Landscape artist unveils a giant portrait of NASA pioneer Stephanie Wilson

Oct 14, 2021
Originally published on October 14, 2021 3:31 pm

Updated October 14, 2021 at 4:24 PM ET

Stan Herd is known for giant works of art — his "earthworks" are etchings in the ground so big that they're best viewed from the sky.

His most recent portrait of NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson on display in downtown Atlanta's Woodruff Park is 70 feet by 90 feet. In the portrait, Wilson looks skyward out of a spacesuit helmet. Above is the hashtag #AimHigher.

Herd and his team removed large amounts of grass to make the image, and filled in those empty spaces with different light and dark materials — like mulch and compost — to create Wilson's portrait.

Wilson was the second Black woman to go into space. She's flown in three missions — her first in 2006 — and she's also one of 18 astronauts on the NASA Artemis team, which is set to go to the moon in 2024.

"The whole idea of this was to create an image and a message for the young women of Atlanta, especially the young minority women, that they can aim higher," Herd said.

The portrait of Wilson debuted on Monday and coincided with the U.N.'s International Day of the Girl Child and World Space Week.

"She's persevered and worked hard and she had a vision young and early and she never let up," Herd said. "Kind of like I feel like I do with my art. You just don't slow down, you keep going."

Herd plans to continue taking inspiration from the sky for upcoming projects. He says a second Earthworks portrait could feature Sian Proctor, who recently became the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft when she orbited the Earth in a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Stan Herd's latest work of art is on the smaller side, at least for him.

STAN HERD: Only covers 70 feet by 90 feet - ha. My images are usually, you know, two acres to 100 acres.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Seventy by 90 feet - that's more than 6,000 square feet. And it's a giant portrait of Stephanie Wilson, who is a NASA astronaut. Her face is now etched into the ground in downtown Atlanta. She looks up skyward out of a spacesuit helmet.

MARTINEZ: It took Herd and his team seven days to make the huge picture in Woodruff Park.

HERD: We create the image by subtracting grass out and then adding these other materials, like sand and mulch and pecan shells and compost and that type of thing.

INSKEEP: This is a pretty amazing image. I'm looking at it now. Wilson was only the second Black woman to go into space. And she's also one of 18 astronauts on the NASA Artemis team, set to go to the Moon in 2024.

HERD: The whole idea of this was to create an image and a message for the young women of Atlanta, especially the young minority women, that they can aim higher.

MARTINEZ: The portrait of Wilson debuted on Monday and coincided with the UN's International Day of the Girl Child and World Space Week.

HERD: She's persevered and worked hard. And she had a vision young and early. And she never let up - kind of like I feel like I do with my art. You just don't slow down. You keep going. You keep the thrust going. That's a rocket ship term - ha.

INSKEEP: And Stan Herd is not done taking inspiration from the sky for his projects.

HERD: Our hope is to create a second portrait, maybe of Sian Proctor, the astronaut that just came back from spaceflight.

MARTINEZ: Stephanie Wilson's portrait in Atlanta is viewable from nearby skyscrapers until October 22.

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