Travelers landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this fall will be excused for doing a double take. As the video above explains, there’s a gigantic replica of Vincent van Gogh’s painting Olive Trees in the fields approaching the landing strip.
The project began when the Minneapolis Institute of Art reached out to landscape artist Stan Herd (has that description ever been more apt?) about an idea they had for commemorating their centennial and the 125th anniversary Vincent van Gogh’s death. They were looking for a giant earthworks replica of Olive Trees, which is currently on display at Mia. Herd seized the opportunity to celebrate one of his favorite artists.
Though he originally fashioned himself an avant-garde abstract expressionist, Herd, 65, had an epiphany in his late 20s looking out a plane window at shapes on the ground: The earth itself could be a canvas for his art. It took four years to complete his first project, a 160-acre portrait of Native-American Kiowa Chief Satanta. Since then, he’s created stunning earthworks all over the globe.
Herd’s art involves native vegetation selected for color and texture, careful planning and measuring, and lots of mowing, earth- and rock-moving, and planting. For Olive Trees, Herd worked in circular patterns to mimic van Gogh’s flowing brushstrokes. Using soil, mulch, and rocks to create darker lines, he planted patches of squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and cantaloupes to recreate van Gogh’s vivid palette, according to Nick Mafi at Architectural Digest.
Everything is timed to peak this fall, so if you have a chance to fly into MSP soon, don’t forget to take your personal peek at van Gogh's 1.5-acre Olive Trees. The work is part of the museum’s ongoing 100 Videos centennial celebration.