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Stan Herd - Earthwork

Updated on May 24, 2011


There's an independent film slowly working its way through the theater circuit called Earthwork. The film has been running here and there since it was introduced in 2009. It got wider release last month and critics are starting to notice it. Perhaps because it received positive reviews at the Canne Film Festival.

The film is about a real artist, named Stan Herd, and a real event that happened in 1994. Herd, after creating a number of huge natural canvases across the country (both commercial and independent) approached Donald Trump with the idea of developing a plot of land into an artwork.

Trump agreed to allow Stan to create a work, but the effort every nearly bankrupted Herd.

This article is about the film, which of course is partially fictional, and about the real person Stan Herd.

Countryside (on Trump property)
Countryside (on Trump property) | Source
John Hawkes
John Hawkes | Source

The Movie

The movie itself is getting very positive reviews and the director, Chris Ordal, used the knowledge of Stan Herd himself as technical adviser. The film is about one effort in 1994 where Stan Herd created an earthwork on Donald Trump land. The effort took slightly more than a year and cost Herd dearly. Putting stress on both his family life and pocketbook. When the piece, consisting of stone, gravel, planted grasses, grains, flowers, kale, and vegetables, was completed it got a viewing from high-rises and helicopters. It was then promptly forgotten.

The movie follows these events closely.

Not only is the movie a portrait of Mr. Herd during this period it is also a fleshed out snapshot of the people he is required to work with to get this project complete. This includes vice presidents from Trump's organization, officials, and a small group of homeless men that occupy the property.

What's Missing
What is missing is shootouts, car chases, violent death and explosions.

In this age of ever more drastic violence and gruesome death I am eternally grateful to Mr. Ordal, writer director, for choosing a subject that conveniently leaves all these things out.

John Hawkes - Actor
Hawkes stars as Stan Herd and though he looks almost nothing like him, he is an excellent choice as the lead character. Hawkes plays Herd with feeling, a touch of serendipity, and joy.

After one hundred eight appearances in movies, this is Hawkes first starring role. Though I think this is entirely too many films to play supporting parts in before getting a shot at title billing, it was worth the wait.

After seeing the film I'm convinced that Hawkes was the only person appropriate to play this role. He does a beautiful job.

Chris Ordal - Director
is Ordal's first feature film; it is also his writer/director debut. Ordal has worked as producer on two other films, The Battle for Bunker Hill and Motherf%#r: A Movie (title changed slightly).

Considering that Earthwork has gotten excellent reviews from over eighteen film festivals this is quite an accomplishment for a first time effort by Ordal.

Stan Herd
Stan Herd | Source

The Man

Stan Herd was born in 1950 in Protection, Kansas where he grew up in a farming family. He attended Wichita State University on an art scholarship. He has created representational crop art in the U.S., England, Cuba, and Australia.

His works include independent pieces of his own design along with commissioned commercial works for the likes of Asolut Vodka and Neiman Marcus.

Herd is still with us, and by all accounts, still creating interesting works with soil, rock, and plant.

The Earthworks

Herd has created many "earthworks" over the years. Some which are likely quite familiar to the reader and others likely less so. See below for some fine examples of his work.

Note that most of the photographs below are by Jon Blumb.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Absolut VodkaAmelia EarhartIowa CountrysideVan Gough inspired SunflowersWill RogersSaginaw Grant
Absolut Vodka
Absolut Vodka | Source
Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart | Source
Iowa Countryside
Iowa Countryside | Source
Van Gough inspired Sunflowers
Van Gough inspired Sunflowers | Source
Will Rogers
Will Rogers | Source
Saginaw Grant
Saginaw Grant | Source

Wrapping Up

I don't do movies much these days, at least not at the theater. I don't like the hassle of parking, ticket purchasing (without knowing what I'm buying in advance), the drastically overpriced food, and the sometime ill manners of fellow audience members.

I made an exception for this one. I still didn't like dealing with the above-mentioned problems, but at least this film was worth these hassles.

As for Stan Herd, there really isn't much written about him. He did write an article for which you can find here. The article gives you some insight into the man. The article is titled "A Prairie Art Story" or "Life as a Sojourner." It's well written and introspective in an objective sort of way.

Mr. Herd admits that he had no desire to follow in his families footsteps to work the land, but after sculpting, painting, and working in various other media in college he came home on a summer vacation to help his father bring in a wheat crop. During his stay he realized that no one was creating art with natural elements on large swathes of land.

Thus began his direction and oddly that direction includes working the land, with a great deal more labor than planting and harvesting crops.


The author was not compensated in any way, either monetarily, with discounts, or freebies by any of the companies mentioned.

Though the author does make a small profit for the word count of this article none of that comes directly from the manufacturers mentioned. The author also stands to make a small profit from advertising attached to this article.

The author has no control over either the advertising or the contents of those ads.


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