Two-acre portrait of Beto O’Rourke illustrates one artist’s fandom
AUSTIN — Kansas-based earth artist Stan Herd wanted to show his admiration for Democrat Beto O’Rourke in a big way — a two-acre kind of way.
Herd, who uses natural materials to create giant images made out of grass, mulch and other materials that are meant to be seen from above, created a portrait of O’Rourke that anyone flying over the Austin airport cannot miss.
He planned to have the artwork ready for departing attendees of the SXSW festival to see on their way out of town. But as it turned out, the reveal on Sunday also took place as O’Rourke launched his presidential campaign.
“I love Beto,” Herd said. “He has this special something that’s hard to put your finger on, but it’s a populist appeal. It’s eloquent, but it doesn’t seem like he’s talking over your head.”
The work is on Carson Creek Ranch, crafted by mowing a fallow field of mixed grass and other plants, and adding mulch, rock, clay and pecan shells to create highlights and lowlights for a piece that’s the size of nearly two football fields.
The process took about two weeks; along the way, Herd posted on his Facebook page photos of his progress using a drone, plane, helicopter and a kite strapped with a GPS unit. The piece cost about $10,000 to $12,000 to make, though Herd said many people donated time and money once they learned about the project.
Since he revealing the artwork Sunday, he said it’s elicited a huge response from the public through social media, one that he never imagined when he embarked on it.
“There are so many negative political stories out there, and this is kind of a feel-good story,” Herd said. “We’re not trying to say anything bad about anybody else, but we’re talking about who we think this candidate is.”
Herd said he has not yet heard from O’Rourke’s campaign, but he has offered to give the former El Paso congressman a personal tour.
The image will be most vibrant for the next 10 days, Herd said, before plant growth and erosion from rain diminish it. Then again, if O’Rourke’s team ever gets back to him…
“If Beto comes back, I’ll definitely come back and spruce the image up for him,” Herd said.