The 'Big Easel" Coming to the High Plains
Folks in Goodland, Kan., are excited about the prospects of the "Big
Easel," also known as the Van Gogh Project. Towering high above the
prairie, visible to millions of motorists annually, the sculpture
promises to be a boon to tourism and a promotional beacon for sunflower,
an integral part of this area's economy.
Renowned artist Vincent van Gogh crafted seven different paintings of
sunflower in France between the years of 1888-1889. His art, virtually
unknown during his lifetime, is now highly regarded, with Starry Night
and Sunflowers his best-known work, according to The Dictionary of
Cultural Literacy. Now, more than a century later, another artist,
Cameron Cross of Canada, is in the midst of an ambitious plan: to
reproduce all seven of Vincent van Gogh's sunflower paintings in seven
different countries spanning the globe.
Each sculpture consists of a colossal 24'x32' feet hand-painted
reproduction of one of the seven Sunflowers paintings, resting on an
80-feet tall, 40,000-pound steel easel, anchored by cement pilings
30-feet deep. The easel is an internation-ally recognized symbol of art.
Paint used for the artwork is an industrial enamel normally used on
ships, fertilizer equipment and machinery that is exposed to extreme
heat, acid or chemicals. The paint was chosen for its long lasting
qualities and ultra violet protection.
The first easel was erected in Altona, Canada in 1998. The second was
finished and erected in 1999 in Emerald, Australia. The third easel is
being built in Goodland, with construction scheduled for completion late
this year or in early 2001.
Discussions are currently underway in South Africa, The Netherlands,
Argentina, and Japan for future sites. Six of the seven original
Sunflowers paintings survive today, and the sculpture planned for Japan
will feature the Van Gogh Sunflowers painting destroyed during World War
II. The final easel is scheduled for completion in the year 2002. When
complete, the project is expected to be included in the Guinness Book of
The seven sites selected by Cross have a connection to the sunflower
industry or a connection to Van Gogh himself. Along with being located
in Kansas, with its official nickname the "Sunflower State," Goodland is
a hub for High Plains sunflower production and processing. "We picked
the sunflower image that most closely resembles the commercial sunflower
production in this area," says Marcia Golden, one organizer involved in
Sunflowers USA Associa-tion, a local nonprofit group formed to plan and
raise funds for the project.
Organizers intend to position the sunflower sculpture so it's not fully
visible from Interstate 70, the major highway connecting New York to Los
Angeles. Motorists will have to pull in to Goodland to see the full
display. The project's organizers hope to build an interpretation center
about Van Gogh and the sunflower industry next to the sculpture.
"We are all extremely excited to have the easel erected, since an
estimated 7 million cars will have access to the easel site annually,"
writes Cross, on the project's website, http://www.thebigeasel.com,
which includes links to photos of project construction, as well as all
seven of Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers paintings.
Cross hopes the project will serve to link the sites involved, ranging
from rural to urban with populations from several thousand to several
million, as "sister cities." A former high school teacher who values
education, Cross hopes the project will "connect all seven sites with
I-TV and Internet access so school children from around the world will
be able to communicate with each other. Children from the participating
cities will learn more about the work of Vincent van Gogh and more about
the unique cultures of the other sites around the globe." ? Tracy Sayler
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