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It's the Love Burn, man

To celebrate love on Virginia Key this Valentine's Day weekend, blacksmith Shaun Williams has built a monument of pain.

Williams will unveil a 10-foot-tall steel shell that resembles the goddess of Sandro Botticelli's iconic 15th century painting "The Birth of Venus." The sculpture, which mimics Venus' slender curves, is a re-creation of an iron maiden, a spiked torture device forged to imprison human beings. But Williams will stuff only straw and firewood into his effigy, which will ignite at the Love Burn, South Florida's only Burning Man-style festival, running Feb. 13-16.

"One of Burning Man's themes is love for your fellow man, so I want the effigy to reflect contradictions in love," says Williams, who lives in Coral Springs and operates Dark Angel Armory and Forge in Pompano Beach. "Love can sometimes be passionate and painful, but when it cools down, it's hard and harsh toward the end."

The Love Burn is five days of flame-licked artistic effigies, off-the-grid community fun, sun salutations, costumes and parlor games designed in the tradition of Burning Man, the every-August pilgrimage to the desert of Black Rock City, Nev. The second annual Love Burn is one of 140 Burning Man regional festivals, says Jack McNulty, a Burning Man regional director and Love Burn's organizer.

"When you go to the real Burning Man, it's four square miles across in the middle of the desert. It's vast, and it's impossible to meet anyone you know," McNulty says. "What we care about is the intimacy, so people can meet other people from their own back yard."

Nearly 500 Burners, festival lingo for its attendees, will arrive costumed as either superheroes or villains to match the year's theme, and must participate in a series of challenges around the park. Challenges are "silly and campy," sculptor Brian Weiner explains, and bear names such as "Costumed Chicken Fights," "Prettiest 'O' Face" and "Spin Till You Drop." When a Burner team finishes a challenge, stones will fill a 25-foot-tall aluminum Lady Justice-style work built by Chad Booher, of Oakland Park.

Other sculptures include the 30-foot-tall "Robot Resurrection," built from recycled airplane parts that articulates its arms and breathes fire. Atlanta's Charlie Smith will display "Big Bully," a steel-welded bull sculpture. Pompano Beach's Fabricio Godoi and Scot DiStefayes will show off "Burning Woman," a 13-foot-tall wood effigy.

"The effigy means whatever people want it to mean," says Weiner, a co-founder of the Fort Lauderdale-based social club Makers Square. "It's a build-up, a catharsis, a form of artistic expression and a thing to burn. When you light it after a few days off the grid, it represents a form of reflection for what you've done and a shared exhaustion."

Weiner plans to attend the Love Burn as the superhero Captain Hindsight, whom he describes as resembling a "bandleader with a helmet, goggles and a metal chest plate." The chest piece is burnished with a "20/20" logo, and he plans to prank people by explaining mistakes they've made.

"There's no VIP, and nobody cares if you're an A-list actor or a plumber," Weiner says. "There's a level of anonymity and play you get to have. You make your own costumes. You design your own backstory. You can be a cyberpunk, space-exploring ballerina if you want. It's like a Venetian ball without the masks."

The Love Burn

When: 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 13, through 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 16

Where: Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami

Cost: $150 at

Contact: or like the Love Burn on Facebook

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