The Art of Downtown Charlotte – Part IV: A Regular Commentary of Art and the Art Scene in Charlotte


This time around, I am responding to a request made by a reader about the six gigantic discs on display near the Scaleybark Station at the Lynx Light Rail. While these sculptures are not downtown per se, they are part of the often contentious dialog concerning the Queen City’s purchasing of public art. Also, many commuters that ride the Lynx and those driving to work toward downtown on South Boulevard are familiar with these sculptures.

furrows

The Lynx light rail zooms past two of the discs that make up the sculpture Furrows. Photograph from Thomas Sayer’s website. All rights reserved. http://www.thomassayre.com/work/earthcast/05_furrow/index.php

 The sculptures have been called everything from the chocolate chip cookies to moonscapes, as well as other less complementary names. Furrows, by North Carolina sculptor Thomas Sayer have garnered a fair amount of attention ever since they were first installed.  I will confess I was among those that upon first seeing these monoliths shook my head in bewilderment and wondered about how our tax dollars were being spent, but more on that later.

According to the Lynx website and Thomas Sayer’s own words Furrows is…

…six large concrete and steel sculptures cast from Carolina earth, pays tribute to Scaleybark’s agricultural past. The 18′ sculptures were inspired by harrow disks, the agricultural tool used behind a plow to cultivate farmland. The title Furrow refers to the cultivation trench, or “Vee,” left in farmland behind a plow.[1]

And that folks is a darn big plow! Each of the six discs weighs 11 tons and is created using a method known as earth casting. Literally, a giant mold is dug into the ground and the sculptures are created using a steel framework along with concrete mixed with earth. Iron oxide is added to the mixture to create the rust orange coloration.[2] The earth for Furrows came from 72 cubic feet of material excavated from the I-85/485 station. The installation is supposed to be able to withstand hurricane force winds. However, the discs for Furrows only measure about nine inches in thickness, which creates an interesting contrast as while each disc is massive it also appears somewhat fragile.

The pockmarked surfaces of the discs have chunks and small bits of rocks imbedded in them. The contrast of the concave and convex shape and irregular surface catch the light of the sun as the day passes. This creates an interesting interaction of the sculptures with the environment.

furrows2

Thomas Sayer has another sculpture in Charlotte that has raised eyebrows. This one, titled Grandiflora, sits at the corner of Randolph Road and Wendover Road and has been derisively called the Onion Rings.

Regardless of how you might feel about these two works, Sayer is a master technician and engineer. The sheer mass and size of these works is amazing, just in terms of the trial and error and physical effort required to create them.

furrows3

Grandiflora from the blog site, Hmmm…I don’t know what to tell ya! http://moelauher.blogspot.com/2012_07_01_archive.html

Alright, I said I would get back to my opinion about Furrows. After doing the research on this article, I have a higher appreciation for Furrows and Mr. Sayer in particular. However, looking at Mr. Sayer’s website, he has many earthcast sculptures that work better and are far more interesting.  Of course, that is the problem with any work of art.  Not everything a master artist does is a master piece. Regardless, Thomas Sayer is a master artist and has created something unique and interesting. His work also challenges the viewer and creates dialog. The last is perhaps the most important aspect of these works.

~Kim Allman~

Sources for this article:


[2] Remember nothing rhymes with orange

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Filed under Art of Downtown Charlotte, Librarians Can Be Fun Too, Local Points of Interest and Events

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