Charles Kuralt, famous for his CBS “On the Road” segments, once called Stan Herd, a “crop artist.” The name is appropriate because Stan’s art is measured in acres. He uses the natural color of crops and other natural materials to create art that can often only be seen from above, usually with an airplane. Stan is a member of the Lawrence community and asked Pines to be one of his sponsors for an interesting piece of crop art in an urban setting. It would be located on a vacant lot that could be viewed from high rise apartments and an elevated roadway in a dense urban setting in New York City. Pines people had a lot of fun that summer traveling to New York to help Stan create his art. Below is an article that ran in the Lawrence Journal World during the time Stan was doing his Countryside project:
Above are Some of Stan’s Other Crop Art Projects
The ornery earthwork crafted by Stan Herd on New York City’s west side teetered on the brink of failure last month. Father Time and Mother Nature—two of Herd’s constant enemies—conspired to sabotage the Lawrence artist’s latest creation. Chilly winds signaled impending frost and death to the thousands of plants Herd cultivated to create the image of a country landscape.
Herd and a small band of assistants—including two homeless men who camped in a nearby tunnel—struggled to convince flowers, fruits and vegetables to bloom in concert.
“Until about two weeks ago, it was a failed image in my mind,” Herd said in an interview Tuesday.
“The produce that I put in early in the year were able to bear fruit but then faded,” Herd said. “The tree would be working beautifully, and then as I was working on another area, it would fade. It was a constant struggle.”
Money was running out as Herd and his assistants cradled and coaxed the makeshift garden. Finally, the crops cooperated and hit their fall peak. “It’s a fundamental battle with nature that is at the heart of the art process, of my work,” Herd said. “I’m just really pleased that I was able to achieve what I consider a successful image.”
More than 5,000 plants make up “Countryside,” the rural image planted in the debris-strewn Pennsylvania Railroad yards owned by developer Donald Trump. Herd planted squash, watermelons, cucumbers, impatiens, mums, wheat and soybeans, to mention a few plant varieties. The artist also imported 200 tons of topsoil, 20 tons of rock and 1,000 paving stones for the project. The interplay between the plants, soil and stone completes the scene of a lazy tree looming over rolling fields and a blue sky.
“Finally I feel I have an image I can be happy with,” Herd said. “I’m doing it on one acre, so detail is paramount. Everything I did out there was noticeable.”
Herd has made 26 round trip flights between Kansas City and New York since the project began five months ago. As money for the Trump piece threatened to run out this summer, Herd took on two local projects to fund “Countryside.”
Farmland Industries asked Herd to create a crop art image of the company’s logo for an upcoming TV commercial. WDAF-TV Newschannel 4 turned to the artist for a five-acre sculpture of its logo. “I’m back to that same dilemma. I want to do my art, but I sometimes need to have the commercial projects to work on,” Herd said.
The Farmland logo takes up 12 square acres on the L.J. Milleret & Son Farm in Linwood. Created with corn, rye and wheat, the logo will appear at the beginning and end of a Farmland commercial to air through the Midwest in February.
Herd sculpted the Newschannel 4 logo in a soybean field owned by B.A. Skeet between Lawrence and Eudora. The 5-acre piece appears on the station’s on-air promotions. “My doing the Farmland project gave me money at a critical time. Otherwise, the New York project would have come to a halt,” Herd said. “Then finances became so tight I agreed to do the channel 4 thing.”
Herd sank more than $50,000 of his own money into the New York project and received assistance from New York contractors and a handful of corporations, including Pines International Inc. of Lawrence.
Trump licensed the site to Herd this spring without any promise of funding. The artist said he thought his unusual proposal—”I wasn’t asking for money”—helped seal the deal with Trump representatives for creating “Countryside.”
“I saw it as a great canvas for me, a great chance where people could see my work from a grounded position, like from a high rise. And, of course, the air traffic around New York is incredible.” Herd laid out the image in May and began planting. He soon befriended two homeless men named Ryan and Lone Wolf and put them to work on the project with a regular wage. “They just live 200 yards from the field in this tunnel,” Herd said. “They wandered by early on in the project, and I wasn’t overly friendly, but I was hoping to meet some of these people. They became my full-time crew.”
Nearby apartment dwellers and school children volunteered off and on. Even with the full-time help of former Lawrence artist Trey Parker, Herd still had little time for anything but working on “Countryside.”
“It’s pretty exasperating to be in New York…I haven’t even been able to go to the Museum of Modern Art or a Broadway show,” he said.
“I’m really pretty tired of this stuff,” Herd said, laughing. “I’m thinking of getting into ranching.”