Breckenridge Fire Arts Festival: Oakland artist plunges into industrial madness |

Breckenridge Fire Arts Festival: Oakland artist plunges into industrial madness

Ryon Gesink has over 15 years of experience refining his sculptural aesthetic through the creation of art vehicles, cyborgian suits, giant fiery kinetic sculptures, commissioned metal arts and furniture work.
Special to the Daily |


What: Second annual Fire Arts Festival

When: Thursday, Jan. 28 to Sunday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. All sculptures will be ignited on the hour.

Where: Breckenridge Arts District campus

Cost: Free

Editor’s note: The second annual Fire Arts Festival, in conjunction with the International Snow Sculpture Championships, will continue through Sunday, Jan. 31. This is the third in a series of Q&A’s with nationally-known fire sculptors who will be bringing their pieces to the event. All sculptures will be ignited on the hour, starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 9 p.m.

Ryon Gesink has been working with sculptures for more than 15 years, creating pieces such as art vehicles, cyborgian suits and giant fiery kinetic sculptures. He also does commissioned metal arts and furniture work, based in Oakland, California. His art can be seen at Maker Faire, in private collections, in various Bay Area businesses, around American Steel Studios in Oakland, and has even appeared in Hawaii.

Summit Daily News: Tell us what we can expect from your piece “Oscillation II with Sylph”?

Ryon Gesink: I’m not going to tell you — come and see. It’s best if they reveal themselves to you without too much preloaded baggage in your head. But I suppose at minimum I can just say high-speed industrial art involving fire and vortices.

SDN: How long did it take you to create your project and what was the process behind it?

RG: Initial prototyping and build went over the course of probably three or four very dedicated months. Although I should mention, this is a scaled-up version of something I’d already invented some five or six years ago.

SDN: How did you first get into fire sculptures and how long have you been creating them?

RG: Well I had heard about some of the dangerous robotic performances and extreme underground fire things going on in the SF Bay Area back in the late ’90s, like Burning Man and so on. When I moved back there in ’98, and finally saw them with my own eyes, it was like lightning struck and it became clear I needed to plunge headlong into this form of industrial madness and create my own behemoths.

SDN: What was the inspiration behind this piece?

RG: Well, I’d found a 3-foot maritime steel buoy sphere on a beach in Oakland and something inspired me to cut vertical slots in it and hang it from a chain and spin it — I don’t remember what. Then I put some burning rags inside and spun it and noticed a very intriguing strobe effect with the fire that was definitely worth pursuing. I motorized the assembly and built it into a pyramid, and over multiple iterations arrived at the giant tripod version which you’ll see at the festival.

SDN: What else inspires you in your artwork?

RG: Science-fiction, architecture, physics. The great tradition of subversive literature and art from Rimbaud through the Surrealists and William Burroughs, William Gibson and JG Ballard. Punk, post punk, and generally just weird out there droning experimental music. Immediatism in the Hakim Bey sense I suppose.

SDN: What is the most important tool you have when it comes to your work?

RG: Enthusiasm — without that you’ve got nothing. And follow through.

SDN: Do you have any other projects you are currently working on that you’d like to mention?

RG: Well I’m going to add three more spinning fireballs to “Oscillation.” That’s going to be quite fun to see. Beyond that I’m working on some static standalone pieces. They’ll ideally have a kind of monolithic quality — sort of near future artifacts that look as though they either slipped backward through time, or could just as easily be many thousands of years old.

SDN: What are you most looking forward to doing while in Breckenridge?

RG: I’m just going to stretch out and breathe. It will be nice to focus on growing some ideas without having to do my normal job as a custom fabricator. Also, of course, I hope to meet other artists of interest here, that’s always fun. I really appreciate the opportunity and am very impressed with the Arts District set up here. It should be a good time.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.