Men-an-tol (multiple locations) reflects David Barr’s fascination with the many prehistoric megaliths positioned around the globe. From the monumental structures like Stonehenge to the smaller Men-an-tol (Cornish for hole in stone) located in Cornwall, England and associated with ancient astronomical sightings and healing rituals, the megaliths stand as an anonymous testament to humankind’s quest for understanding of mysteries of the universe. The ancient builders observed the movements of the sun and the moon and created structures that would predict equinox and solstice, essential knowledge for an agrarian society. “Carving in granite, which entails carving through eons of time, solicits, like those prehistoric builders an expression of defiance…Such carvings whisper their humility”. David Barr 1980
Egg Seed is a tribute to the eternal ripeness of spring. It is sliced and carved as though it was a fruit seed within another seed. The smaller seeds sprinkled around its base are engraved with fragments a poem by E.E. Cummings "anyone lived in a pretty how town".
Galileo is a tribute to the Renaissance scientist who in 1610 modified a telescope used for military observations to become an instrument capable of astronomical observations. In so doing he opened a window into the solar system for the scientific study that continues today. Sculpted on one side of the Vermont Barre white granite disc is a version of the astronomer’s 16th century drawings of the Moon’s surface. On the reverse side is a diagram of his observations that the solar system consists of planets in concentric orbits around the sun. This Galileo is a sister sculpture to one that Barr installed in the town hall of Pisa, Italy, Galileo’s hometown. Both sit atop steel pedestals designed to resemble Galileo’s telescope. Granite, 2002
Handprints surrounded by contour lines related to the topographical maps, which were frequently the earliest artifact of humans.
Structurist Sculpture No. 6
Source - I
Artists, writers and scientists have pointed out the rich possibilities of the geometric and mathematical relationships buried in the natural world. In 1202 Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa uncovered numerical patterns that are contained in The Golden Mean Rectangle. The ratio, 1-unit x 1.618, units defining the rectangle of Source I is also found in Villa Barr itself, 34 units high x 55 units long. This ratio has been widely applied from antiquity as the most “beautifully” proportioned rectangle. This rectangle is also the source of the logarithmic spiral that occurs throughout nature.
Structurist Sculpture No. 10
Structurist Sculpture No. 10 illustrates Barr’s utilization of golden mean proportions and spirals, both building blocks of nature. In Structurist Sculpture No. 10 the forms are first organized into planes of painted steel and then fractured and cleaved creating a sense of discordant entropy. Lines, whether naturally occurring (logarithmic spirals, fault lines) or created by humans (borders, goal lines), are places of tension. When broken and interrupted the result can be a release of dynamic energy and chaos. Painted Steel, 1987
Irina is a tribute to Russian poet Irina Ratushinskaia who was imprisoned for three and a half years for dissident poetry. Forbidden to write she created new poems by scratching them into a bar of soap with a match stick. This allowed her to wash them away if a guard approached yet rewrite them often enough to memorize them. The soap is carved from Vermont marble and the “cage soap dish” is of rusting steel bars suggesting a Gulag prison. In the soap the word “voice” is carved in Cyrillic letters. Irina is sited next to the tranquil pond as a symbol of her triumph of art over misery.
Source is located near Villa Barr’s pond. The placement of a sculpted egg near water is an enduring Asian symbol of life. Barr also associates it with the stone egg “Te Pito Kuna” on Easter Island, translated as navel of the world. The egg is carved from granite from Mount Rushmore and sits atop slabs of granite stacked in a Fibonacci progression. The elliptical egg shape also appears in many of David’s art works including Source II at the Detroit Zoo. Granite, 1994
Gate is a sculpture of negative space defined by the forms around it. David Barr likens his use of negative space to the work of a composer, “Musical silence (or visual emptiness) is special glue for me just as it is for a composer. When I…define a form in negative space, I feel I’m working in a visual plane equivalent to the aural plane of music. In both cases the audience is invited to transcend the literal plane with the composer/artist pilot.” A gate is a place of entrance/exit, and the meaning is relevant to the experience of the traveler. In Gate, Barr provides his audience with a host of images to provoke reflection: “a buckling wall, a missing egg, a lone eagle, a sun, an engraving of Lake St. Clair, an obloid void to disperse ashes.” Granite, 2006
Sunswirl incorporates the geometric concepts of tangents, logarithmic spirals and longitudinal measurements to reveal the majesty of solar energy. Each tube is a tangent line touching the circle of negative space in the center. The outer edge forms a logarithmic spiral. These spirals are a fundamental design element found in nature and they occur in growth patterns of seashells, seed pods, animal tusks, vine tendrils, and in flight paths of insects and hawks pursuing prey. There are also mathematical and geometric elements in this spiral. The tangent spokes rotate at 15-degree intervals. The 360 degree circumference of the globe is divided by longitude lines at 15-degree intervals to create the 24-time zones of daily rotation. Painted steel, 2001
Koan references the Zen practice of creating paradoxical riddles in order to evoke contemplation. In Koan Barr presents three intersecting spirals inspired by three prehistoric megalithic structures: Stonehenge in Great Britain is the painted steel slabs, the Carnac Stones in France are the dolomite boulders, and Woodhenge in Great Britain are the tubular pillars. He invites the viewer to embark on a quest by pondering the unknown and timeless meanings inspired by the spirals. Over the years Koan has hosted performances by musicians, dancers and poets. Painted steel and granite, 1988
Venus Holding, like Luna, pays homage to prehistoric Venus figures found throughout Europe and Siberia. Each of the two Venus Holding sculptures (one is a fountain at the entrance of Villa Barr, the other is to the south of the pond) evokes the awe and mystery of human fertility. While contemporary science can describe in detail the physical aspects human reproduction, each birth still fills us with an awe that is most intimately understood through art. Granite, 1999
Knossos I is a fourth sculpture linked to Avenue, Shift and Temple which are currently on loan to the City of Farmington. All are inspired by Barr’s fascination with the ancient Greek ruins where structures, like the Acropolis, stand as causalities of war and historical trauma. Like the Acropolis, Knossos I incorporates the mathematical principle of The Golden Ratio. The painted steel cylinder, seemingly splayed by the granite bolder, forms a wedge with each side fanning out in proportion to the Fibonacci numbers. Painted Steel, 1989
The Salisbury Plain in England is a great rolling landscape that holds ancient ruins. In Salisbury Swirl the fragments of spirals, cleaved discs and etched granite elicit the majesty and mystery of lost civilizations concealed in ruins like Stonehenge, Woodhenge, the Stone Circle of Aveburn.
Equiknossos was inspired by the temple columns at Knossos in Crete and the astro-physics of a solar equinox. It utilizes the astronomical earth sun relationship to capture sunlight and shadows at solar noon (when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky at a particular longitude). The shadow cast from the disc at the top travels in an arc from west to east. As the equinox approaches, the beam of sunlight passes through the disc’s opening and across the ground until it hits the ground target at the exact moment of the Equinox. It is aligned with 42 degrees north, which means that it would perform the same function anywhere on the earth with the same latitude from South Haven, MI to Sapporo, Japan to Vladivostok, Russia. It also calls to mind of the thousands of years in which civilizations, pre-historic, European, Mayan, Aztec, American Indian created visual timepieces, like England’s Stonehenge. Painted steel, 1990
Isiah is named for Isiah Thomas the former all-star guard for the Detroit Pistons and celebrates Barr’s love of the sport. The sculpture expresses Thomas’ lightning speed and grace in the movement of the ball from the dribble, to a spinning lift off and then banking off the backboard. The trajectory of the ball is made visual in steel strips that are the diameter of a basketball and the spacing of the dribble’s bounce is in a Fibonacci sequence. Painted Steel, 1988