1617 W. Magnolia Avenue
San Antonio, Texas 78201
(210) 785-9915



Draka the Dragon

Lisa Nigro

Burnin’Bush Fire & Metal Arts Festival

Sisterhood of the Burnin’Bush ~ a Coalition for Women in the Arts 2004

2000-present Conceptual Designer / Director

mixed media mobile sculpture/installation
Rebuilt in 2002 after accidental fire*
Dimensions: 112’ x 40’ x 22’
Materials: Steel, wood, recycled 55-gal steel drums, cedar shingles, fabric and other materials. Built on a Dodge van pulling three trailers — Burning Man Art Installation Grant.

Originally built in the Chinese year of the metal dragon (2000) in the northern Nevada Desert. Draka is capable of blowing a 50-ft burst of flame, and inside she has a full bar, elegant décor, room for live music, plush seating, and the capacity to carry and entertain seventy-five to 100 people. During the summer months of the past four years, approximately one hundred volunteers have worked under Nigro's direction on reconstruction, improvements, and repairs.

Nigro's vision of Draka being a mobile art piece was inspired by the book "Wicked - The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," by Gregory Maguire, and its description of a dragon clock tower that roams from village to village displaying twisted puppet theatre. In Chinese Taoist symbolism, the dragon is revered as a spirit of “the Way,” bringing eternal changes, and often is seen as the guardian of the Flaming Pearl that signifies Spiritual Perfection. In western astrology the dragon connotes the karmic path of an individual with the moon’s north node representing the head/karmic way in this life, and the south node, the tail of the dragon/past life. Nigro envisioned that Draka would encompass some of these powers and also mimic Shen Lung, the Chinese spiritual dragon who controls the winds and the rain. Through the use of mythological symbol, Nigro attempts to create a bridge between history and the present, alas, between matriarchy and the patriarchal structures of today.

Dragon stories have existed for centuries, and among many peoples, with the most prominent stories being "Sigurd and the dragon Fafnir," a Norse myth, and "Saint George and the Dragon" from English history. The story we know today of Saint George dates from the troubadours of the 14th century. George’s life is shrouded in legend, so much so that it is difficult to untangle fact from fiction. Known as a Martyr and the Patron Saint of England (and other countries), Saint George was originally a Roman Calvary officer who converted to Christianity. To prove that Christians need not be meek, he sought out to fight a dragon that was destroying the area close to his hometown of Cappadocia. He slayed this dragon, and thus influenced other Christian Knights in seeking out to save “damsels in distress” from dragons. The result, dragons were eventually slaughtered out of existence and into myth. Quite different from Chinese legends, the symbols explained here are that the Dragon represented Satan and the Princess represented the Christian Church.

Draka represents this contradictory mythological creature of old. She is that ancient symbol created anew, and given tangibility in a world laden with disbelief in such fearsome, awe inspiring, and magical creatures. Interactivity is key to experiencing Draka. Nigro takes the viewer out of the sterile gallery environment and invites them into an art/life experience where functionality meets design meets a sculpture that is gothic in size and expression, yet gentle and welcoming. Some say Draka has a spirit of her own, others are frightened by the power they believe she possesses. Nigro believes Draka challenges the viewer’s ideas of what is real versus what may be imagined, what exists on the spiritual plane versus the physical. Is there any truth in “story,” truth enough to make HIStory? How do we as a culture separate fact from fiction? And, can an inanimate object such as a stone, or a metal dragon, possess a spirit as is believed by the Native American Indian and other cultures?

*On May 14, 2002 an accidental fire caused by a welding machine burned Draka's belly completely to the ground. This tragedy turned "blessing in disguise" enabled Nigro to reconsider, then reconstruct all that had been rushed in the dragon’s original construction two years prior. Some even believe Draka rose like a phoenix from the ashes to new life.

Draka made her first voyage out of Nevada May 2004 ~ She traveled 2000 miles on two semi-trucks to attend the Houston Art Car Parade through grants from the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art and the Houston Art Car Museum.

reviews / publications

Marquis, N. Albert; Who’sWho of American Women 26th Edition 2007



Rice, Harvey; “Everyones Art Car Parade / Bumper to bumper artistrymention,
Met Front, the HoustonChronicle, May 14, 2006, p.1B

Marquis, N. Albert; Who’sWho in America 60th Diamond Edition 2006

Vose, Kenneth E; Monster Nation: The Best Transformed Vehicles from Coast to Coast;

  Meredith Books, May 2004
Doherty, Brian; This is Burning Man: the rise of a new American Underground; Little,
  Brown & Co., July 2004, p.195
Westbrook, Bruce; “Joy Rides – Wheeled works of wacky artcover story, the Houston
– Entertainment Guide, May 6, 2004, p.18F

• Nigro, Lisa; “Draka, the Flaming Metal Dragon” published in Leonardo Journal — MIT
  Press, Special Issue: The Art of Burning Man, Volume 36, November 5, 2003 p.351

• Pinchbeck, Daniel; “Heat of the Moment : the Art & Culture of Burning Man” mention -
  November 2003
• Krueter, Holly; Drama in the Desert: The Sights & Sounds of Burning Man; Raised Barn
  Press, 2002, p.60 & 138

• Vanderhoff, Mark; “Desert Playa becomes Sea of Humanity” mention - Reno Gazette
Journal 8/30/2002

• Marin, Rick; “The Least Likely Burning Man” photo - New York Times Sept. 10, 2000 p.1
• Pinchbeck, Daniel; “The Fire This Time” mention - Rolling Stone Magazine
Nov. 9 p.118  

• Ranputa, Janaki; “Women Artists in Black Rock : Magical Collaboration” review -  Black

  Rock Gazette  review - The Art Edition, September 3, 1999


2006  KPRC-Channel 2 - Everyones Art Car Parade Special Broadcast. Draka wins one of Top 5 Viewers Choice, May 25, Houston, TX

2005  KPRC-Channel 2 - Everyones Art Car Parade Special Broadcast. Houston, TX

2005  Discovery Channel; Draka, Lisa, and crew air on Monster Nation

2004  KPRC-Channel 2 - Everyones Art Car Parade Special Broadcast. May 8, Houston

2003-4  Discovery Channel; Draka and Lisa feature in Backyard Monsters, a special segment of Monster Garage, Aug '03-mid year '04


2006  Everyones Art Car ParadeDraka wins 2nd Place, Best Art Car, Houston, TX

2005  Art Crawl Houston, TX

2005  Everyones Art Car ParadeDraka wins 1st Place, Best Art Car, Houston, TX

2004  Everyones Art Car Parade Draka participant with grants from the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art and the Houston Art Car Museum, Houston, TX

2003  "Beyond Belief" Burning Man Art Festival - Black Rock Desert, NV

2002  "The Floating World" Burning Man Art Festival - Rebuilt after fire, Black Rock Desert

2001  "The Seven Ages" Burning Man Art Festival - Draka as Public Transport (DPT), Black Rock City, NV

2000  "The Body" Burning Man Art Festival Draka the Flaming Metal Dragon as Spirit of
"Man” with a grant from Burning Man Art Installations, Black Rock Desert, NV


2006  Orange Show Center for Visionary Art Grant Houston, TX

2005  Orange Show Center for Visionary Art Grant Houston, TX

2004  Orange Show Center for Visionary Art Grant Houston, TX

2004  Houston Art Car Museum Houston, TX

2000  Burning Man Art Installation Grant San Francisco, CA


Flame-Thrower Design:  Flynn Mauthe, Aaron Castro.
Lead Metal Fabricators: 
James Breitrick, Sam Wedderburn, Marc Declercq.

Original Dragon Crew 2000:
 The Cowgirls, aka ~ Akelina Kruger, Sue Glover, Suzanne Johnson, Jenny-Jo Leeder, Dea Million, Tanya Story, Kris “Lt. Mustard Seed” Willis & Dana Rogers; Danny Umstead , Ryan "Doyle," Miles, Attila Cumali , Joshuala, Dark Angel & BRC-DPW.


Orange Show Art Cars
Serious Wheels
Story of Draka

Burning Man Theme Art

Steel Girl
Image Gallery