Telluride Fire Fest: Duane Flatmo Brings “El Pulpo”

Telluride Fire Fest: Duane Flatmo Brings “El Pulpo”

Art and technology meet in the two-story (26-feet tall) fire-breathing, steampunk windup toy affectionately known as “El Pulpo Mecanico” (Mechanical Octopus).

Duane Flatmo WIth ElPulpo Mecanico, by  Jason Mongue

Duane Flatmo WIth ElPulpo Mecanico, by Jason Mongue

El Pulpo is a found object masterpiece fashioned from junk found at at local scrap yard in Arcata California by Humbolt County’s most famous artist, Duane Flatmo – along with his friend Jerry Kunkel, who masterminded the electrical systems, and Steve Gellman, who produced the fire feature. The modern-day mythical creature is anchored onto a 1973 Ford 250 4 x 4.

Flatmo once described his creation as a “giant erector set,” after piecing it together for shipping to Burning Man, the Black Rock Nevada love in where it debuted in 2011.

But the words “Burning Man” takes on a whole new meaning when applied to Duane Flatmo.

Hair on fire, Flatmo built his considerable reputation as a graphic and mural painter, but became a kinetic sculpture legend with works such as El Pulpo.

“The crowds at Burning Man blessed us with many kind words and frightened faces as we fired her up each night. The sculpture uses 200 gallons of propane per night and lights up the playa as far as the eye can see,” explained the artist.

Duane Flatmo and El Pulpo are featured at the first annual Telluride Fire Festival, Wednesday, January 14 through Monday, January 19, a community celebration of excellence in interactive fire arts in the Towns of Telluride and Mountain Village.

Like Burning Man, the Telluride Fire Festival also features multi-storied, fire-emitting art cars, burn barrels, and other larger-than-life, animated, blazing art installations. Fire artists and dancers are also scheduled be on hand to offer spontaneous performances in the streets.

Unlike Burning Man, Telluride promises no long lines of traffic to get into the region and no alkaline dust to get into your eyes.

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Fire Festival opening receptions on the 14th take place at Mélange and the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, with both venues showcasing a wide array of fire-themed art, including installations.

MarchFourth Marching Band, an internationally renowned American music-and-performance group based in Portland, Oregon, performs at the Telluride Conference Center on January 16.

The Fire Fest Gala, which takes place Saturday, January 17, promises to be smoking’ hot. The event takes place inside and outside of a subterranean mine off Deep Creek Road and features professional dancers (the Samurai Gypsies), food, drink, flaming art installations, and rocking sounds for shoe-shaking fun. (Transportation is available from the Court House in town.)

In addition to Flatmo, the Telluride Fire Festival also showcases the work of metal sculptor and Burning Man art car builder Jamie Vaida; fire performers Fractal Tribe; Telluride architect, metal artist and Burning Man fire artist Anton Viditz Ward; and Alvin Sessions of Grand Junction who, with Vaida, created a fire art car especially for the event.

To learn more about Duane Flatmo and his work, click the “play” button and listen to our chat.

About the Telluride Arts District:


Telluride Arts District logo


The Telluride Fire Festival is a valued member of the Telluride Arts District, a Colorado Certified Creative District.

The Telluride Arts District is a Colorado Certified Creative District, and works in partnership with the Town of Telluride, Colorado Creative Industries, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Telluride Arts District offices are located in the historic Stronghouse at 283 South Fir Streetand at Gallery 81435 at 230 South Fir Street.

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