On Kamala Harris’ historic day, Stan Herd finishes crop art of VP candidate in rural Lawrence

photo by: Courtesy: Marc Havener/Resonate Pictures

A crop art portrait of Kamala Harris is shown under construction by artist Stan Herd near the Lawrence Municipal Airport. The circle above Harris is where a Biden crop art portrait had previously been in place.

Wednesday was a historic day for Kamala Harris. It also was a pretty noteworthy one for Lawrence crop artist Stan Herd.

It was his 70th birthday, and he spent it in a Douglas County field crafting a crop art portrait of Harris. He finished at 6 p.m. Just a few hours later, Harris became the first woman of color of either major party to accept the vice presidential nomination.

By the time the Democratic National Convention had ended its night’s events, images of the Harris crop art were spreading across the internet. Now, Herd — who is no stranger to national and international art projects — finds himself getting national attention during the campaign season.

“It has been a lot of fun,” Herd said.

But lest you wonder, it hasn’t been some sort of secret, coordinated campaign event. No, Herd didn’t get any advance notice that Harris was going to be Joe Biden’s pick for vice president while the rest of the political world waited and wondered on his selection.

Herd stressed that the project wasn’t coordinated with the Biden campaign at all. One of the greatest parts of the project, he said, is that it was completely a grassroots effort.

“I just had a really, really strong thought that it would be Kamala Harris,” Herd said.

So Herd started sketching out an image weeks ago. Then, when Biden made his announcement on Aug. 11, Herd was in the field within 30 minutes. After about three hours, he had finished the fieldwork for the outline of her face. He and a crew of about eight workers — including his son Evan — finished the project yesterday evening.

Herd said he raised a few thousand dollars from about a dozen donors in the Lawrence and Topeka areas to do the crop art. He had in-kind donations from many more, with one of the largest coming from Juniper Hill Farms, which has the property near the Lawrence Municipal Airport that houses the artwork. That farm is owned and operated by the Thellman family. Yes, that is Thellman as in Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman, who had her own political drama this week. She lost her Democratic primary election by a mere three votes after a recount.

“She and everybody at Juniper Hill have been amazing through this whole thing, even with everything they have had going on,” Herd said.

photo by: Courtesy: Marc Havener/Resonate Pictures

A Joe Biden crop art portrait is shown in rural Lawrence in early 2020. The portrait has since faded with the changing of the seasons.

Herd had used Juniper Hill as the site for a crop art portrait of Biden that he crafted earlier this year. Herd remembers coming up with the Biden idea as the COVID-19 pandemic was just emerging.

“Actually it was the day that Trump said there were a few cases in Seattle, but they all would be gone in a few days,” Herd said.

That portrait sat for three or four months by the Lawrence airport. Like Biden’s campaign at the time, it struggled to get a lot of attention.

“It ended up disappearing back into nature,” Herd said of the portrait.

Biden’s campaign did not.

The earlier Biden portrait now creates an interesting bit of imagery for the Harris piece. From the air, you can still see the circle where the Biden portrait was located. The circle for Harris’ portrait overlaps it — a true joining of the two.

While Herd didn’t have any contact with the Biden campaign during the creation of the artwork, he’s had some now and hopes to have more. He said some Biden staffers have been sending the images via their social networks. More importantly, Herd is hoping for a more formal collaboration.

“They haven’t agreed, but they seem very interested in it,” Herd said.

He said a future work probably wouldn’t be a portrait of Biden, since he has already done one of those. Rather, it might be some type of artwork that focuses on an issue. The idea would be for a piece of art that gains attention and sparks interest in the Biden/Harris campaign.

“Hopefully they will see that this type of earned media has validity,” Herd said.

Biden/Harris Earthworks – Out of the Wilderness 082022

Herd has been creating that type of attention for causes and corporations for years. He created a Barack Obama portrait in 2008 outside of Dallas. When I last talked with him about his work, it was in 2018, when he had just finished a project for Spotify — he created portraits of several country music stars in fields around Lawrence. Just prior to that, he had been in China working on a large “Young Women of China” piece in that country’s Yunnan province.

The international work has been disrupted by the virus — he is in discussions on a project in Brazil and he told me one of his dreams is to open an art gallery in Shanghai. But the pandemic hasn’t shut down his work.

“I’ve been busy because I can work in the countryside with my son and my crew and we can social distance in the field,” he said. “That has been great because I get depressed, like many of us, if I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

As his 70th birthday passed in the field, Herd seems as convinced as ever that he’s found what he’s supposed to be doing.

“I feel like I’m 50,” he said. “I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m a bundle of energy. I have to be doing this.”

photo by: Courtesy: Marc Havener/Resonate Pictures

The Harris crop art portrait by Stan Herd is near the Lawrence Municipal Airport, and is best seen from the air. Herd is hopeful the portrait will lead to a future collaboration with the Biden/Harris campaign.


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