a different kind of crop

Farming has inspired all manner of amazing feats in this world, and here’s another jaw dropper that can be traced back to the seat of a tractor: the “monumental earthwork” of Kansas artist Stan Herd.

More than a mere master of crop circles (amazing in their own right), Herd has spent the past 40 years honing a technique of actually planting his enormous artworks, which are best viewed bird’s eye, from high above. The crops, in essence, create the image—with considerable input from the weather, as you might imagine.

“I have gravitated to the idea that the earthworks need to be more than just something to look at … that the background story of mankind’s relationship to the earth, in agriculture, and in stewardship of pristine nature, is what the act of creating the work is about,” Herd explained to Modern Farmer.

The latest of his many creations, completed this year, is a 1.2-acre reproduction of Van Gogh’s Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun in Eagan, Minnesota, comprised of native plants, gourds, oats, and other various natural materials.

For comparison, here’s the original Van Gogh painting (oil on canvas):

Vincent van Gogh, Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun, 1889, via Wikimedia Commons

Now, watch in wonder the video below, which follows Herd’s fascinating method of cultivating Van Gogh’s classic as a commission for the Minneapolis Institute of Art:

“At 65, I only have a limited amount of time to create these massive works,” Herd said. “I am reminded that I need to choose my work carefully.”

He is now drumming up funding for his in-progress collaborative earthwork, Young Woman of Brazil, in São Paulo, Brazil. You can contribute to this sustainable community garden for people who reside in the surrounding favela (urban slum) by becoming a “Root Supporter” via the Herd Arts website.

“I want to see if an image of this sort can add something to the community for the long run,” Herd says. “All art doesn’t have to have a utilitarian purpose, but at their best, I believe my earthworks do.”

  1. Cindi says:

    That’s amazing! One of my favorite parts of flying ~ okay the only favorite part ~ is looking out at the beautiful patchwork fields that farmers create. It makes me wonder what thoughts go through their minds while plowing and planting. From the air it seems like it would be a time of meditation for them. Maybe so, as every farmer I have ever met has a deep, silent, spiritual connection with earth, life and the creative forces. There is clearly so much more to being a farmer than most realize.

  2. I read about Herd and his projects in Modern Farmer which I read weekly. ( I highly suggest this entertaining and educational website ) His amazing scope of artistry is a wonder to behold. The actual planting and choosing of green matter is an art in itself. He is a visionary and the best landscape architect I have ever come across ( ok , after my grandfather, a visionary unto himself)

  3. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This artwork is fantastic! I have seen the painting and this bigger than life interpretation is incredible and almost spiritual. I feel quite certain that Van Gogh would have loved to have had the opportunity to see such a take on his painting. Thanks for sharing this today.

  4. Bonnie ellis says:

    And to think this amazing planting is within 20minutes of me!

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