To celebrate the Great American Beer Festival, which is in town right now, and the release of its newest beer, End of the World Midnight Wheat, the Shock Top division of Anheuser Busch hired artist Stan Herd to create a massive piece of crop art in Lochbuie, near Denver International Airport. Herd and his Earthworks company pioneered the art form known as "representational crop art," and they lit up the art on Wednesday. As part of our beery series of Q&As this week, we chatted with Herd.
Westword: Were you an artist before you started making giant crop circles?
Stan Herd: I have been an artist since the first grade. As I grew up, I as the artist in my family, then the artist in my high school and I ended up going to college on an art scholarship. I paint, sculpt, create murals, prints and am also a film producer.
Where are you from and how did you get involved with his profession?
I'm from southwest Kansas, which is likely a big reason that wheat fields are a preferred medium of mine. As for how I started...it is a calling to me, not a profession. Being an artist 'happens' to you, it is not something you decide to do. It is something you are meant to do. But I know my limits...I wanted to be a musician but I just didn't have the talent.
Most artists work in mediums like oils or clay or iron. Can you make crop-circle art out of more than just one crop? Do you have a favorite?
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I use a variety of mediums as an artist, but turning the land into art is a true passion. The best works are created with multiple crops and other materials. Several generations of my family are wheat farmers, so the fields are part of who I am. In addition to the wheat, most of my Earthwork projects use a variety of natural materials such as stone and mulch. The Shock Top End of the World Midnight Wheat Earthwork that I created here in Denver even included ingredients like chilies and chocolate malt, which are also ingredients in the beer. I am growing fond of utilizing flowers these days. I also create giant rock works.
What do you want people to see when they see your work?
I want them to notice the beauty of what the natural earth provides. There is something about the natural setting of a field that can be breathtaking. We officially unveiled the Shock Top Earthwork at sunset, and people loved the image, but they also saw it in context to the beautiful surrounding fields, the mountains, the sunset and all that nature has to offer. Really cool.
People have often associated crop circles with aliens. I'm assuming you are not from outer space. So, how do you figure out how to make your work look so good when you can't see it all at one time?
I do have a connection with 'other worldly' beings but I am not at liberty to share those at present. I promised the great "being". I have finally reached the point that I can create the works without flying over them- just because I have spent so many years doing this. I have yet to do my best work.
Are you staying in town for the Great American Beer Festival. Do you drink beer?
I was at the festival on Thursday evening to do some sampling and stop by the Shock Top booth to greet attendees. I am a beer fan and feel a kinship with Shock Top in particular because it's made with wheat and hand-crafted, which are both key parts of my art.
Have you worked on other projects like this in Colorado. Are some states better than others for this?
This Spring I created a message for President Obama's trip to Grand Junction in support of the Colorado River and all the folks that depend on it. Also created a four acre piece four years ago for Papa John's Pizza. The Midwest is generally great for my work, but I've also done pieces domestically in Southern California, New York City and even on a barge in Boston Harbor. And I've created Earthworks abroad as well. Where there is a will, I can usually find a way.
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