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American artist Stan Herd is known for numerous things - Oil and watercolor paintings, incredible murals, and most of all, stunning crop art. In fact, the maestro is considered the pioneer of this method of artistic expression that involves the skillful arrangement of plants, soil, and rocks, to create massive masterpieces that are best viewed from a higher vantage point, like a hill or an airplane.
Hence it was only natural that to celebrate its centennial anniversary, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) decided to call upon 'the father of crop art.' The museum commissioned the artist to create a living replica of one of its most popular works of art - Van Gogh's 'Olive Trees,' one of 15 known paintings of the trees the artist produced in the fall of 1889.
Herd began work on the 1.2-acre canvass field in early spring. His first challenge was to seek out plants and soils that would resemble the colors of the original painting. In addition to long grasses and wildflowers, the artist also used numerous types of squash, gourds, and melons, to replicate the different hues in the original painting. He says that since Van Gogh often painted wheat fields he would have liked to use the grain to represent the sky. But given the time constraints the artist decided to settle for oats that are easier to grow.
With only 50 days to complete digging, sprouting, and mowing the image into shape, Herd certainly had his work cut out. But as usual, he came through. The living replica that was unveiled by MIA in September, is almost as stunning as the painting Van Gogh created 126 years ago. Strategically situated on a field close to the Minneapolis Airport, the masterpiece is clearly visible from all flights in and out of the city. The incredible crop art will be on display until the end of fall. Herd then plans to mow it down in concentric circles that mimic Van Gogh's iconic painting style.
Born on a farm in Protection, Kansas, Herd began his career as an oil and watercolor artist. In 1981, he used his farming skills to create the first crop art or as Herd likes to call them, 'earthwork.' It was a portrait of Kiowa war chief Satanta that the artist physically carved into a 160-acre Kansas prairie.
Since then, Herd has created 35 monumental earthworks both in the US and other parts of the world including England, Australia, and South America.The 64-year-old artist is also credited with inspiring artists in Japan's Inakadate Province to plant a series of incredible rice paddy artworks and for starting the movement of the tremendously popular corn maze designs.
Though most of Herd's crop art disappears at the end of the growing season, he does have a few permanent pieces. The most famous is a grass and stone portrait of pioneer female aviator Amelia Earhart. Commissioned by the residents of her hometown Atchison, Kansas, the one-acre image that was created in 1997 was voted as one of the 8 wonders of Kansas in 2010.
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