Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2001

Crop artist creates Topeka mural

December 1, 2001


— Lawrence artist Stan Herd has grown accustomed to carving massive works of crop art into fields.

But he turned the tables a bit for his most recent piece.

Pastures and scenic landscapes, usually his canvas, became the subject matter in a mural Herd painted that captures the hills, plains, plants and rock formations of his native Kansas.

The mural fits snugly into its permanent home a 4-foot-high recess that runs just below the ceiling around four walls of a room in the newly renovated Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, at the corner of Southwest 10th Street and Southwest Washburn Avenue.

Herd and his assistant, Ollie Hall of Lawrence, have devoted a few hours each night for the past week attaching the mural to the walls in what will be the library's Hall C. Harrison Family New Book Center.

"This is the greatest possible location for an artist to showcase his work," Herd said Thursday night while scanning the room from atop scaffolding.

Although the mural moves Herd's art indoors, it doesn't deviate from his tradition of working large. The finished product composed of 18 canvas panels that stretch 192 feet around the room took him six months to complete.

"This is the most complicated and most comprehensive project that I've been lucky enough to get a commission for," Herd said.

The mural takes viewers on a tour of the geographic regions of Kansas, from Castle Rock, a natural chalk sculpture in Gove County, to the Konza Prairie, a native bluestem prairie south of Manhattan. It also devotes space to the wetland environment in south Lawrence and the Kansas Flint Hills.

There's even a scene depicting a sagebrush-covered knoll that overlooks Herd's southwest Kansas hometown, Protection.

"My dad still farms about a half a mile from there," he said.

Herd spent a great deal of time researching which wildflowers are native to each of the areas he painted and included about 35 of the "showiest" and most characteristic.

"My only concern is the critique from my friends who really know a lot about Kansas wildflowers," he said.

Herd said the feedback may be impetus to add more flowers to the mural at a later date.

"Some of the fun will be adding things and interacting with the library patrons," he said.

Renovations still are under way at the facility but are expected to be complete by Dec. 24, said Diana Friend, public relations manager for the library. The official dedication is planned for January.

"It's exciting when you have someone of his (Herd's) caliber taking an interest in our library," Friend said.

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