A 25-Year Collaboration with Stone
by Emily Jaeger, Features Editor
Sculptor T Barny’s fascination with the Möbius strip began long before his career in the arts: in a second grade science class. The Möbius strip, a shape with only one side and one continuous edge, eventually became a 50-year obsession and a symbol for continuity and connection in Barny’s sculptures: “This is my expression of non-duality; my statement of oneness….We are all connected: to each other, to the earth and to the universe around us.” Barny’s most recognizable sculptures are variations on a theme: gigantic Möbius strips carved into stone. That’s 174 different kinds of rock from 38 countries, to be precise. He’s also produced hundreds of steel, bronze, wood, and water sculptures throughout his prolific career.
Although Barny intends for his sculptures to seem mysterious and a bit impossible, on his website he is actually very transparent about his sculpting process. His website, T Barny Sculpture—part portfolio, part for-purchase gallery—boasts a plethora of videos featuring Barny at work, with step-by-step descriptions of Barny’s sculpting process, from choosing the stone to creating the glaze.
The best word to describe the allure of Barny’s sculptures from his website portfolio is perhaps elemental. Videos capturing a 360º view of each sculpture portray these works’ dazzling scale. Watching the acrobatic twists and turns in his stone sculpture is to marvel at Barny’s craft, his ability to carve gigantic, curvy, gravity-defying feats from a block of stone. The work is also elemental in the sense that Barny’s sculptures seem like a natural expression of the stone’s deeper self. He doesn’t force the stone to portray an image of his choosing; rather, he collaborates with the stone to reveal its true form.
Möbius strips are often portrayed as smooth-edged shapes in topological renderings. Indeed, in some of Barny’s most famous pieces, the rock is carved into a smooth, infinite loop. However, in the majority of his stonework, Barny prefers to preserve the harsh edges from the contour of the original stone to maintain the collaborative balance between artist and stone.
The clips on T Barny Sculpture also highlight the artist’s confidence. He’s able to assess a stone’s capabilities with a few ringing taps on the block. A fragile sculpture begins with swift strokes of the power-saw. He describes his own work as “A T Barny.” Yet, this confidence in his craft, established over the years, is always tempered by the sense of discovery, the unknown in each interaction with a new stone:
I have no preconceived design. Instead, I carve out the negative spaces. These are the areas of the stone which are not needed to hold the stone together. The negative spaces I remove define the shape of the piece piece just as much as the actual positive body. Every hole, every curve is a reminder of a negative space which I have taken away….My approach is to try to illuminate the spirit that exists within the stone itself between these negative and positive forms and to create a piece which relates with the surrounding environment.”
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