Page 48 - The Hunt - Fall 2019
P. 48

                 It’s a Monday morning in early October—still warm but spitting rain from time to time. Throwing some final items into a travel bag, Timothy Barr is awaiting pickup by a friend at his hillside artist’s studio and home in Schuylkill Haven, Pa., a hamlet several miles north of Reading. The two will drive
to Cape Cod, Mass., then catch a ferry to the island of Nantucket.
Barr is a solidly built man of 61 with close-cropped hair. His friendly face still bears a few scars from the time several years ago when his motorcycle began to disintegrate beneath him as he tried to take it to 165 mph on a lonely road late at night. As we talk, two cats wander in and out, curious about this interloper in their territory. Barr’s wife of
34 years, Karen, is reading in the next room. “She’s the love of my life,” he says, relating how the two had gone to school together barely knowing each other, then connected one evening at a local bar. “Every Friday, we have
a critique session at dinner of my paintings in process. She’s a very good bellwether.”
A commission of a rolling landscape with pumpkins in the foreground hangs above his computer screen. It will be varnished after he returns from New England. “I’ll have to tell the story behind that later,” says Barr as he zips his bag closed.
The voyage to Nantucket is for another commission—this one for a couple whose large home faces west on the Atlantic. They want to permanently capture their sunset. Barr won’t be carrying any paints or sketchpads with him. A Canon EOS 5D Mark II serves as his guide. Although Barr will be taking dozens of photos of the sun falling into the ocean, his stock in trade is pictures of trees, mountains, fields, crops, and old farmhouses and out buildings. Really, it’s whatever catches his eye—tens of thousands of photos, which he spends weeks perusing for ideas. He searches for the anchor image, then for another and
another, so he can assemble a composite that makes whole a landscape that exists only his imagination. Call it fictional realism.
Barr may work like this in his studio for two or three months before he pulls out his brushes and boards or panels (no canvasses) and begins painting the first of a series of works that will make up his next biennial show. “I need to sell 10 to 15 a year to make a living,” he estimates.
A true testament to this so-called fictional realism is witnessing puzzled viewers of Barr’s paintings as they try to figure out where they’ve
seen the landscape before. Although very much a painter, Barr thinks like a writer of short stories or essays, borrowing from here and there to piece together a tale or an argument. “I compose on the computer,” he says.
Barr isn’t the only one who uses this technique. But it’s difficult to find anyone
as dedicated to it—or as good at it. Later on, he asked why he didn’t try his hand at writing. “If I wanted to do that, it would take another lifetime to get where I wanted,” he says with a grin.
46 THE HUNT MAGAZINE fall 2019

   46   47   48   49   50