The sculpture is 12 feet tall — 12 feet six inches if you count the ears. A 5,700 pound grizzly bear with two cubs nestled into her side. She has a fancy Latin name, Ursa Mater, but really, everyone just calls her Mama Penny Bear -- including the artists, Robert and Lisa Ferguson.
Do I need to tell you they met and married three years later at Burning Man?
And every year, a few weeks after they return from the burn, Lisa will come up with a flash of inspiration for their next project. Robert says, "She’ll be sitting on the couch and go “Sooooo, hear me out. I have this idea.” She comes up with these concepts, then I’m the one that has to figure out how to execute ‘em."
Robert has a welding company in Hayward. Lisa’s a cinematographer, and for a number of years now, she’s been obsessed with pennies. "Cause they’re being taken out of circulation in Canada," Lisa says. Also, "People have this thing with pennies, Cause they’re whimsical. It’s a fun coin."
Lisa was the one who suggested tens of thousands of pennies turned on their sides would look like fur, and Robert figured he could get them to stay up and in using adhesive stucco called Loctite over a bear built of steel and foam. "You push the pennies in and two hours later, they weren’t coming out," he says.
A growing number of art works from Burning Man are moving on to the nation’s museums and city plazas. But only San Jose has a three year partnership with the Burning Man Foundation to bring a rotating cast of Burning Man sculptures to the city’s streets. It's called the “Playa to the Paseo” project.