Alfred Eaker and J Ross Eaker of “Eaker Productions” have produced and directed a documentary about Raymond Thunder-Sky. The film documents Raymond’s life and influence through interviews with Cincinnati artists, co-workers, construction workers, and fans who knew him.
The cummulative effect of the film is a portrait, not just of Raymond as a man or artist, but as a cultural and spiritual figure — who through the persistence of his art-making and brave exploration of his own aesthetic universe, and through the persistence of those his life touched — became a touchstone for what it means to be creative and alive…
DVDs are for sale here: https://www.amazon.com/-/es/Alfred-Eaker-J-Ross/dp/B00KI2NTOE
Thunder-Sky, Inc. Deconstructing a Legacy of Art
An art gallery and organization — inspired by Raymond Thunder-Sky, an unconventional artist whose works and life transcend notions of “outsider” and “insider” art — breaks barriers, demolishes stereotypes, and empowers artists (both self-taught and formally educated) through showcasing their works and stories side by side.
Documentary directed and produced by Alfred Eaker & J. Ross Eaker. Keith Banner and Bill Ross producers. James Mannan and Patrick Greathouse Associate Producers Eaker Productions, LLC in association with Thunder-Sky, Inc. Liberty or Death Productions, LLC Asylum House Productions, LLC.
For more info about Thunder-Sky and his legacy, visit Thunder-Sky, Inc,
Dear Raymond (BlueMahler’s homage to Raymond Thunder-Sky)
You definitely don’t want to miss the letter/tribute/video that Alfred Eaker himself gave to Raymond Thunder-Sky through Eaker’s performance art character called “BlueMahler.”
Like Raymond’s stoic construction clown, BlueMahler is not a clown in the traditional sense. Rather, the clown characterization is merely a skin to wear for the spiritual promenade…
(By Alfred Eaker, as BlueMahler)
We hope you enjoy this short companion film to the documentary Thunder-Sky as much as we’ve enjoyed your life’s work. I hope you travel well… More
“Thunder-Sky”: Eaker simply “gets it”
(A review by Richard Propes, originally published at The Independent Critic)
Raymond Thunder-Sky is an icon but, in all likelihood, never realized as much in his lifetime. A Cincinnati artist and pop culture icon until his death in 2004 at the age of 54, Raymond Thunder-Sky traveled Cincinnati’s city streets day after day often clad in what would become his trademark clown suit and hardhat, both symbols of his unusually free spirit yet passion for all things construction.
Thunder, diagnosed with Autism, had extraordinary genetic roots being the son of former Mohawk Chief Richard Thunder-Sky and a mother who descended from an Austrian nobleman. You may never have guessed these things simply by meeting Raymond, a man whose primary methods of communication seemed to come through his almost non-verbal grunting noises but, perhaps most of all, through the extraordinary way in which he authentically lived his life.
Maybe he didn’t know any better. Who knows? Maybe it wasn’t so much an intentional choice or a courageous act, but there was something about the way Raymond showed up “as is” and envisioned a world far better than the current one that inspired nearly everyone around him including those who were assigned to be his caregivers.
Thunder-Sky is a documentary feature from Indianapolis-based filmmaker Alfred Eaker, an equally perplexing chap whose works run the gamut from starkly political to darkly comical to intimately vulnerable to, now, refreshingly honest and even joy-filled. Eaker creates an unconventional documentary with Thunder-Sky, a film that celebrates an unconventional artist whose legacy lives on through Cincinnati’s Thunder-Sky, Inc., an art gallery and archival center created in Raymond’s memory that offers support and encouragement to a new breed of unconventional artists both trained and untrained.
Thunder-Sky, Inc. Art Gallery
The recently completed documentary, I love it when I’m one of the first to see a terrific new film, isn’t so much a masterpiece in the traditional sense as it is a perfectly wonderful tribute to the unconventional nature of Raymond Thunder-Sky and the world in which he lived. Eaker has always had a knack for transcending cinematic norms, finding creative and inspired ways to communicate his unique vision. Thunder-Sky is the perfect project for him, because it allows an unconventional filmmaker to affectionately and joyously pay tribute to an unconventional man. So many filmmakers would have either been far too reverent or, even worse, far too condescending towards Raymond. Eaker finds just the perfect balance.
As both a writer and District Manager for a state agency working with individuals who have developmental challenges, I found myself completely enthralled by Thunder-Sky, in which Raymond’s disabilities are viewed not as making him less but as part of what made him who he was and for how they contributed to the ways he lived his life. Eaker doesn’t minimize the challenges in Raymond’s life, but neither does he bow down to them.
Eaker incorporates an abundance of archival footage and photographs involving Raymond supplemented by Raymond’s artworks and several interviews with those who knew Raymond best ranging from former caregivers to those who to this day continue working with Thunder-Sky, Inc. Eaker divides the film into several sections separated by beautifully realized animated sequences that capture both the playfulness and the seriousness of Raymond’s works.
Raymond’s drawings are, in fact, rather simply drawn yet complex in their details. Raymond would also often incorporate narratives into the fabric of his drawings. Most often, these narratives would announce the destruction of a building to be replaced, “Coming Soon,” by something magical or magnificent like a multi-colored clown suit factory.
Thunder-Sky, Inc. Art Gallery
You know you have a terrific documentary when you find yourself really wishing you’d met the subject of the film by the time the closing credits have rolled.
What really makes Thunder-Sky such a satisfying film is that Eaker really seems to “get” Raymond Thunder-Sky. Eaker “gets” Thunder-Sky’s unconventional artistry. Eaker “gets” his disability. Eaker “gets” the passion for clowning that grew out of Raymond’s first visit to a circus and led to his being embraced by the clown community.
Eaker simply “gets it” and he brings Raymond Thunder-Sky’s uniquely wonderful life fully alive on the big screen.
The only aspect of Thunder-Sky that didn’t quite resonate was the decision to follow up an emotionally satisfying section on Raymond’s death with an extended section regarding Thunder-Sky, Inc. While this is likely an effort to expand upon Raymond’s legacy, it’s a tad long and a less emotionally satisfying way to end an otherwise intellectually stimulating and heartfelt documentary.
One can only hope that film festivals will discover Thunder-Sky, a documentary feature celebrating an unconventional man whose unconventional artistry created an extraordinary world. The film will unquestionably be popular with indie film fests and among disability advocates and activists. In fact, I chuckled as this thought came to mind, this may very well be the first time that Eaker has created a film that truly deserves to be a Heartland Truly Moving Picture.
That would be incredibly appropriate, actually. Because, to this day, Raymond Thunder-Sky continues to truly move those who had the privilege of crossing his path.
Raymond Was Born in Hollywood
(A review by Thunder-Sky, Inc.)
Alfred Eaker has concocted a strange and lovingly disjointed documentary about Raymond, called simply Thunder-Sky. Which probably is the only way to do it: Raymond’s significance really does not come from his status as an “outsider artist,” as much as his unique self-created persona, his self-imposed and beautifully freaky monarchy over a universe of buildings being built and buildings being destroyed. The drawings are simply evidence of his reign. In other words, “art” and “life” were never fully compartmentalized in Raymond’s psyche and practice; in fact he seemed hell-bent on blending them into a cement-and-cotton-candy dream-world only he could tell us about.
We screened it Thursday night at Bromwell’s Gallery, asking for criticisms and corrections. And we truly got some insightful, wonderful ways to make it better. It was as if everyone in the room were completely invested in making sure Raymond’s life story is conveyed with as much style and class as possible.
Eaker’s movie is high-style at points (beautiful animation done by Todd M. Coe is kind of like the movie’s “tent poles,” offering a funky, psychedelic structure to the ongoing talking-heads-ness; a great ongoing motif involving the items Raymond collected in his toolboxes also helps to shape the narrative), and a little too campy in others (those weird clown vignettes really do need to go). Sometimes the interviews get redundant (he focuses too much, I think, on Bill and me), and I think he may want to revisit having Thunder-Sky family friend Larry Higdon more in the spotlight, as his voice/demeanor/gentlemanliness as he speaks about Raymond really is arresting and actually made me cry.
No matter what though I just wanted to tell Alfred and his cohorts how much I appreciate all the work they have done. I know I’ll never completely understand all the hard work and many hours that have gone into making this movie, but I do appreciate the final result: you’ve taken subject matter that is very hard to comprehend and fashioned it into a funhouse mirror world of reflection and celebration.
Thank you very much.
Raymond was born in Hollywood. Having a movie made about his life only seems like the next step in his evolution.
About Alfred Eaker:
Alfred Eaker is a prolific fine arts painter and muralist, an award-winning filmmaker and film critic, and a traditionally-published author. Following on the success of his debut novel, “Brother Cobweb,” Eaker is currently collaborating with Todd M. Coe on the related Graphic novel: “The Brother Cobweb Chronicles.” It will be available in the spring 2021. The audiobook version of Brother Cobweb is also being produced, and will soon be released too.
As an inquisitive American artist, he has always been deeply engaged in social, religious, and political climates. Eaker is currently working on a mural painting entitled “Elvis: An American Hymn.” Through it, Eaker is trying to bring affirming answers to issues of race, integration and hope so desperately needed at this moment in America.