Without context, art can look pretty weird. Especially when it comes in the form of a giant, red sculpture that somewhat resembles a spider and scorpion engaging in fisticuffs.

"Sonora," which rests in the center of the Joel D. Valdez Main Library plaza, 101 N. Stone Ave., fits the criteria.

Created by artist David Black and dedicated in 1991, the statue both beckons and no doubt frightens passers-by.

According to the library website, Black, who designed the sculpture as "protoarchitecture" - a method of exploring the relationship between the building and the artwork - chose the shocking red hue in order to contrast with the tamer black and white of the library.

The site also says Black used functional architectural forms including columns and arches with artistic elements such as space, shape and line.

A native of Massachusetts, Black specializes in steel and aluminum sculptures, and has work on display throughout the country, as well as in Canada and Germany.

"Sonora" was Black's interpretation of local culture and nature. He started with a series of drawings, then made a small model, which Steelcon Inc. used to construct it.

The 25-foot high, 43-foot wide sculpture weighs in at 32,800 pounds.

The structure is filled with symbolism. A ring in the sculpture is meant to represent Native American kivas and baskets, while the columns are made to signify Mexican palm trees, and the pyramids stand for the Tucson Mountains.

The artwork was funded by the city's One Percent for Art Program and beat out 73 other entries it competed against. The sculpture cost $150,000.

Via email, Black said he "wanted Sonora to be effective as part of the city's library plaza. Readers could pause, sit awhile and enjoy the city library's handsome plaza.

"Driving into Tucson for the first time years ago, I was impressed by the beauty and color of the mountain range, especially.

"The symbols in Sonora - the arrowlike legs, etc., do not replicate any one symbol," he said, "but reflect the history of this area's native symbols and design treasures."

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com


The Tucson Oddities book is now available. The full-color book contains 50 oddities that readers of the Arizona Daily Star have inquired about over the years.

You can also buy it in the lobby of the Star, 4850 S. Park Ave. The book costs $14.99 plus tax and shipping and handling, if you want it mailed. Questions can be referred to oddity@azstarnet.com or 573-4232.