Since the late 1970s, American artist Stan Herd has been creating gigantic crop art — portraits and other images he creates by plowing, planting, and mowing on large tracts of farmland all around the globe, but especially in his homeland Kansas. Inspired by the pre-Columbian drawings on the desert floor of the Andes Mountains, Herd completed his first projected in 1981. It was a 160-acre portrait of the Kiowa chief Satanta, whose heroic exploits had made him a symbol among the Kiowa of resistance to European American encroachment. Herd began with a paper sketch of Satanta which he transferred to the land by means of numbered flags. He then used a tractor pulling a brace of disc rotors behind him to etch the final image into the soil.
Since his first successful earthwork, Stan Herd has created over 35 all over the world. A CBS evening news anchor once called him the “Father of Crop Art”. Indeed, it was Herd who inspired the farmers of the Japanese province of Inakadate to create large-scale designs on their rice fields after Herds earthwork’s were featured on two highly popular Japanese television shows. Inakadate’s rice paddy art in now famous all over Japan, and draws thousands of tourists to the small village each year.
His most recent project is a 1.2-acre recreation of Van Gogh’s famous artwork, Olive Trees which he “planted” in Minneapolis. The piece was commissioned by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and involved weeks of mowing, digging, planting, and earthscaping to create the piece viewable from the air near the Minneapolis airport.
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