One of Vincent van Gogh’s olive tree paintings has literally sprung to life, reproduced as a large, growing field in Minnesota. Last month the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) unveiled a 1.5-acre work of crop art by Stan Herd, a Kansas-based artist who has planted many earthworks around the world, including a re-creation of one of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of gliders. Commissioned by Mia to celebrate the museum’s centennial, this most recent piece replicates van Gogh’s “Olive Trees,” one of 15 known paintings of the trees the artist produced in the fall of 1889. That specific work actually hangs in the museum, but Herd’s has sprouted on a site belonging to media firm Thomson Reuters, near the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport.
Herd has cultivated the field since spring, and his sprawling artwork will remain on view through the end of the fall. Prior to the planting, he had to carefully determine which specific plants and soils to incorporate in order to best represent van Gogh’s particular palette. The painter’s brushstrokes, too, demanded the mowing and digging of many serpentine paths.
“You can see this is darker, so I’m planting these kind of more verdant, green plants, he explained in a video about the crop artwork’s creation, pointing at a gridded version of the painting he used as a plan.
“The amazing thing about van Gogh’s painting is that there’s not a single straight line in the whole canvas,” he added. “Everything is organic and curved and flowing, and it’s like a pulse.”
The result, just slightly muted in tone, is impressively faithful to the original painting. Mia chose the site specifically so planes arriving to the airport will pass it, so you’ll be able to see it from above if you’re flying into the city — just be sure to choose a seat on the left.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.