Artist creates earthwork at JCCC

With the barn as its backdrop and the Horticultural Science Center as its neighbor, “Kansa Man” will emerge this spring from his earthen origins on the southwestern side of the JCCC campus.

“Kansa Man” is the title of a unique artwork to be created by Stan Herd, a Lawrence, Kan., artist known internationally for using the earth as his canvas.  Herd has been commissioned to create “Kansa Man” in the quarter acre of land between the outdoor horticulture garden and the road leading to the sports parking lots.

Like many of Herd’s works, “Kansa Man” will be created from stone and plants to create a visual composite. Inside a 90-foot circle, a petroglyph – a drawing or carving on rock in prehistoric times – will be created.

Herd said the petroglyph was inspired in part by author William Least Heat Moon’s “PrairyErth” drawing of an ancient petroglyph in a book of the same name. He said he was also influenced by the study of drawings and Native American objects offered by Bruce Hartman, executive director, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art located at JCCC.

The Center for American Indian Studies at JCCC also provided advice in choosing an indigenous design. Sean Daley, associate professor, anthropology, and director of the center, with help from center associates Ed Smith and Travis Brown, settled on a circular figure, representing cycles and harmony.

This particular design was first discussed in 2009 after Herd was selected as a speaker for the Kansas Studies Institute lecture series.

Another earlier earthwork was also inspired by a petroglyph – “Prairie Man,” which Herd constructed in Arkansas City, Kan. in the mid 1990s.

The project is a collaboration among many departments on campus. Support and funding of the piece came from the Kansas Studies Institute, the Center for American Indian Studies, the Student Sustainability Committee, the art history department, the horticultural sciences department, the Nerman Museum and the president’s office.

“Everyone we talked to wanted to be a part of this project,” said James Leiker, director, Kansas Studies Institute. “Stan’s work is the perfect marriage between art and nature, and I think a piece like this at JCCC says that we care about both.” 

Hartman agreed. “Stan Herd’s site-specific earthwork significantly extends the college’s collection and reflects our long commitment to area artists,” he said.

The piece will change over the years as the students in horticultural science classes change the plantings within the circle to create different incarnations of the artwork each season.

Herd said he is looking forward to the artwork’s reimagining by students from classes taught by Lekha Sreedhar, chair of the horticultural sciences department.

“The strength and uniqueness of this earthwork will be the collaborative nature of the work,” Herd said. “Working with diverse groups of students and faculty, most importantly Lekha’s students, we will have an opportunity for the work to become an open canvas for experimentation both horticulturally and artistically.”

Sreedhar said she and her students are very excited to work with Herd. “This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my students and me to work with such an eminent crop artist,” she said. “We are thrilled.”