David Barr is the founder of Michigan Legacy Art Park. David’s career as an artist, instructor, author and global thinker has crossed borders around the world, bringing people and ideas together.
Over fifty years as a sculptor, David created a body of work that includes hundreds of wall-hanging structurist reliefs, sculptures for public spaces (such as Transcending in Hart Plaza, Detroit), works for private collections, massive global projects (such as The Four Corners Project) and Michigan Legacy Art Park. David’s studio was in Detroit for fifteen years until he realized he needed nature as a source of inspiration. In 1977 he bought 4 acres of land in rural Oakland County (now Novi) and in 1979 built his home, a contemporary structure that has become the centerpiece of his own art park. David’s career as an artist, instructor, author and global thinker has crossed borders around the world, bringing people and ideas together. The love of his life, Beth, has been David’s companion, inspiration and artistic collaborator throughout his career. As a professional dancer and instructor of dance, Beth has touched the lives of many through her art.
In the 1980’s, Barr became intrigued with questions such as: How do we experience state histories? Is it enough to experiences them through books, museums, fairs, re-enactments, and educational presentations? Are there ways of bringing history into a more vibrant experience? As an artist, Barr noticed that what was missing from these conventional responses to convey history was a way to experience history in a natural environment and in an experience intensified by the arts. Barr did not know of any “park” for the arts that highlighted the natural beauty of the grounds representative of Michigan. It was within these constraints and concerns the seeds of Michigan Legacy Art Park took root. Thanks to David’s vision, the Art Park opened in 1995 as a nonprofit organization.
David Barr is typically described as a structuralist having spent a half-century studying nature’s growth, decay and regeneration process, and creating works of art that reflect his observations and experiences. “When I look at nature, if I look at a flower or a tree or anything else, I see a color and I see a form and they are revealed to me through light and space and time. And those elements are present in everything I do: the actualities of those elements.””
His work is structured yet poetic and visually harmonious. “While my work has been a continual commitment to the Structurist imperative,” Barr wrote in 1979, “the focus and manifestations have increased from philosophy to biology to geology and now to astronomy.”
The “realities” that propel our natural universe are now understood to be essentially invisible. As an artist, I choose to explore those invisible realities intellectually, emotionally, and intuitively…as a sensor, a conduit, and a transformer of those experiences into a new, visible expression. In order to translate the organizing processes of nature, I have developed a constructive visual vocabulary of color/form/light/space/time, a metaphor for the shifting relationships that comprise “reality.”
— from Tangents and Waves: The Art of David Barr and Diane Carr, exhibition catalog created by Marshall Fredricks Sculpture Museum.