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The Art Of Film 

Local sculptor's pieces fly onto the big screen in Shallow Hal

You've probably already seen Rex Eagle's work without even knowing it. And beginning November 9, if you opt to check out the comedy Shallow Hal (which you know you will), you'll see a lot more of his work -- as well as the satisfaction of seeing your hometown on the silver screen. Rex Eagle grew up around the stone quarries of Granite Quarry, NC, and admits to having been influenced by the stone artists and painters of that area. His wire portrait sculptures and large metal sculptures are Modern in spirit and quite reminiscent of the output of the well-known American sculptor Alexander Calder. "My work is about precision and flow," he remarks. "I like the work to be balanced." And although he currently resides in Charlotte and has a studio in Fourth Ward near the Tryon Center for the Visual Arts, he prefers to be considered a North Carolina artist.

In a sense, Eagle's artwork will be displayed nationally upon the November 9 release of Shallow Hal, the Farrelly Brothers film that was largely filmed here in Charlotte. When I asked Eagle how he was selected as "sculptor" for this Gwyneth Paltrow-Jack Black comedy, he related how the film crew, while conducting preliminary investigations of the city, had seen one of his pieces in front of Intro, a furniture store on South Boulevard. They also frequently rode by his studio on the way to their own studio location at Silver Hammer Studios and liked what they saw. In many ways, it was pure serendipity, a good fortune that resulted in 20th Century Fox leasing seven of his sculptures for the movie (he's listed in the credits as "Sculptor").

Even before the film opens, there'll be an opportunity to see the pieces up close and personal. One week prior to the release date, there will be one piece of sculpture displayed at each of the following theaters: Phillips Place, the Arboretum and Rock Hill Cinema Seven.

The form of Eagle's work, though abstract in style, is grounded in narrative. In many ways, the works chosen for this film, a parable on the nature of beauty, offer their own lessons.

So where in the film should we look for these pieces? And, according to the artist, what are they about?

Five can be spotted in a scene shot at Freedom Park; these pieces make the park look something like a sculpture garden. During the park scene, you'll want to take note of the following:

* "Ming Red Vision," which belongs to a private client, is about listening to your own voice, your own thoughts, rather than letting others guide you in their direction.

* "Aracnia Noir," which will be exhibited at the Phillips Place theater, is about the beauty found in all of nature, even in that which frightens us -- such as a Black Widow spider.

* "Undulations Rouge," to be shown at the Rock Hill-Manchester Cinemas, represents flow and energy. It's also what Eagle refers to as "mobile sculpture," as in literally moveable, not as in a "mobile," which is a particular type of sculpture.

* "Urban Sunrise" speaks to the energy of an urban morning setting, with sun reflections from glass and steel buildings.

* "Truth Seeker," which will be on view at the Arboretum, is an organically shaped figural piece that points to Truth. Eagle says that the piece is fashioned "in shapes that I like, and its message is to look for truth in any situation that you're in. Truth will set you free."

The other two sculptures, "Ascentia," which represents Charlotte on the move, and "Chris's Spectrum," done for a private client, will be seen in Shallow Hal at the Government Building. However, in the film, the triangular-shaped civic building has been transformed into the Charlotte Center for Fine Arts, where an artist named Bartholomew has his (actually, Eagle's) work on display.

After the show, you'll likely see more of Eagle's work around town: He just installed a wire wall piece at Copeland's of New Orleans at University Executive Park; he'll soon install a mobile titled "Dream Flight" in the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport Arts and Education office; he frequently creates wire portraits for charity fundraisers; and he'll be honored with an exhibit of his work at Pentes Artworks (there's a private opening on November 10, the day after the movie premieres).

The pieces shown in Shallow Hal will be for sale shortly after the movie opens, and I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of them remained in Charlotte to commemorate all the hoopla and excitement that surrounded the filming of this motion picture. Charlotte, after all, can be quite the booster town, and, in many ways, this would at least provide a public art piece with some local context. *

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