Meet the Determined 76-Year-Old Artist Bringing Her First-ever Mutant Vehicle to Burning Man

In our second post of this series about Mutant Vehicles (MVs), Jennifer Cull shares the power of passion and determination at any age. Without the help of a single volunteer, this septuagenarian is single-handedly creating her first-ever MV to bring to Black Rock City this year!


Jennifer Cull first attended Burning Man in 2016. After holding art shows annually on Labor Day, the weekend the Black Rock City (BRC) event culminates, she was now semi-retired and longing to go to BRC. So when she received a free ticket from her friend George Post, Jennifer jumped at the opportunity to make her long-awaited inaugural trek to the Black Rock Desert.

Jennifer: It just blew my mind because, as a lifetime artist, I am very solitary. And when I do get around people, sometimes I freak out because they’re so cruel. But I didn’t find that at Burning Man. It was just like I’d come Home. I’d never felt like that. I felt safe. I felt among my kind, so to speak. 


Inspired by the strong sense of community and Radical Inclusion she experienced at her first Burn, Jennifer got the idea for her first mutant vehicle in 2019.

Jennifer: I’m a sculptor — I actually sculpt stone – but I decided to go and take some welding lessons from another Burner, and I decided to make this thing. At first it was going to be an armadillo, but then I saw an armadillo that had been done very well in the past already. So it’s a metal pangolin instead.

My friends who work for the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) also got me into volunteering there. I love doing that so much — looking at all those cars all the time — it’s just amazing. So I work really hard and get a free ticket, but it’s not for the free ticket — it’s because I want to be there and see everything and do everything. 

My connection with the DMV plus my sculpting background lent itself to making this project. I know what it takes and I know what they look for in a mutant vehicle. I also know the pitfalls. So I submitted my vehicle last year (in 2022) but couldn’t get any help from volunteers to move the project forward. Then I decided this year, I’m just going to do it myself!


Name: “Magnolia Thunderpussy”

Year: 2023 will be its debut appearance at Black Rock City


There’s big art; there’s little art; but I think the art that moves (mutant vehicles) is the kind that inspires me most and takes a heck of a lot of work to get out there and run in the dust of Black Rock City.

Jennifer: All the metal is salvaged sheet metal — swimming pool lining, actually. On a daily basis, I have to cut metal to make the 600 scales for the pangolin’s body. It’s slow work; I’m doing it by hand with a metal snipper. Each scale ranges in size from about 12” down to itty bitty ones for the legs and the face. It’s a lot of prep work: getting the roll of steel, cutting 12” lines, then cutting those down, drawing each scale on with a template, then cutting each one out by hand.

I live in Penn Valley, California, so all the rain is making me crazy because I work outside. Every time it rains I bring the scales in and wash ’em in the sink. That’s the only thing I can do when the weather’s bad. I have to clean ’em up and get all the edges smooth, so nobody gets cut, then paint them. I’ve just recently started to paint all of the scales. 

I am doing it alone. Since we live off my husband’s VA Disability (he is 100% disabled), rather than continuing to ask for volunteers or support, I just decided to work on it constantly by myself. That’s how I’ve done all my art for the last 50 years. It’s big, but I’m determined!


As a first-time mutant vehicle creator herself, Jennifer shared some thoughts on how she has been able to successfully build and (hopes to) bring her inaugural creation to Burning Man.

Jennifer: Just hop on the phone. I’ve got phone conversations going with several experienced mutant vehicle owners. While it’s not physical help, they each have had great advice for me. 

If you’re located anywhere near the Penn Valley area and wish to help Jennifer finish her first mutant vehicle, please reach out to her directly via email.

Jennifer: I’m on my own to build this, monetarily and physically, and that’s why it’s taken so long. But I think it’s helping to keep me young. Age is nothing but a number. In fact, only young people seem to go to Burning Man — either young at heart or young in age. So stay young, however you can!


You can most likely find Jennifer and the “Magnolia Thunderpussy” at The Pit on playa. Otherwise, she and her mobile metallic masterpiece will be roaming the streets and open playa in all their ANIMALIA glory.

To learn more about Mutant Vehicles and Burning Man,
please visit the DMV webpage

Cover image of Jennifer Cull in the process of cutting out over 600 metal scales for her pangolin mutant vehicle “Magnolia Thunderpussy,” 2023 (Photo courtesy of the artist)

(All photos courtesy of Jennifer Cull)

About the author: Brinkley


Kristy Neufeld, aka Brinkley, is the Managing Editor for Burning Man Project. She oversees the Communications team’s various public-facing channels, and can be found at Media Mecca on playa. With degrees in German, Editing & Publishing, and experience as a chalkboard artist, Brinkley is a self-proclaimed word nerd with a creative soul. Her first year experiencing the joy of 'dust in all the wrong places' was 2019. Brinkley currently spends her free-time on the road between California and Colorado, CrossFitting or adventuring in the great outdoors with her dogs—Winnie & Joon—while living in a van called 'Ronda.'

15 Comments on “Meet the Determined 76-Year-Old Artist Bringing Her First-ever Mutant Vehicle to Burning Man

  • Patrick Gleason says:

    Love her attitude. Looking forward to seeing her MV in the dust.

    Report comment

  • papa bear says:

    YOU GO STONEWOMAN!!!!<3<3<3

    Report comment

  • Gene Chapo says:

    Good for you Jennifer! So happy you chose to carry out this process. I guess it can be pretty intimidating if you think about it too much. I hope im lucky enough to hitch a ride. Im also 76…just a number. Love your attitude.

    Report comment

  • Dylan Glockler says:

    Love pangolins and love your project. Looking forward to seeing it in person. Your comments on people and Burning Man culture compared to outside world culture resonated.

    Report comment

  • Headshot says:

    Jennifer, It’s awesome you’re building and bringing your first MV to playa!!!! Cannot wait to see Magnolia Thunderpussy out there in all her glory!

    Should you need any on-playa resources or repairs, parts, welding, tools, etc., Gears & Beers is at 2:30 & C, we’re a repair camp focusing on art cars, mutant vehicles, mobility and vehicles. Happy to help if you need anything!

    Report comment

  • Ezradams says:

    Love it! I basically did 95% of an installation (finished at 69 years of age) and placed in 2022. I found working alone to be easier than directing and supervising a crew.
    I hope she feels the same joy of accomplishment that I got while she motors through Black Rock City this year!

    Report comment

  • Michelle Mottler says:

    Yes you have found your people! Fantastic idea and it will be a labor of love and learning. Visually stunning! Send me a photo you want drawn on the back of a two dollar bill and Ill send you the original cuz radical acceptance expression immediacy

    Report comment

  • Electra says:


    Awe-inspiring the mutant vehicles are. I’m 65 and 2017 was my first year “back” to the burn (I believe I was at the very first burn in San Fran, but it wasn’t called that then and was radically different, so saying I was “back” feels off). If my son had been able to get a ticket in the lotto, I might have had help to create a mutant vehicle for this year. You might inspire me for another year. Sometimes I get to Chico, so if you need help in July or August I could lend a hand holding something, etc. I didn’t see a way to send you an email.

    Report comment

  • Robin Parsons says:

    You are an inspiration. I’m 66 and have had a dream to create a MV for years. I’ve been attending BM since 2006 and have been making large scale art since my 20s. Seeing that you have dived right in, makes me still believe I can do it.

    Report comment

  • Jack says:

    This is deeply inspiring to me (particularly as a 64 year old volunteer). I wish her all the best with the Thunderpussy. I’ll definitely be looking for it.

    Report comment

  • Erin Ries says:

    Can’t wait to meet Jennifer and see her Magnolia Thunderpussy. Way to go Jennifer!

    Report comment

  • mi-ek says:

    Thank you Jennifer! You are a wonderful inspiration. I can’t wait to hear the rumble and see those shiny shingles jingle as that beautiful pango puss thunders across the playa!

    Report comment

  • Orth says:

    “…young at heart or young in age…”. Amen, sister!

    Report comment

  • Comments are closed.