GOODLAND An artist is repairing damage to a giant reproduction of a Vincent Van Gogh painting that has become a landmark along Interstate 70 in western Kansas after more than a decade of the state's sometimes brutal weather.
Canadian artist Cameron Cross is restoring "Three Sunflowers in a Vase," a 24-foot-by-32-foot reproduction, on top of an 80-foot easel, that he planted in Goodland in 2000.
Travelers driving by sometimes stop to take pictures of the popular piece, which local leaders say has helped Goodland's economy, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/Nxe2EX ).
"Goodland and Sherman County produce more sunflowers than anywhere else in the state of Kansas," said Mike Solomon, Sherman County's economic development director. "We are the sunflower capital of Kansas. And that painting shows this is what we are about. Once people get past the painting, they sometimes come down our downtown brick streets and visit our businesses. We see it as an opportunity."
When the installation was proposed, some residents weren't sure it was worth the $140,000 cost.
"When Cameron first approached the National Sunflower Association and said he was thinking about installing this huge sunflower painting, we first were like, 'Really?' 'Are you sure?' 'Are you a real person?'" said Donna Price, director of Goodland's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A volunteer group, the Sunflowers USA Association, used money from the state and private and corporate donations for the painting. No tax money was involved.
Cross' goal is to reproduce all seven of van Gogh's sunflower paintings in seven countries connected either to van Gogh or the sunflower industry. Reproductions have been installed in Altona, Canada and Emerald, Australia. Other works are planned for the Netherlands, Japan, South Africa and Argentina.
Cross said the Goodland painting is in good shape after spending 12 years exposed to Kansas weather.
The painting's backing is 24 sheets of three-quarter-inch plywood behind two layers of fiberglass, which is covered with industrial automotive paint and gel coat. It weighs about 45,000 pounds.
"It will take about two weeks to finish it but there have been some delays," Cross said Sunday. "The weather is hampering me. If it is 100 degrees outside, it is about 120 degrees on the fiberglass. I can't work on it in the heat. It is not good for the paint to cure in the heat."
Solomon said the city will pay the estimated $15,000 cost of the restoration.
"The City Commission stepped up and decided to take ownership of it," Solomon said. "They saw it as an important thing for this community."