bigger than you. It’s amazing, it’s beautiful and it’s cacophonous,” he says. “There’s a huge, huge parallel between that and looking through a telescope.”

Photos by Tom Varden