Honoring Tigre Mashaal-Lively: Artist, Dancer, and Activist

Even as the 2022 Burning Man event was still happening, there were murmurs from participants about an art project of a large, convincingly scary beast that you had to seek out and experience. In the weeks following the event, “Facing the Fearbeast” by Tigre Mashaal-Lively & Make Love Visible was getting a lot of attention on social media as more participants shared their stories:

They were one of the handful of artists at Burning Man that worked in the physical and emotional landscape of the playa in a way that was both accessible and genuinely moving.
—Jerry Snyder

I’ve never ever been so intimately, pointedly, disarmed by a work of art. I still cannot consider this piece without breaking down in tears.
—Krystal Wellman Weinberg

”Facing the Fearbeast” by Tigre Mashaal-Lively, 2022 (Photo by Mauro Martignoni)
(Photo courtesy of Tigre Mashaal-Lively)

A mere five weeks after the Man fell, Tigre chose to exit this existence, leaving behind their powerful art and an impact that won’t easily be forgotten. As Tigre’s Artist Liaison for Black Rock City 2022, I want to honor their contribution, not only to Burning Man, but to humanity.

Longtime collaborator and one of the Project Managers for “Facing the Fearbeast,” Calli Beck, says, “The feedback we’ve been getting both at the event and after, was that it was impactful across the community. People cried. People healed years of their own trauma by standing with the child. And that was Tigre’s vision. At one point we were standing there watching people cry and they turned to me and said ‘….that’s how we know it’s working.’”

It was Tigre’s purpose to find ways to process the whole human experience through art, and they would always ask, “But does it have duende?” El duende is about invoking the spirit in creative expression that elicits an authentic physical/emotional response. Those who experienced “Facing the Fearbeast” know the answer to that question is 100% “yes.”

Tigre was a Black mixed-race, genderqueer artist raised in Philadelphia. Tigre’s mother, Linda Marshall, told the Santa Fe Reporter about how Tigre did a finger painting in daycare that was recognizable as a firebird… at nine months old! As a child, they took ballet classes, honing a massive talent for storytelling through movement. 

As Tigre expanded their artistic practice into adulthood, they used various methods, materials, and forms of expression. Drawing, spoken word, painting, movement-based performance, face painting, crafting instruments, costuming, music making, environmental design, interactive installations — Tigre put no limits on the ways to communicate their stories in exhibits, events, and performances all over the world. 

In a conversation with Jhana Goldenflame, Tigre’s life partner, she said, “Their commitment to art was their primary relationship. I know they never wanted to choose another path.” In this interview Nova Han conducted with Tigre during the first summer of the pandemic, Tigre said, “Creativity is the defining human characteristic. It is our evolutionary niche.” Tigre revealed to Nova how they took the final leap of faith into creating art full time, giving partial credit to their experience at Burning Man, and sharing that the scale and audacity of what people were creating for Black Rock City inspired them. 

Tigre’s first burn was in 2010; they contributed their creativity in subsequent years by designing environments for their theme camp and through performance. In 2013, they brought Lobo Madre to their theme camp, burning the installation at the event directly on top of the ashes of the Man. Tigre received their first Honorarium grant as co-lead for The Solacii in 2017, a 21-foot-tall figural sculpture that represents a race of mythical ancient beings welcoming visitors to a sacred space within for respite and meditation. During this same time period, Tigre was living in the Bay Area and their creative pursuits were sought out by various galleries, creative spaces, and events locally, nationally, and then around the world.

“The Solacii” by Tigre Bailando and Anastazia Louise Aranaga (Bad Unkl Sista), 2017 (Photo by Sari Blum)

The desert of northern New Mexico called to Tigre and they moved to Santa Fe in 2019, where they co-founded the Earthseed Black Arts Alliance and ramped up their creative practice while also deepening their work on social justice issues. While enduring the challenges of the pandemic and the impact on in-person events and gatherings, Tigre pursued a concept they cultivated for several years to create another large-scale, mixed-media art project for Burning Man and beyond. They submitted an application for the Black Rock City Honoraria Program in 2021, and “Facing the Fearbeast” was selected. 

(Photo by spec Guy)

Tigre led a production team to bring this powerful project to Black Rock City. Alex De Vore, Arts and Culture Editor for the Santa Fe Reporter, wrote a cover story about the project in mid-August. He says, “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an artist so truly dedicated to real collaboration.” He was struck by how unpretentious Tigre was and how he “could’ve covered their work so often, which would have been so easy because they were generous with their time and vulnerability.”

“Facing the Fearbeast” by Tigre Mashaal-Lively (Photo by Manuel Pinto)

“Facing the Fearbeast” contains nuanced layers of meaning that aren’t immediately obvious upon the first encounter. From afar, the massive Fearbeast invokes a dark and menacing feeling amplified by an audio soundtrack of negative statements projected at the small child facing it — “you are worthless.” To alter the tone, you must stand with the child. This triggers a change in the lighting and sound revealing the Fearbeast’s own inner child, which begins to glow as the dialogue shifts to positive messages — “I believe in you.” It isn’t simply about good vs. evil, beast vs. child. Rather, it highlights that within the beast, there is a wounded inner child that is often the source of destructive and damaging words and actions. Through empathy and community, we have the power to shift our personal  narrative and heal wounded conditioning, quieting the cycle of pain. What made “Facing the Fearbeast” so special was that it addressed universal concepts that many people relate to through their own experiences with trauma, fear, and healing. Katie Hazard, Burning Man Project’s Associate Director of Art Management, relates that “Facing the Fearbeast” was among the most impactful artworks in BRC this year, for the incredible artistry of the sculpture itself but especially for the transformative, medicinal, and magical nature of its interaction and symbolism.” 

(Photo courtesy of Calli Beck)

Even while navigating the first waves of grief, Jhana feels an immense amount of trust and unconditional love, which ripples out to those closest to Tigre. It’s a feeling they hope continues to spread to all who were touched by Tigre’s life and work. She says, “This does not mean bypassing our pain of loss and longing. That can exist alongside trusting Tigre’s spirit.” 

Mostly Jhana wants to dispel the idea that the Fearbeast won. She says that since adolescence, Tigre felt they may transition from their earthly existence in this way, but they didn’t want to pass their wound onto others. Calli talks about the legacy they leave behind, “the number of people and other artists they’ve inspired over the course of their life, the organizations they supported and created — the work that they’ve left for us to carry on… well, that is the new story we’re all trying to figure out right now.”

Donations to support Tigre’s legacy can be made to Make Love Visible for “Facing the Fearbeast” and Earthseed Black Arts Alliance, a Black Arts Alliance Tigre co-founded focused on supporting Black art and artists in Northern New Mexico.

If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, call or text 988 to connect with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Support is also available via live chat.

Cover image of Tigre Mashaal-Lively, 2022 (Photo by Mike Whitten) 

About the author: spec Guy

spec Guy

spec is an Art Management Specialist with Burning Man Project's Art team. In this role, she administers the Honoraria and Temple grant programs, acts as a liaison for selected art projects, manages the ARTerians, and does placement for all art projects. Her superpower is the ability to work through the inherent conflict between the creative process, while executing the organization and strategy required to complete a project.

20 Comments on “Honoring Tigre Mashaal-Lively: Artist, Dancer, and Activist

  • me says:

    “Mostly Jhana wants to dispel the idea that the Fearbeast won.” – I wish you would have said more about that because that’s exactly how it’s been feeling.

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  • Linda Marshall says:

    Thanks for this article, spec! I’d love to chat with you sometime. This is Tigre’s mom. It was an amazing experience to raise Tigre and to become real partners in this journey through life. I am so glad that I was able to experience both the Solacii and Facing the Fearbeast with Tigre on Playa. ❤️

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    • spec says:

      Hey Linda, I would love to connect with you! I will give my info to Becky, who connected me with Jhana and I believe has your info. Thanks for reaching out here!

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    • Debs says:

      Linda, I just wanted to reach out and send my love. Tigre came and worked with us in Ireland and boy did we all fall in love! What a gift to be his mom but what pain to endure. The pieces he made at Curraghmore, the stag and lion, will be looked after lovingly. Your heart must be huge. With great love and respect, and sending a big hug from one mom to another, Debs Armstrong.

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  • Carrie says:

    Thank you for honoring Tigre. Their art, spirit and death have impacted me deeply. I am beyond grateful for the art, impact, love and grace they shared with the Burning Man community over the years. Their spirit lives on in our pain, joy, and gratitude of all they gifted us by their incredible heart.

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  • Halcyon says:

    Thank you for this article.

    Burning Man isn’t a contest. But sometimes there are pieces that just…win.
    Tree of Tenare.
    The Folly.
    This year it was ‘Facing the Fear Beast.’
    I have been wrestling with what that must have felt like. After a lifetime of FIGHTING to express themselves and find their place in this world and then….win.
    It touched people.
    it PUNCHED people.
    It hugged people.
    How many people burst into tears from this piece?
    I did.
    I spoke publicly about how much it impacted me. So when Tigre’s death was announced, many people sent me links and messages.
    One email said, “I guess the Fear Beast got them.” But I don’t see it that way at all. I see a story of triumph. Of a truly extraordinary being who Radically Self Expressed and made ripples that help heal the world.
    Thank you, Tigre. You rocked that shit.

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    • radiantly says:

      I saw images of the Facing the Fear Beast but not until i read this post did i know there was an interactive audio component. i started sobbing from simply reading this post. My inner child feels present and vulnerable from imagining standing there. I would have sobbed in the dust. My heart goes out to embrace Tigre and their family and friends.

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  • Bob Hayes says:

    So proud of what my daughter, Becky(spec lee) has accomplished!! She is so creative, yet super organized and mostly just a good person that makes the world a better place!
    Bob Hayes

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  • Geomom says:

    We were saddened by the news of Tigre’s passing. The art piece was meticulously constructed and a real treasure, physically and emotionally.

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  • Tailgate says:

    When I first came to The Fearbeast I cried. It is such a powerful piece. Thank you for writing this.

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  • Lolly says:

    Playa weddings can sometimes devolve into hilarity and drunken frivolousness, and as the only wedding ceremony we were ever likely to have (due to blood family being unable to travel or coordinate) we wanted a wedding with our chosen family that would bless our union in a spectrum of symbolism. There was creativity and colorful humorous expression with costumes, and a blending of new wedding signifiers and old handfasting traditions. Our vows were from the ancient Celtic Marriage of Equals, and our friends really brought themselves to that moment in time with such variety and an explosion of feelings. Tigre, as our officiant, was the ‘center that held’ for the whirlwind of that event, they helped us to take our breath and deepen our spirits in what could have been just a crazy party on the runway, to hold the space and bring the love, the commitment, the mindfulness. In memory of Tigre, I say again the words of our ceremonial vows that seem to me to fit our Gift in Life that was our Friend: We could not hold them, but while they were here, the honeycomb DID taste sweeter.
    >You cannot possess me, for I belong to myself,
    But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give.
    You cannot command me, for I am a free person,
    But I shall serve you in those ways you require.
    And the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand.
    I pledge to you that yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night.
    And the eyes into which I smile in the morning.
    I pledge to you the first bite from my meat,
    And the first drink from my cup.
    I pledge to you my living and dying, equally in your care,
    And tell no strangers our grievances.
    This is my wedding vow to you.
    This is a marriage of equals.<

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  • Mauro says:

    So sad he’s no longer with us. ❤️‍

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  • Susan Beck says:

    This is a time of transition for many of the artist who collaborated with Tigre. Many spent countless volunteer hours, took on debt from the project and assisted in so many ways. They will be missed but never forgotten. He shared an art fabrication studio with my daughter Calli, this loss has a rippling effect in so many different ways.

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  • $teven Ra$pa says:

    Dear Tigre. I don’t think your work was at all done and I think this world needed more of your poetic heart, creative vision and compassion. I have a hard time with your decision, friend, but I know better than to judge or question you. May what you left us continue to prompt people to love and think deeply. Thank you for how you moved through this world and for your art and the creative echo you leave to reverberate in positive ways I hope will magnify over time through those you worked with. I send my love and sincere condolences to Linda, Jhana and to Tigre’s extended family and many creative collaborators (the immensely talented and wonderful Calli Beck, my creative sister Anastazia Louise Aranaga, and many others). I loved everything I experienced of Tigre and will miss seeing what they come up with next, even as I try to just sit with this and rest with love and gratitude. May the Solacii hold you lovingly in their arms and celestial robes.

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  • Neefer says:

    I was so sad to hear that Tigre has left this earth, just as I was discovering them. What an amazing talent.

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  • Chime says:

    RIP Tigre. I met Tigre once while making art in a large community art build. Tigre had that progressive spiritual artist vibe dripping all over the immediate area. An inspirational feeling around a unique being. I loved Fear Beast deeply, watched people love it and twice ran into friends there. Thank you Tigre family and art team. Sorry for the loss. Loves.

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  • Paul says:

    I am so sad to read this. 2022 was my first burn, and Facing the Fearbeast was my favorite.

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  • Thomas Wheeler says:

    I never thought of donating to a BM art project. First look of Facing the Fear Beast and I was brought to tears. Unbelievably deeply touching. I was happy to benefit the work.
    What a huge loss of someone so empathically touching who brought the secrets to life in sculpted art.
    thank you for your soul.

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  • Runester says:

    Thanks all for the perspectives. I experienced the piece twice. The buzz was going around Artery that it was a must to check out. The first time I was there (maybe Tuesday?) the piece had the amazing challenging interactive audio working, The big reveal was that if you connected with the heart of the figure in front, the messages from the Beast changed from really harsh and deprecating to lovely supportive words.
    The second time I was there (maybe Thursday) the audio was sadly not working, and some people didn’t realize that there was an interactive audio component. I’m not sure of the chronology for this glitch or if it was fixed. I’m just clarifying that some people experienced the complete piece, and others might have missed the full impact and didn’t realize it. Hopefully there might be a video link somewhere with the sound to fill in the gap somehow.

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  • Mik says:

    beautiful souls, see you again. I left a mark 18 months ago. RIP tigre

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