The Mantis is a 40 foot long Mad Maxian creature fabricated mostly out of steel, built atop a 1983 GMC Dump Truck. She is a mobile art piece complete with stunning paint job, powerful stereo and pseudo paramilitary feel. She was made by married couple Kirk Jellum and Kristen Ulmer (founders of Mantis Entertainment) as a gift to the citizens of Black Rock City, otherwise known as Burning Man. After two years attending Burning Man, she is now owned by Tony Hsieh and will be permanently housed in downtown Las Vegas.
The Mantis is a 150 scale replica of a female Praying Mantis; a creature know both for it’s stillness and patience and for it’s predatory eeriness.
When in it’s full glory, The Mantis is 40 feet long, 30 feet wide and the top of the flame throwers stand at 55 feet high. She holds up to 30 people on her back. In this state she seems futuristic, post apocalyptic… as if she’s a PREYing Mantis creeping down the road, complete with flame shooting out her antennae. Then, once stationary and passenger-less, she rises up to full glory and turns into a PRAYing Mantis. The music choices during these alternate states aid in her feel and mystique. Her head moves in four directions with passenger input. At night her eyes become a dance of green lasers. The duel flame throwers off he antennae are the punctuation mark to this both beautiful and horrific creature.
-Built in Rockville, Utah (Flying Zions) summer of 2010 on a 1983 Diesel Dump truck bought from a farm. The truck had been sitting stationery in the weeds for over 4 years, but started right up on it’s first try.
-Idea and design by Aerospace Engineer Kirk Jellum. When he began the project spring of 2010 he was employed full time by ATK designing and building the next version of the Hubble Telescope- The James Webb Space Telescope.
-Kirks new wife of 6 months, Kristen, had built her own art car prior to their meeting- a 22 foot long 7 foot high Rat that was ridden like a horse, built on a golf cart. He decided they should build and own a new art car, one they made together. Nutshell, he simply wanted to peacock for his new wife. She was veeeery impressed.
-Once the truck was purchased and the design complete, they hired Utah metal artist Chris Coleman to help with fabrication and to make her pretty.
-Shortly after starting construction in early summer, Kirk’s aerospace contract was ended with one days notice.
-This was good because he could suddenly work on the Mantis full time.
-This was bad because not having his income made the couple take a hard look at their values.
-Kristen and Kirk decided even if they had but one year to live and were destitute- this is still what they’d do.
-The Flaming Antennae were designed and built by Kirk and fellow engineer and virgin burner, Jeremy Smith.
-Jeremy was also laid off from his job from the same company (ATK) as Kirk, half a year later.
-They were first full scale tested outside Kirk and Kristen’s home in Olympus Cove, Utah. Around a hundred 9-1-1 calls resulted.
-It took an hour of smooth talking, but the Utah Fire & Police Depts. now love the Mantis, and want to see it thrive! (Las Vegas has since approved of her fire system for public use).
-Kristen & Kirk took The Mantis to parties and events as well as taking it to Burning Man for 20 months until Tony Hsieh saw her and asked to buy her.
-There were about 20 other people involved in the project all of whom where crucial to her birth – thank you all!
-The Grass facade was build summer of 2011 with the genius of Spencer and Christian, two amazing graffiti artists based in Salt Lake.
-There are over 3000 man hours and 500 design hours in the Mantis.
-It is the project that launched Kirk out of his past aerospace job of 15 years into being the full time large scale kinetic and artist engineer he is today.