Whereas most artists measure their artworks in inches, Stan Herd measures his in acres. For the previous 40 years, the Kansas-based artist has been utilizing farmland, pastures, grassy fields and every other giant swaths of open land as his canvas, creating large earthworks which can be finest seen from the sky, together with an enormous vase of flowers and a 2005 version of the Kansas state quarter.
Fittingly, for his subsequent creation, which is able to debut at this time at Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta, the 71-year-old crop artist is trying as much as the sky for inspiration. Stretching 4,800 sq. ft in dimension, the piece coincides with the United Nations’ Worldwide Day of the Lady Little one initiative and can also be a part of World House Week, an annual occasion that celebrates world accomplishments in science and expertise. Since this 12 months’s theme is Ladies in House, Herd has created a portrait of Stephanie Wilson, a veteran NASA astronaut with three house flights below her belt (she’s additionally the second African American girl to enter house), and certainly one of 18 astronauts who’re part of Artemis, NASA’s lunar exploration program that’s scheduled to ship the primary girl to the moon in 2024.
Herd, a painter and sculptor by commerce who attended the College of Wichita on an artwork scholarship, admits that making art work of this magnitude is not any straightforward job. From begin to end, it may take weeks and even months to finish a single piece. To make every earthwork, Herd begins by creating a pc sketch utilizing a grid approach that he says is “much like the way in which Michelangelo created the [frescoes] on the Sistine Chapel ceiling,” the place every sq. phase interprets to a particular measurement. Within the case of the Atlanta art work, one sq. inch of the sketch equals 10 precise ft.
“The true artwork occurs once I switch the drawing onto the bottom,” says Herd, who will usually incorporate discovered parts reminiscent of rocks, mulch and grime so as to add dimension to a bit. In a bit he created in 1988 which he dubbed Cola Wars, he even had volunteers gown in crimson and blue T-shirts to copy a duo of outsized Coca-Cola and Pepsi cans.
To carve intricate portraits and bucolic scenes into the panorama, Herd and his crew, which consists of his son and a gaggle of volunteers, make the most of the whole lot from tractors and plows to garden mowers and hand instruments bought on the native ironmongery store. As a result of the Wilson portrait is on the smaller facet in contrast with different ones he’s performed (for instance, his debut earthwork, a sprawling 160-acre picture of Native American conflict chief and Kiowa chief Satanta that he sculpted within the early Eighties, measured 160 acres), he plans to make use of predominately weed wackers and handbook hand trimmers to sculpt the quarter-acre plot into Wilson’s likeness. The piece, constituted of present grass, minimize grass, river sand, compost, pecan shell mulch and a clay product, is a reproduction of an expert portrait of Wilson wearing full astronaut gear.
“As a inventive,” Herd says, “I’m at all times desirous to convey one thing into the universe that’s new.”
Herd first got here up with the concept to make large earthworks whereas on a flight from his dwelling in Kansas.
“I grew up surrounded by farm nation, and someday it struck me that I may take my farming background and translate it into artwork,” he says. “After school, I had been portray giant murals—I’m higher at making artworks which can be bigger than on a sketchpad—and the concept to make earthworks got here whereas I used to be on a flight and searching down on the fields. I knew about [the late artist] Christo and the way he was doing stuff outdoors the gallery and museum and pushing artwork out into the panorama.”
Within the time since, Herd has constructed a formidable assortment of a number of dozen sprawling artworks, from politicians and historic figures like Satanta and Amelia Earhart, to extra business endeavors for corporations like Absolut Vodka, Shock High Beer and Papa John’s Pizza. (He’s additionally the topic of a 2009 film about his life as an artist referred to as “Earthwork” starring John Hawkes). The lifespan of every work varies relying on its location and the climate.
This isn’t the primary time that Herd has created an earthwork in Atlanta. Earlier this 12 months, he made a brief portrait in remembrance of the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis within the metropolis’s Freedom Park. In an article printed in Atlanta’s SaportaReport, Herd says, “I hope to convey consideration to land, and the individuals who work the land, who worth the panorama and Mom Earth; that’s my household. I even have been concerned, all my life, in lending artwork to causes and points and ideas and opinions which have modified the world. That’s John Lewis.”
Herd’s work caught the attention of Christine Korp, a self-proclaimed “astronaut wrangler” who served as astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s supervisor, and who because the president of Function Leisure works carefully with NASA as an advisor on varied initiatives.
“I wished to do a monument honoring girls, as a result of there aren’t that many round,” Korp says. “I wish to honor girls on the identical degree as males.”
After performing some analysis on-line, Korp occurred upon Herd’s portfolio, which features a everlasting one-acre portrait he constructed right into a hillside in Atchison, Kansas, of the famed aviator Amelia Earhart utilizing plantings and items of rock, in addition to an homage to Vice President Kamala Harris he minimize right into a discipline in Lawrence, Kansas, in the course of the latest presidential election.
“I requested if he could be involved in creating large eco-friendly portraits of girls within the grass,” she says. “He additionally wished to honor girls in an enormous method.”
The result’s the artwork piece he has created this month in Atlanta, which will probably be bordered by roughly 1,500 space-themed tiles created by college students from 14 Atlanta Public Colleges and kids from three of town’s Kids’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals. Provided that the portrait is small, so far as Herd’s items go, guests can admire it from the bottom, as they stroll by Woodruff Park. The ultimate art work will probably be captured by satellites in low-Earth orbit to commemorate the piece earlier than it fades again into nature.
“An necessary component to my artworks is that they’re momentary and designed to fade again into their surrounding atmosphere,” Herd says. “There’s one thing particular about individuals having a shared expertise on a discipline of grass earlier than it goes again to its pure state.”
The Stephanie Wilson earthwork will probably be on show in Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta from October 11 to 22.