There are some sculptures that are so unique and visionary, they’re hard to forget. Los Angeles-based artist Mike Ross‘ Big Rig Jig is one of them. Built in 2007, “Big Rig Jig is constructed from two discarded tanker trucks. The work serves both as a sculpture and an architectural space: visitors may enter the lower truck, climb through the tankers, and emerge through a portal at the top. The rear axles of the upper tanker serve as a viewing platform, forty-two feet in the air.” We got in touch with Mike to get the story behind the mind bender.
1. What inspired you to make Big Rig Jig?
I am fascinated by power in all its forms, both raw physical force and more abstract forms of political and economic power. And even more broadly, the basic power of humanity to make its own world. The transformed tanker trucks seemed like a potent symbol that connected these ideas together, both exploring their beauty and tying them to the anxieties of our moment in history.
2. Where have you shown it outside of Burning Man?
It was shown at Coachella following Burning Man 2007. It is currently available for purchase. Do you know anyone who wants a 50-foot-tall 25-ton sculpture? They can find me at www.mikerossart.net.
3. Where do you store it?
A secret location in California, guarded by a 24-hour team of deranged makers and vicious canines.
4. How long did it take you to build?
We did it in 3 months, with a crew of seven full-timers, plus assistance from the amazing NorCal community. I was blessed to work with such tireless and talented people. To me the process and emotions of building a sculpture become imbued into my perception of the final work. I wish I could share that aspect with the viewers. But unless you were part of the crew, you cannot experience it. Maybe some of it still comes across — I cannot tell for sure.
5. Any favorite related stories?
When we were ready to start building, we drove across the country from NYC to California. The plan was to find some abandoned trucks along the highway, somehow get them to the West Coast, set up a shop, and build the sculpture in three months. We were literally driving across the country, with a trailer full of tools, looking out the window for trucks in fields. We found some amazing things, but nothing suitable for the sculpture. It sounds so crazy to me now — I guess we were blindly optimistic. But we had very little money, so we could not just buy typical used tankers and trucks. When we got to California, we continued searching, and eventually by hook and crook, managed to meet some people who helped us find the tankers and get them back to our shop. I have no idea if it would work out so well if I ever tried to approach a project like that again. Right now, my team and I are putting the finishing touches on a new sculpture, made from two decommissioned U.S. Navy Skyhawk jets, and the whole thing is much more planned out.
Photo by Steph Goralnick