through April 21


Tuesday, March 27
Reception with refreshments 5:30
Talk begins at 6:15

Join the artist for as he reveals the connection between his large earthcast sculptures cast directly in the earth and the two-dimensional work currently showing at Craven Allen Gallery. 


Thomas Sayre’s art is firmly rooted in landscape.  The paintings in Between Dirt and Sky are inspired the farms and barns of the rural south.  Like Sayre’s iconic large-scale earthcast sculptures–found in public and private spaces all of the world—Sayre’s process is intensely physical, utilizing unusual materials, including roofing tar and dirt. The images hover between abstraction and realism, with a texture and depth that give them a visceral intensity.

Between Dirt and Sky is a more intimate version of the touring installation White Gold, which premiered at CAM in Raleigh, and is currently at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson.  Sayre first introduced cotton-inspired paintings as part of Craven Allen’s show Medici Schmedici, which highlighted the value of collectors in the careers of artists.

Triangle residents will be familiar with the series of large earthcast rings, Gyre, which have become one of the most beloved works at the North Carolina Museum of Art. In addition to the paintings, several earthcast sculptures will also be on display at the gallery.

Craven Allen Gallery is located at 1106 ½ Broad Street in Durham. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, please call the gallery at 286-4837 or visit www.CravenAllenGallery.com.


Between Dirt and Sky is an exhibition of paintings about our quirky, haunted southern landscape. Related to the touring museum exhibition entitled: White Gold (which began at CAM Raleigh), these smaller, more intimate works refer to dense agricultural fields (cotton in particular) and the barns which act as protecting sentinels, overseeing the furrows. Each of these pieces were made from somewhere between hand and mind, chance and control, beauty and tragedy . . . somewhere between dirt and sky.


Artist Thomas Sayre grew up in Washington, D. C. in the shadow of the Washington Cathedral.  He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a Morehead Scholarship and majored in English and studio art.  After graduating summa cum laude. He then moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was a Michigan Fellow with a three year grant from the Ford Foundation to make sculpture at the University of Michigan.  In 1975, Mr. Sayre attended the Master of Fine Arts Program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Mr. Sayre works actively as a sculptor with commissioned public work in various collections across the United States with projects in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Florida; Denver, Colorado; Portland and Eugene, Oregon; Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee; San Jose and Sacramento, California; Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, Baltimore, Maryland; and Washington D. C. Internationally, the public projects have included Istanbul, Turkey; Phuket, Thailand; Hong Kong, and Calgary and Ontario, Canada.

Thomas’ recent awards include the 2012 North Carolina Award for Fine Arts and received an honorary doctorate from NC State University in the Spring of 2014.   A documentary about the life of Thomas Sayre,  Earthcaster was recently shown nationally on PBS.

Thomas’ current work includes Oberlin Rising, a memorial in Raleigh, White Gold, a one person exhibition at the Mississippi Museum of Art, and a large new public commission in downtown Tampa, Florida.  A resident of Raleigh, Thomas is married to Joan-Ellen Deck, whom he met while touring as a professional musician in the rock and roll band, Dog Days. Together they have two daughters.


Description of Thomas Sayre’s process by Deidre S. Greben, CAM Raleigh

To create his huge mixed media panels, Sayre began where, over the past two decades, he has become most comfortable–with North Carolina’s indigenous red clay soil. Here, he rubbed the dirt into the sanded, pre-laminated white Masonite boards, as if to reassert the work’s connection to the place it describes. To form the sprawling tangle of cotton plant stalks, he then used sticks and nozzled bottles to fling and squirt streams of clear acrylic floor finish across the mud-stained wood surface, lining up several panels on the floor at a time so as to not interrupt his arcs of movement. To be sure, the spontaneously streaked, splashed, and dribbled markings invoke Jackson Pollock’s gestural compositions. Like the New York School painter, Sayre turns our attention to the physical act of painting. But while Pollock’s improvisational paint-flinging is non-representational, Sayre’s draws on the physical action of portraying the cotton to evoke the labor that has been exploited in harvesting it.

Physical force is integral to his formation of the plants’ downy clumps as well. After squirting puddles of bright white stain-blocker paint onto the wood panels, he then proceeded to repeatedly whack the blobs with flat sticks to create recesses in their gleaming surfaces. Using massive putty knives he fashioned from spring steel and aluminum, Sayre applied and then laboriously scraped off layers of black tar to imbue the blossoms and their willowy stalks with further definition. The successive veils of sepia-toned tar residue give Sayre’s composition pictorial depth and a seductive yet discomfiting beauty.






John Beerman’s iconic landscapes are found in major museums and collections across the country.  For this show, the North Carolina native has selected paintings with a deep personal resonance from across the state and as far afield as New Mexico and Italy.   The exhibition features both large canvases and intimate works on paper, many painted en plein air.

The title of the show, A Field, A World, comes from Beerman’s determination to see beauty close at hand wherever he may be.  Many works feature the countryside around Chatwood in Hillsborough, home of Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun, where he has stayed recently.  Another series shows a church in Hillsborough at various times of day; like Monet and his haystacks, the differences in color and light in each canvas are revealing.

Craven Allen Gallery is located at 1106 ½ Broad Street in Durham. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, please call the gallery at 286-4837 or visit www.CravenAllenGallery.com.

See more works from the show on the JOHN BEERMAN ARTIST PAGE

Follow these links to see what authors Frances MayesAlan GurganusNorman Rush and Reynolds Price have to say about the paintings of John Beerman.


I find my inspiration in landscapes and in the everyday objects of the world around us. To see freshly, to discover something luminous below the surface of the commonplace is my challenge. By laying down paint on canvas, I try to represent a moment in time with its subtle order and its specific nuances of color and light.

As a painter, I believe there is a life force in the materials I work with, whether its oils, egg tempera or some combination of these. For me, the paint itself tells its own story and my most successful paintings represent something apart from their subject matter. I hope my paintings invite you to see the visible world with new eyes, and to experience the everyday as something luminous.


John Beerman is a painter whose work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Beerman has received numerous awards and fellowships including the Pollack-Krasner Foundation Award and the Yaddo Artist Colony Fellowship. His work is represented in many museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He has completed several public commissions including a mural in the Craftsteak restaurant at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas and recently an eighty-five foot mural in the I.M. Pei designed Milstein Family Heart Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

John Beerman lives in Durham, North Carolina, and is represented by Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City.




presented by Craven Allen Gallery and Ann Stewart Fine Art
September 30 – November 4


My childhood home in Georgia, though privileged and suburban, was oddly ephemeral. My family had gone through several divorces and all the neighborhood families I knew either split up or moved away. I think now that is why I was so drawn to live and photograph in the oldest and most traditional settlements in North America: the remote Inuit villages of Alaska, and the isolated Hispanic communities of northern New Mexico.  As a photographer, I was eager to come as close as I could to the lives of the people in my pictures.

By the time I arrived in Cuba, I was no longer the same person who looked through the lens of my camera in search of family and community. I had my own family. And I was finally interested in photography itself, in what my pictures could tell me that I wasn’t already searching for or didn’t already know. I was also aware one crucial thing from my earlier work as a photographer that served me well in Cuba and guides me in my work today: how to immerse myself in a world and at the same time observe it, how to step back from the moment I am experiencing and take a picture – how to be at once near and far.


For over forty years, Alex Harris has photographed across the American South, and in locations as disparate as the Inuit villages of Alaska, the streets of Havana, the fish markets of Mumbai, and the Hispanic settlements of northern New Mexico. Now Harris has selected photographs – some well-known and others that haven’t been widely seen – that are especially meaningful to him from across his body of work. In this exhibit, Harris also explores the various ways he’s approached and thought about the idea of distance as a photographer.
Alex Harris is a founder of the Center for Documentary Studies and of DoubleTake Magazine. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship, and a Lyndhurst Prize. Harris’ work is represented in major photographic collections, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the North Carolina Museum of Art. His photographs have been exhibited widely, including exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
On commission from the High Museum in Atlanta, Harris is currently photographing on independent movie sets across the South.
As a photographer and editor, Harris has published sixteen books, most recently in September of 2017, Dream of a House: The Passions and Preoccupations of Reynolds Price, which he and co-editor Margaret Sartor will be signing in the gallery. Alex Harris is represented by Ann Stewart Fine Art.