This Artist Used Plants Instead of Paint to Re-Create Van Gogh's "Olive Trees"
You no longer have to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to see Vincent van Gogh’s “Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun,” which the Dutch Post-Impressionist created as part of a larger landscape series in 1889. Instead, you can wander into a field in Eagan, Minnesota, and check out crop artist Stan Herd’s large-scale homage to the iconic work.
To commemorate the MIA’s centennial, Herd was commissioned to create a 1.2-acre version of “Olive Trees” on the Minneapolis suburb's Thomson Reuters campus. His materials of choice were plants, rocks, mulch, and soil, which he planted, plowed, and arranged into elaborate swirls that mimic van Gogh’s dense, urgent brushstrokes.
The image spreads across a meadow, and is fully visible only from the air. Visitors can wander across the meadow, but are discouraged from picking and eating the watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, oats, and pumpkins that make up the painting.
Over the years, Herd has gained renown for his crop creations. Past projects have included a grass-and-stone portrait of Amelia Earhart, the Statue of Liberty’s visage mowed into a wheat field, and commercial projects for Absolut Vodka and Northwest Airlines. And in 2009, director Chris Ordal released the award-winning independent film Earthwork, which chronicled the time Herd once transformed a vacant urban lot in New York City into a swath of living art.
Thanks to the changing seasons, most of the Kansas-based artist’s works are sadly temporary. However, the MIA says that “Olive Trees”—which Herd began last spring and completed in September 2015—will be visible throughout the remainder of autumn.
Want a better view of the “painting?” Check out this aerial video of “Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun,” and be amazed by how much the giant plot of earth resembles its 29-by-36-inch oil-on-canvas counterpart.