Monday, October 12, 2009

Crop art on Boing Boing

Boing Boing -- a site that highlights all manner of things computery, techy and nerdy -- has posted an article on crop art! Neat!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Welcome Lisa and James

New artists on James Buhler and Lisa Legge. Click on the picture for a closer view. Click on their names to see more work.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

President Barack Obama in seeds

Linda Paulsen's wonderful, Minnesota State Fair blue-ribbon-winning portrait of President Barack Obama. An amazing piece of work. See more of Linda Paulsen's work at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alan Carpenter

Alan Carpenter returned in triumph to the State Fair this year -- with more first ladies. What seeds did he use? Find out at

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


My favorite political crop art headline:


The blog post, by Mark Olson on the Chaska Herald Website, talks about politics in the Crop Art exhibit/competition. But, unlike all the other articles I've seen this year, Mark mentions every single political piece of seed art. From the Bachmans to the Wall Street Bull. Good job!

Crop art essay

[Heres a review of this year’s State Fair show that I received from Craig Anderson, thought you might enjoy reading it. --D.S.]

Crop Art Show -- 2009 Minnesota State Fair

In past years a small but growing audience has taken in the annual show of crop art at the Minnesota State Fair. The 2009 show, now on display in the Agriculture/Horticulture Building on the fairgrounds, not only satisfies the crop art lover but also provides new evidence of the development of what has been generally considered a rather primitive craft into a true art form.

Crop art involves the utilization of plant material as the medium in creation of a visual work. The most common crop art technique is mosaic, using grains and seeds as the medium. Crop artists continue however to develop the technical aspects of the form through utilization of non-seed materials such as leaves, petals and stems, and in the creation of three dimensional works.

Portraiture in particular displays the developing refinement of the crop art form, as artists continue to achieve greater levels of realism and nuance. The works of Lillian Colton, an early master of crop art portraiture, and whose collection is featured in this year’s show, continue to inspire and challenge new artists. The winner of this year’s best of show award, a portrait of a girl by Zambian artist Obrien Shipeka, displays an emotional quality that transcends even the technical virtuosity of Colton’s work.

An interesting sub-genre of crop art portraiture seems to have emerged that might be called the ‘popular goddess’ portrait. The piece ‘Forever Farrah’ (James Buhler, artist) is a lovingly rendered take on the Farrah Fawcett sex angel poster from the 1970’s. And then there’s the muscular Elsie-the-cow look alike with the ‘Mom’ tattoo on her arm (Skippy Winski, artist); not really a portrait, but clearly a goddess in the Hathor/Venus of Willendorf tradition.

The most intriguing work though has to be ‘Flo’, a portrait rendered in seed of the pervasive Progressive car insurance ad character. If some savvy museum curator were to display this piece next to artist David Steinlicht’s artistic alter ego Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Girl with Hair Ribbon’, the effect would certainly be to enhance the stature of this local crop artist (and perhaps bring down a notch the famous 1960’s pop artist). This clever work is like the spitball shot by a rowdy kid in the back of the classroom that lands squarely on the face of his teacher.

Crop art subject matter has traditionally reflected themes of patriotism, religiosity and other conservative values commonly associated with ‘rural folk’. However in recent years political commentary has emerged as a popular crop art theme. These works address current politics and issues with a distinct point of view that might even be considered a tad bit subversive, at least by ‘Minnesota nice’ standards.

Take for example the piece ‘GOP Sideshow’ by Minneapolis artist Teresa Anderson. This polemic presents a freak show triptych including Michelle Bachmann as a medium who sees only communist threats in her crystal ball; a cross-dressing Rush Limbaugh billed as ‘World’s Biggest Ego / World’s Thinnest Skin’; and Ann Coulter as Anna Conda, the snake lady. Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann (R) has the dubious honor of being featured in several crop art works this year. If you assume that serious ‘artists’ tend toward left-of-center politics then this year’s show is proof that many of them have taken up tweezers and seed. [Just a picky note: Crop artists usually don't use tweezers to manipulate the seeds. Just toothpicks with a dot of glue on the end. -- D.S.]

Many of the new works at this year’s show display the influence of genres, themes, and movements seen in more mainstream contemporary art forms. This points to the greater sophistication that the new crop of crop artists bring to their work. Where past artists like Lillian Colton displayed the technical potential of the crop art medium, the newer artists are beginning to show its artistic potential as well. They are worth keeping on eye on at this annual Minnesota State Fair salon.

(The 2009 Minnesota State Fair crop art show is on display from August 27 to September 7 in the Agriculture/Horticulture Building on the fairgrounds.)

--Craig Anderson

August 29, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009

World-wide crop art

An article in Sunday's St. Paul Pioneer Press (online at tells the background of this year's best in show winner. A piece in the out-of-state category, from way out of state -- Zambia. The craftsmanship is amazing. Click picture for a closer view.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Crop art on TV!

Rachel Maddow's television show featured Mark Dahlager and Laura Melnick's Minnesota State Fair crop art.

Maddow was picking up a story from the Minnesota Independent about political crop art at the Fair. She doesn't mention the artists names. She also didn't mention Teresa Anderson's piece from the article. Both Maddow and the Independent overlooked Kim Cope's political crop art.

But, hey -- crop art on TV!

Link to the Maddow show video.

Link to the Independent article.

UPDATE: There's a mention of political crop art over at

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Progress: Kim Cope's Conan O'Brien on a Schtick

Steps in creating my Conan O'Brien crop art for 2009:

1. I thought of an idea and drew out a rough sketch. I chose Conan because he promised to bring his show to the Minnesota State Fair for a week if he got his weight in chocolate-covered bacon, then he changed his mind. This way, Conan is still at the fair (so to speak), plus I used the word "shtick" in the title because it's a synonym for a comedy bit.

2. I searched the Internet for some photos, cartoons, and caricatures of Conan to use as a guide when drawing out my design.

3. I wanted to include a hand holding the stick Conan's on, so I took a photo of my own hand holding a wooden spoon handle to use as a reference.

4. I painted an undercoat of flesh-colored acrylic paint where Conan's head and my hand would go. I glued down the background seeds radiating out from his head. I thought the red lentils spelling out the title on the bottom would be readable, but they didn't stand out enough so I ended up outlining each orangish lentil letter in black carnola seeds.

5. Two days before it was due, I had most of the lettering done and was still trying to decide how to put the detail in Conan's face to get a semi-close likeness. (I was also working on my Michele Bachmann "Patron Saint of Wingnuts" crop art at the same time and had to switch back and forth between the two pieces while sections of each dried.)

(Click on picture for a closer view.)

6. After I finished, I sprayed Conan with two coats of quick-drying polyurethane clear glossy spray a couple of hours before it was due at the Ag-Hort building. I put it in a frame and attached the hanging wire and legend card. Then it was off to the fair with a couple of hours to spare.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thurs., Aug. 27, St. Paul Saints baseball and crop art

Liz Schreiber is the featured artist tonight at the Saint Paul Saints baseball game. Her portrait of the Baron Von Rashcke will be auctioned for charity during the 7th inning. The Baron himself will be in attendance.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Progess: Scott

Wearable crop art. Canola, millet and red millet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Progress: Suzanne

I used shellac/lacquer that I brushed on instead the spray on. Much more shiny.

I had to add some glitter paint to the background, because when I applied the first spray on coat of lacquer there was some discoloring to the silver paint.

I then tried to repaint with the original silver, while covering completed Barbie with tape, but of course could only get so close to the edge, since I was using silver spray paint. So off to the store to buy more silver to hand paint on.

THEN I saw some super silver glitter paint, so I bought that instead of plain silver and painted that over original silver background.

Tired yet? THEN I did a 2nd coat of silver glitter paint, followed by 2 coats of paint on lacquer. DONE and off to the fair.

Crop art article

Nice crop art article and photos focusing on Sandra Fjerkenstad-Budel at the food Web site

Photos by Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Progress: Teresa

A deft combination of the Fair's Midway sideshows and political commentary.

Progress: Linda

Linda wielding the jeweler's drill. Making holes in soybeans.

The finished product. Linda writes, "It’s a necklace of soybeans with a sterling silver pendant featuring a burned husk from last year’s Corn Roast stand." Great job -- beautiful!

Progress: Greta

Greta, Linda Koutsky's niece, did this. Sharp design skills run in the family!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Progress: David

Frame painted, crop art in the frame, seed legend card on the back. Delivered. Done.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Progress: David

Wild rice hair. Teeth made out of navy beans.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Progress: David

Spaced out navy beans in the background.

Progress: Sandra

Progress: David

Question: Seed legend cards in a bag

Hi David,

Here's a question. Remember how last year I was one of the few people who followed the new directive to put my index card in a baggie and tape it on the back? And how mine was the only legend card that wasn't hanging so people could read it???? (Being that it was still taped on the back.)

The rules say the same thing this year--should I/we ignore that particular instruction? Perhaps the reasoning was to keep the cards clean and free from entanglement while they were being delivered and judged, but if they stay taped to the back, how are the fair-goers going to learn about Minnesota crops? (Some sarcasm there.) On a more serious note, my legend card is part of my overall theme this year, so I need it to show.

As I write this, I realize your answer will be, "At the most you'll only lose a couple points..." so perhaps I have answered my own question. But I am curious what others plan to do...

Thanks and good luck on finishing your piece!




The hanging legend card was discontinued last year and I hadn't read the rules, so I was wrong. You were indeed right in putting it in a sandwich bag and taping it on the back. It was an oversight to have your legend card hidden. Most people who bagged the legend card had their legends properly displayed alongside the name tag.

I think the change in rules was to make the legend card easier to display with the name.

(Incidentally, if you see your crop art -- or anyone else's -- crop art improperly displayed at the State Fair, talk to the nearby Fair employees. They usually are very happy to fix things that are wrong.)

My advice: Do put your seed legend in the plastic bag again. It's the way it's supposed to be and helps the people hanging the display. That yours was improperly displayed last year was a mistake. And as for the rules and the points -- hey, a couple points here, a couple points there . . . .

Thanks for the wishes on my finishing this year. Looks like it will be a race to the finish!


Progress: David

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Progress: Suzanne

Here's Suzanne on her project:

I got some pix of my entry for this year. Barbie at 50. These are paparazzi style photos, the first being blurred and the other only partial, since her publicist was there. What a Diva!

[Editor's note: Very funny! The three pictures have been combined into one for this blog post. Click on the picture for a larger view.]

I only did the under painting technique on the "Barbie" logo, and wished I had also followed your advice on her suit. She's supposed to be turned at a slight angle at the waist, but instead it looks a bit like a sloppy swimsuit at this point. I may go in a do "seed over lay" or "double seeding" for better coverage.

This crop art! You give yourself ample time, and then perhaps nitpick vs. rushing in the 11th hour. A bit stressful no matter what, but either way, so exhilarating! I will also follow your advice and use painted vs/ sprayed lacquer.

[Note: If we did this year-round, we would be really good at it, but as it is, we seem to relearn stuff every year and only get good at it when we're almost done.]

Also new technique I learned:

To color the flax seed for fingernails, I was having trouble using a sharpie, since flax is so slippery, but I need that shape for the nails. So I ended up gluing seeds on paper, coloring them when they were well glued down and then removed and put on the piece. Good idea, huh?

[Note: Flax is difficult to work with, that's for sure! It is a good idea to paint it separately.]

Progress: David

Outlines: wild rice. Eyes: birdsfoot trefoil and alfalfa. Lips: wild rice, birdsfood trefoil and red millet. Skin: millet.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Progress: David

Got some wild rice on the hair outline. Painting backgrounds. Wishing seeds went on as easy as paint!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Progress: Teresa

Teresa is doing a three-panel piece titled "GOP Sideshow." Here's a close-up. Have to go to the Minnesota State Fair to see the whole thing. Sometimes a wild-rice cigar is just a wild-rice cigar.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Progress: David

Getting a bit of a late start. I'm abandoning the clock idea for this year. (One of these years that clock will be a heck of an entry!)

Since I'm just about completely out of time, I'm attempt a fast portrait. Of an advertising character. Getting the image on the board and the board painted.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Important reminder

NOW! NOW! NOW! You must register TODAY (Friday, Aug. 14) if you are planning on entering this year's Minn. State Fair Crop Art exhibit/ competition! Register online now -- before 4:30 p.m. today.

You have until Monday, Aug. 24 to finish your work -- but you must register TODAY (Friday, Aug. 14).

Also: Download the online rulebook (PDF).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Progress: Lisa

I had a July 31 deadline to finish the Our Lady of Guadalupe figure, her son and their aura. I missed it by 90 minutes, working into August 1 until 1:30 a.m.

(Better a partial-nighter now than an all-nighter later!)

((Her gown took months, as I laid them in contrasting stripes, barely distinguishable in this photo.))

My niece Evy helped me with the pour-and-pat technique, using beautiful canola seeds, for the background. Thanks again, Evy! Niece Emma also helped me place split peas on the left rose vine, but alas I decided they wouldn't work. Thanks anyway, Em!

Next challenge: finishing the rose vine and the roses. I have pretty red popcorn for the roses, all with the idea of framing the beautiful Our Lady. Note: I'm proud to use the homely and humble-but-intriguing-looking sugarbeet seed for the center of the roses. It's my homage to the northwest Minnesota staple crop.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Progress report: Laura

Laura is working on another opus. This one combining Precious Moments figurines and quotes from a famous Congresswoman from Minnesota's Sixth District.

A photo from the early stages.

Detail from one of the quotes. Laura has all the quote clouds done now and is working on the background.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sandra progress

Sandra is done with one and is working on another.

Bill Holm, R.I.P. Getting a likeness is hard work.

July 4th marchers

This from Teresa Anderson:

Kim (www.) Cope and Joel (cropart) and Teresa (.com) Anderson promoted Crop Art and in the St. Anthony Park 4th of July parade. (St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman had no comment.)

Signs made of seeds.

Flip side of the signs -- and Mr. Mayor.

Something to remember us by.

Thank you, Teresa!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 10

Painting and thinking.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Starting out

Starting this year's crop art. A clock.

As usual, I start by doing an underpainting.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mitchell, S.D. Corn Palace

Photographer and crop artist Scott Cohen visited the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota this early spring. They were putting up this year's display. Here are some of his photos. Click on the pictures for a closer view.

Mount Rushmore is, of course, also in South Dakota.

A glimpse at the nuts and bolts of making the Corn Palace pictures.