My favorite professor — the one who influenced me the most, was Michigan-born artist David Barr. He created iconic public sculptures and conceptual art that can be found throughout the world. If you’ve ever been to Detroit, you’ve seen his work without knowing it.
I spent 4 semesters with him and his teachings had a lasting impact on me.
I took a shine to David the moment I met him because of the unique way he shared his life with others. He reminded me so much of my Uncle who I’d always idolized. David Barr died on August 28th, 2015 and I miss him.
I think of him often because of a gifts he gave me – at the beginning of each class he would share a story or artifact from his life and travels. While you sat through his lessons, he’d famously throw you off track with tangents that seemed arbitrary but would always hook back in the end. The complex and cyclical nature of his storytelling is reflected in many of his art pieces.
I miss his tales and the one I talk about most often is the story of his 1981 conceptual art piece called The Four Corners Project.
It took him 10 years to complete and though it was tough to accomplish, the idea was simple – to create the world’s largest sculpture by using the largest cyclical object in the world – The Earth itself.
The art piece involved creating an imaginary tetrahedron by planting 4 smaller ones at 4 precise locations. The imaginary planes that connected the pyramids formed his vision – a permanant tetrahedron inside the Earth.
Before he did this, he created the following rules for himself:
1 – Each of the 4 areas needed to be untouched by western technology
2 – One of the points had to be on Easter Island
3 – Each of the 4 positions needed to be on land
David Barr and a team of friends and videographers traveled to Easter Island, the African Kalahari Desert, the Greenland ice sheet and the Kuk swamp in New Guinnea to complete the piece in the mid 80’s.
The video on The Four Corners Project may seem a bit dated but the concept behind it will be passed down from generation to generation.
What could be more cyclical than that?