Welcome to our China Influencers series where we interview foreigners who have a passion for China and gain insight into their innovative and impactful work. Today we meet up with Stan Herd, an earthwork artist from Kansas, USA, with a link with China.
What led you to pursue earthwork?
A youthful experience living on a farm… immersed in the beauty of the natural world, mixed with a fascination of images created in nature by the ancient civilizations, leading up to the land based artist’s preceding me ….Christo, Hizer, Smithson and Turrell.
What do you think your unique skill(s) are that have helped you become successful?
An ability and deep seated personal desire to make this ‘life journey’ an adventure…..as exciting, productive, innovative and life affirming, for me, my family and my friends…as possible.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to enter the art industry?
Follow your bliss, embrace life as a great gift, learn to give back, learn to collaborate with others, learn to laugh at yourself, seek the beauty in everything, and make art for the love of the process.
How did your project in Yunnan and Shanghai begin?
I received an email from JiCheng, this amazing company in Yunnan, to commission me to travel there and create a permanent image for their 800 acre park. After an initial get together in SW China we agreed on an image “Young Women of China” and a month later I was on the ground beginning the layout.
What is your favourite memory related to the Yunnan project?
I think by the end, the minority people who were working with me on the image for months at a time, began to ask me and my son to join them at lunch ‘wucan shijian’ out on the field. We didn’t speak the same language but we laughed at each others actions and we were just sharing these moments on the planet.
Where can our audience connect with you online?
stanherdarts.com or [email protected]
Are there any resources that have really helped you on your journey?
It was an amazing gift for me to end up with two english speaking chinese friends who carried me through the language and cultural problems of working in China, Ang Li and Alex Fuwaei. Without their friendship, guidance, love and direction this project might have been a disaster. The spirit of the all the Chinese people we worked with was amazing. We will never forget it.
What is your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
Life is a journey about trying to balance your ego, your ‘belief in yourself’ against a presumption that you are ‘special’ and deserve more than you have. It is a constant battle all of your life to strike that balance. I believe the Chinese have a very strong ability to do that culturally…. that is missing in many Americans, sometimes myself.
Who are the three people who have been the most influential to you?
My father just past a few years ago, and along with my son Evan, and my brother Stewart, I have had, and still have two of these men who have guided me by example and by character as to what it means to be a ‘man’. As far as artists of influence, Van Gogh’s life and commitment, Picasso’s innovation and Da’ Vinci’s vision helped form my life’s plan.
Share with us your China story: When did you come to China, how long did you stay for, purpose, etc.
Arrived in the fall of 2014 the first time I believe…started the earthwork in 2015 and finished in early 2017, all of this to complete the 4 acre earthwork “Young Women of China”.
What is the scene like in China in your field? And, how is it different from your home country?
I am not much aware of many earthwork artists in China because I was so caught up in my own project but I know there are many great contemporary Chinese artists. I just met a son, brother and grandson of a great family of artists in the M50 area of Shanghai on my recent trip.
What do you think of China’s transformation over the past few decades?
I am learning about the history as fast as I can and I share with all who will listen to me the amazing things I have witnessed there. No country is perfect…and like all countries, their are a multitude of issues at play beyond my understanding, but the visual evidence of a people ‘accepting of their place and station’ in life…. is pretty strong in China, from my viewpoint. In my recent lifetime China has grown into a leading power, reaching out to the world, interacting with the world…at a time that my country is turning inward.
Can you share with us 3 reasons to why foreigners should experience China? The amazing culture, the people with their great heart and soul, and the resplendent history. What are some ways they can get the most out of a China experience? Find a Chinese friend and have them take you out into the Chinese landscape, the small villages, the beautiful natural areas, then hit the vibrant cities for a full Chinese experience.
What has the best thing about China been?
The embrace of the Chinese people that I worked with, who ‘get’ what my art is about… beyond anything that I have ever experienced.
What has been the most shocking/surprising moment in China been?
That my time there seemed to go so quickly… Also being one of two groups of American people in a city of 600 thousand people in Mile. That was surprising and exhilarating.
What has the most challenging thing about China been?
The language, My son Evan is slowly learning Mandarin. I think I am too old to learn the language but he will learn it for me. He loves China and the Chinese people.
If you had a time machine, what’s one mistake or regret you made in doing business in China that you wish you could reverse?
I don’t think I have any regrets right now.
What does the future look like for you? Is China in the equation?
I will definitely spend time in this great country and have already proposed a Chinese/ American project that will be my life’s ‘legacy’ artwork if that is my ‘Yuanfen’.
If you could step into my shoes, what would you have asked yourself that I didn’t?
Maybe where I would live if I had a choice of location’s in China. It would be in the French quarter in Shanghai where I stay. Love that area.
What’s your favourite Chinese dish you’ve tried?
I love the great layouts of vegetables, meats, and dishes at the round table gatherings. It is hard to pick out one dish.
What’s the most “China” moment you’ve had?
Running into the man who discovered my work in the US at an airport. In a country of 1.4 billion people. that is pretty amazing. Also, talking with an old man (probably my age) who grazed his cattle on the slopes of where my art work ended up. He reminded me of my father…with his love of the land, the look in his eye as surveyed this new world evolving around him.
ImmerQi Signature Question
If you were a Chinese dish, what would you be and why?
I would be one of those fried ‘bee’s’ wasps? crisp, unique and out of the ordinary. Ha.