4 Across the Grain  -Earthcasting- Lenoir NC.jpg

Across the Grain, in Lenoir, NC. The documentary follows this project through to its welcome by the sculpture-loving community. Photo: courtesy Minnow Media.


I’ve just had a sneak preview of a fine new documentary that will air on UNC-TV this week. Georgian Eubanks and Donna Campbell, the excellent storytellers of Minnow Media, have produced an hour-long doc on Thomas Sayre, a North Carolina artist I have long admired, as a person and for his work. Sayre lives in Raleigh, and many examples of his work can be seen there, and around the state.


Focusing on what will undoubtedly be his most important body of work in a long and varied career, Earthcaster looks intimately at Sayre’s compelling process of large-scale in-ground casting, and lets him speak in his erudite, humble and inimitable way about what he makes, and how and why he does it. I’ve had the good luck to meet and talk with Sayre many times since the mid-80s when I first saw him casting concrete in rectangular forms, and he is one of the smartest and most interesting people I’ve ever run across. His own words are buttressed by thoughtful interviews with a range of people who know his art well. We also get to meet some of Sayre’s team–the heavy equipment operators, the concrete specialists, the riggers–whose energy also goes into the architecturally scaled work Sayre conceives.



Ricky Pearce carving the casting trench as Sayre lays out the shapes for work in Portland OR. Photo: courtesy Minnow Media.


The doc is beautifully shot, on many sites over an extended period, and edited in a calm way that also conveys a great deal about Thomas and his process. Eubanks and Campbell have done a very nice job intercutting Sayre’s fascinating art process with family history and biographical material and crucial information on Sayre’s upbringing, letting the connection between man and art reveal itself from different angles. It is not a comprehensive biography of Thomas Hart Sayre, but it catches his generous, exacting personality and reflective nature, hinting at the wisdom he’s cultivated from the red clay.


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Thomas Sayre, happy with the newly installed earthcasting at the University of Maryland-Baltimore. Photo: courtesy Minnow Media.


If you think staying home to watch TV might make you miss your dance fix (what? not everyone goes to ADF every night?), fear not. The film includes several scenes of dancing around and on Gyre, Sayre’s well-loved rings rising from the red dirt of the NC Museum of art sculpture park. Raleigh’s Black Box Dance Company (including Justin Tornow) performs, and we see some lovely shots of the dancers and the dance, turning and turning.

For more information, see EARTHCASTER will premiere on UNC-TV Thursday, June 23, at 10 pm.


9 Producers Donna Campbell and Georgann Eubanks passed safety training.jpg

Filmmakers Donna Campbell, left, and Georgann Eubanks, on the site of one of Sayre’s enormous castings. Hard hats not optional. Photo: courtesy Minnow Media.


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