Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This three-part sculpture was created through a process called earthcasting, which was developed by artist Thomas Sayre. The process involves digging large shapes directly into the earth and then filling the trenches with concrete (mixed with iron oxide) and reinforced steel frames.
- This is a site-specific work that was designed to be displayed in the exact location where it stands. It was also created at the same location. It contains local dirt, rocks, and sticks that are permanently part of each ring. Both the artist and the land itself helped to shape this sculpture.
- Sayre is a Raleigh-based artist who creates his molds by sculpting directly in the earth. He says the three rings that make up Gyre represent his “lifelong study of the interplay between man and nature.”
- The title of this work comes from a poem by W. B. Yeats, who thought of history as “the complex movement of a spiral.”
- The sculpture’s shape looks different depending on the viewer’s perspective. When it is viewed head on, it looks like concentric circles. When it is viewed at an angle, it appears to be a spiraling structure.
Spiraling out of the landscape, Gyre is situated invitingly on the Museum Trail. The sculpture was made by an earth-casting technique practiced by Thomas Sayre. A backhoe carved three separate elliptical shapes into the ground. The concrete-iron oxide mixture was poured directly into these trenches rather than into conventional formwork. The concrete mixture was left to cure for 28 days. Then a crane was used to pull up each ring, position it, and lower it into place on a foundation.
“The title, Gyre, is a little-used English word that was in some ways popularized by the poet W. B. Yeats. Yeats compared the cyclical nature of history to a gyre, a spiraling form extending into the air, where, as time goes on, we arrive again to where we started, yet not quite. We don’t land exactly where we began. This gyre in the NCMA Park is a horizontal gyre, corkscrewing its way through the gentle slopes of the land, drawing attention to how time has radically changed the use and nature of this spot. Gyre clearly speaks of art interacting directly with its environs. Gyre speaks to the necessity of collaboration between humans and the earth on which we live, and isn’t this really what underlines much of the goals and intentions of the Ann and Jim Goodnight Park?”
Tags: earthwork, geography, site specific
Resources for Teachers
- Read an interview with Thomas Sayre.
- Visit a web page that explains Sayre’s earthcasting process.
- Watch a documentary about the artist.
- Read an article about another work by Sayre.
Resources for Students